Most people who have trained BJJ have wondered what a trip to train and/or compete in Brazil would be like. In June/July this year, I spent a solid month on the mats at Cicero Costha’s academy in Sao Paulo, Brazil, before hitting the competition mats at the 2016 Mundials. I learned a lot about myself and about life by toughing out those 5 weeks on the mats in Sao Paulo. And I would say that all serious BJJ practitioners should definitely consider training and competing in Brazil at least once in their lives. Here is why: my experience of training and competing in Brazil.
The high-level of training partners
Where else in the world will you get so many brown and black belts in the same class to train with? Since Brazil is the home of BJJ, it’s not uncommon to see 10+ black belts on the mat in a larger class and an abundance of high-level training partners. Cicero’s even had separate classes running every day for purple, brown and black belts only. I was fortunate enough to have purple and brown belt female training partners at most sessions (this is almost unheard of in Australia).
The option to train all day every day
There is hard comp style training all day every day. The first class is at 9:00am, the second 10:30am and the third from 12:00 – 2:00 pm. Then a few hours break for lunch before the 5:00 and 7:00pm classes. Each class is a different format, but each class includes loads of rolling time. There are guys living at Cicero’s who are on the mats rolling and drilling for the majority of the sessions. They literally train all day. I would aim to train 3 times per day, but my body would often only let me do 2 sessions.
The rolling style is different
These guys roll hard. There is no such thing as a ‘flow roll’ or ‘light training’. The mats are absolutely packed and everyone rolls as hard as they can no matter what belt or weight.
But the rolling is also very technical and smooth. It is clear that hours of drilling repetitions has refined the technique of Cicero’s students.
Also, there didn’t seem to be too much fuss about who tapped who. If you tap someone, it is considered a good roll, and that person will just want to train with you more. There is no ego about it. Everybody is rolling all day and tapping people and getting tapped. It is just training.
Competing in Brazil is an amazing experience
Competing is a huge part of many people’s BJJ experience. There is such a wealth of top-level guys and girls that compete in Brazil that simply cannot afford to travel to overseas events; so unless you go there and compete amongst them, you won’t get to experience their level of competition. Most serious competitors in Brazil also compete every single weekend. They are repping it out and gaining comp experience every week. In contrast, most serious competitors in Australia compete maybe one or two times a month at most. Sure, we have world class competitors in Australia, which is clearly shown by the continued results that we achieve at international events each year, it is just that the average standard of the competitors in Brazil is much higher. There are more high-level athletes to deal with in each division.
I competed at the Mundials. The Mundials is a world championship event that occurs annually in Sao Paulo. It is run by the CBJJE, which was founded in 2007 with the goal of unifying state federations in Brazil by providing courses and national events to benefit the homeland of BJJ, and projects to enlarge the opportunities for BJJ on the world scene.
The Mundials was one of the most organized and well-run events that I have participated in to date, with bonus cash prizes and really cool medals. The comp ran over 4 days with considerably large divisions of competitors from several different countries. The schedule was posted the weekend before the comp, and all matches were running on time (to the minute!) making it easy to warm up and be ready for the first match. There were loads of staff, including English speaking staff, so it was really easy to get to where I needed to be, despite my lack of Portuguese. The mat coordinators were professional and really friendly, and the referee even helped me set up my phone on the stands that were provided at each mat to record my fights. I entered my weight division and the open weight, so got the chance to fight several matches. The open weight divisions ran on the first day, and were open to all competitors to enter. Unfortunately I bombed out in the first round of the open weight, losing to a considerably larger opponent. I then had a couple of days to get it together before I was due to fight in my weight division. I fought in my division on the last day of the comp and managed to do a little better, coming home with a silver medal and lots to work on.
Overall the competition was a really positive experience, and I would definitely consider going back next year.
More about Cicero’s academy
Lutando Pelo Bem = Fighting for Good
Cicero Costha is a black belt under Marco Barbosa, and as well as being a top competitor in his own right, Cicero has produced some of the greatest Jiu-Jitsu fighters in the world, such as Leandro Lo and the Miyao brothers. His academy is well known for consistently being one of the top academies not only in Brazil, but in the world.
Cicero’s academy, Cicero Costha Projeto Social Lutando Pelo Bem (‘social project fighting for good’) runs as a social project that is aimed at adolescents that come from a poorer background and is committed to giving a sense of purpose and citizenship to those that society left astray. The academy offers unlimited training and a place to sleep on the mats at little to no cost, and in turn oversees the lives of many young people drastically changed ‘for good’.
Cicero himself is friendly and exceedingly generous, with his eye on investing in the lives of others and in the greater community. It is not hard to see why his academy is so popular. The academy is always packed with people (including several international visitors at any one time) and with a different vibe then anywhere else I have trained. Cicero’s students are the most humble and laid back group of people with, at the same time, the most dedicated and fierce work ethic on the mats. There are several guys and girls currently living in the gym that have come from significantly under-privileged backgrounds, but that have the most grateful and dedicated attitudes that I have come across in the sport. And this is how Cicero has produced such a large percentage of champions; he has provided those with no future a place and a means to become great. He has given them accommodation and the opportunity to train as full time athletes at no cost.
Cicero’s academy is a social project. It is not commercial and it is not for profit. It is for Jiu-Jitsu, it is for empowering people. It is exactly how I envision running my own gym one day. I am absolutely inspired by how these guys do life. My sincerest gratitude goes out to professor Cicero and to all his students that welcomed me in to their academy and helped me prepare for the comp, and to grow in myself and as an athlete.
A huge shout out also to Braus Fight for their part in funding the trip to Brazil. Without them this would not at all have been possible. I look forward to working along side Braus for many more years to come.
I partner with Braus not only because they make the best gear in the business (and they do!), but because they embody the ideals that I dream about being shared in the sport. Braus is on their way to becoming the ‘lutando pelo bem’ of the Australian BJJ scene. Braus’ social project, Rolling for a Reason, is an initiative aiming to help the children and adolescents of Australia get off the streets and into their community using Martial Arts training to provide a more favourable positive environment for them to grow within. ROLLING FOR A REASON provides access to a niche BJJ community by offering free BJJ classes to youth who may have lost their way.
Braus are my kind of people.
Thank you also to Schofield King Lawyers for your financial support on and off the mats. It is a truly powerful and inspiring thing when companies support the dreams of their community. Thank you for believing in me and my dreams and ambitions as an athlete.
HOPE DOUGLASS / BJJ Brown Belt
BRAUS Fight Athlete
Pan Pacific Champion
World No-Gi Bronze
IBJJF Sydney Internatio
IBJJF Melbourne Internatio
Victorian State Champion
Sydney Cup Champion
Triple Bull BJJ Open Champion
NSW Summer Cup Champion