Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Hippie Market in Ipanema

 The Connection Rio Crew check out the Hippie Market in Ipanema

On the day I came back from my disastrous trip to Sao Paulo, most of the Connection Rio house decided to go on a trip to the Hippie market in Ipanema. I've never actually been there before but I really enjoyed the trip and will definitely be going back again before the end of my stay. The market itself is very touristy but there were still plenty of Brazilians visiting as well. The place was fairly busy but not over packed and alot bigger than it first appeared to be. There was so many cool things on display and many talented artists who had recycled everything imaginably to make some really beautiful items. With miniature models made entirely from shells to beautiful artwork painted on tin can tops. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. There was also stalls selling food and a few talented street performers.

Some art work at the Market

 After bumping into some more connection Rio people from the HQ house at the market 12 of us went to a local restaurant called Frontier which is a popular chain here. You can choose to pay for the food by weight or pay a fixed price for all you can eat. I opted for the former with the Rio Open being so close but Frontier is definitely on my list of places to visit after the competition ;)

One of the Stalls!

More photos can be found on my Instagram:- pippabanana or my twitter:- pippa_banana ;)

Next up.. Rio Open and Masters and Seniors Championship...

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Lost in São Paulo

As it has been a while since I last competed, I thought fighting in the CBJJE Mundials in São Paulo would be a great warm up for the Rio Open the following week. When I signed up I thought I was going together with a group of people from the academy, turned out they were going on different days to me and as I didn't want to go on my own I arranged to stay at another student's house in São Paulo where all the rest of the team would be staying.

After preventing another monkey invasion of our room I was sent off on the Friday by most of the house giving an excellent imitation of a cheering Brazilian crowd at a BJJ comp (their portuguese is actually pretty good). It was after leaving the house that things started to go wrong and didn't stop until I got back to Rio..

It started with the taxi in Rio taking me to the wrong airport, (TAM changed my flights so it wasn't a real problem). Then the taxi in São Paulo took me on the gringo tour before I eventually got to the comp where I was suppose to meet everyone and go to the house. After wandering around for over 3 hours without seeing anyone at all I knew, and not even anyone with my team's t-shirt or patch I was a little freaked out and with no internet connection I had noway of contacting anyone either. I considered just sleeping at the competition as I remember it went on all night last time but decided that being kicked out in the early hours of the morning would be more dangerous than leaving right away. I remembered the name of a hotel I had seen on the Competition's website so caught a taxi and asked to go to the Formula 1 hotel. The driver informed me that there were several hotels with that name and although I asked him to go to the closest one (which he understood despite my terrible portuguese) he wouldn't go anywhere without the full name and kept asking me for a card from the hotel. Finally I remembered that there was the word Gardens in there and he decided he knew which hotel it was and he took me there. When I got to the hotel they told me it was full, I asked if there was another cheap hotel nearby but they wouldn't recommend one. I had well and truly had enough by this point and decided that the safest place would be to stay in the hotel lobby for the night. I told them I would wait to see if there was a cancellation & once they realised the crazy gringa really wasn't moving, a room miraculously became free.

Competition day

I was very overweight when I flew out to Brasil after a combination of injuries, work and being damn lazy with my diet as I hadn't competed for so long. But I'd carefully worked on that since I've got here and After cutting the last bit of weight in my hotel room I went to the comp feeling pretty nervous but very excited to fight. I got there just before my division started after another little gringo tour of the city. I watched the previous girls fights and although I felt really nervous I also felt unexpectedly confident. Then I stepped on the scale.. My mouth literally dropped open when I saw that there was a 1.1kg difference to the scale I had been using and I was way overweight. And that was it, my first ever DQ in over 50 competitions with the absolutes being the day before I couldn't even try to get in to that.
An incredibly stupid rookie error  means I made a small division even smaller by not making weight, something which I've always had a pretty low opinion of other people who have done that. After a quick look around the comp and still not seeing anyone I knew I headed back to the hotel for the rest of the trip.

On the plus side I had faced, albeit unwillingly one of my biggest fears (being lost on my own without speaking the language) and came out just fine. I also now have a few days warning to try and not get DQed again for the Rio Open...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Storm in Barra!!

When you think of Brasil you think of beautiful hot sunny days in a way England could never do but then there are no half measures with Rio's weather so like they can do hot, they can also do storms unlike anything I have experienced in England....

I've learnt that a weather forecast means nothing here so while my computer was saying a little cloudy on Thursday Evening outside it was actually throwing it down with the intensity of a powerful hosepipe from the heavens, make that a warm hosepipe as the rain here is not cold like England but alot more forceful. After  a quick scramble to get all of our Gis in, we settled down in the lounge on the internet. Not long after the wind started to really pick up and the electricity started to flicker on and off..

Eventually the electricity went out for good and we went out on the balcony of the common room to see if it was just our house or the whole area (It had stopped raining at this point) There was something kind of wild and beautiful standing on that balcony looking over a darkened Barra with the wind whipping around us, I think it is something you had to experience yourself as it is a little difficult to describe in words but I can now understand why some people chase storms.

As there was not too much food in the house we decided to go to Canto's, a local restaurant which was on a different power grid so was unaffected by the blackout. After much scrabbling around to get ready by the light of phones and 1 torch (It helps to have a 14 yr old kid in the house) we set out along the blackened streets. We strolled along chatting about the storm and how quickly your eyes adjust to the total blackness not really paying too much attention to the street around us, until a large branch dropped onto a car right next to us!
Suddenly our stroll didn't seem like such a great idea but we carried on regardless more subdued and carefully watching the many trees which lined the road. Later on in our walk we saw more evidence of storm damage and I can only hope nobody got seriously hurt. 

And the top of the tree

Canto's was fairly uneventful apart from the odd flicker in the electricity and the walk home similarly so.

The end of the week ment no training for me as I'd come down with the bug everyone else had got in the house. I'm hoping to get well soon and be ready to compete in the CBJJE Mundials in Sao Paulo next weekend.

Friday, 13 July 2012

1st Visit to a Favela & UFC in Brasil

Just as I felt I was starting to move a little bit better the Saturday sparring class came along and after round after round of getting my a'se well and truely kicked I was pretty dead and not feeling so great about my BJJ to put it mildly. At the end of the class though I was privileged enough to be invited to an open mat session at the VB project in the local Favela Cantagalo which was too good an opportunity to miss. 

Having never been in a Favela before and having heard a lot of bad stories I was a little unsure what to expect. Although there was a heavy police presence it seemed a pretty friendly place and I didn't see any trouble in the brief time I was in there. After a rest at a friend's house we went onward to the Academy for the session. Cantagalo was a busy bustling place with lots of local street vendors selling food and other wares at a fraction of the price it goes for in the rest of Rio and there were also lots of kids playing in the streets flying beautiful homemade kites. The walk to the Academy involved going up the steepest hill ever and I was really tempted to use my hands it was that steep. The sight of the gringa struggling up the hill provided much amusement for the locals too. but the view from the top was really worth it with Rio spread out below. It was really annoying that my phone had run out of battery so I couldn't take a photo.

 The open mat session was really good with people going through techniques they were working on together in-between sparring. Most of the people there I knew already from Fightzone but there were a couple of faces I didn't recognise including some talented kids. What is incredibly clear is the immense pride everyone had in the project which I'm assuming they built themselves and which is obviously extremely valuable to the local community. Hopefully at a later date in my stay I'll be able to find out a bit more about the VB Project & I'll post it on here, in the meantime check out their facebook page... VB-TEAM-CANTAGALO FACEBOOK PAGE
Walking back after training as dusk was falling the place seemed to really becoming alive with music coming from everywhere and people relaxing after a long day's work. I also noticed that the telephone lines had loads and loads of shoes hanging from them, when I asked about them I was told that they were old shoes... guess it is just another Brazilian tradition I'll never really understand..

Saturday Evening was also UFC Night so most of the CR house decided to head out to one of the local bars to soak up the atmosphere. After so much anti-Brazilian trash talking we figured the crowds would be out for this one. After wandering around for a while trying to find a bar with seats for us all, we ended up in Bar Oswaldos which is owned by a Gordo Black belt and has a menu which includes Jiu Jitsu themed dishes such as a triangle and Kimura.. The bar was busy but not many people were watching the fights leading up to the main event, just before the Silva/Sonnen fight alot more Brazilians turned up and the place was packed.
The bar was deadly silent during the first round for obvious reasons only to explode in the second. I can honestly say that possibly the only place better to watch a fight like that would probably be at the UFC itself.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Competition Entry & Brasilian Wildlife - Monkeys & Mosquitoes

I was chilling out in the lounge one afternoon with my housemates, when a family of monkeys decided to pay us a visit in our front garden. Apparently they are seen as a pain because they will actually go as far as stealing food from the kitchen, but as this was my first time seeing monkeys in the wild I'm still at the stage where I think they are incredibly cute. I was also surprised they will actually let you get pretty close! Gotta beat pigeons in the garden which is all I'd get in London!

The other wildlife to regularly visit the house which is somewhat less cute are Mosquitoes. Despite having a plugin repellent, liberally covering myself with mosquito spray & taking antihistamine tablets my legs have been bitten to pieces. To make things worse I appear to have developed an allergy which meant my foot an ankle swelled to the point I had to stop training for a day and a half. As every day of training is really precious for me as I'm very conscious of the limited amount of time I've got here, this was incredibly frustrating. Both Dennis from Connection Rio and the team at Fightzone were incredibly supportive helping me to look for a doctor & giving various advice. In the end I got a cream called Fenadine from the pharmacy which is a type of antihistamine which brought the swelling down (Thanks Carol!) Thankfully Mosquito nets are going to be installed in all the rooms next week, can't wait!

I made the most of my time off training by getting my entry in for the CBJJE Mundials and the Rio Open and Master's & Seniors. The IBJJF comps were fairly straightforward to enter once I had printed off my membership form, got Ricardo to sign it and sent some scans to the IBJJF, then once the IBJJF sent my membership number (which they did within a few hours) it was just a simple case of entering online. They also replied to my emails within a couple of hours. CBJJE was another matter altogether, they did not reply to my emails at all (I sent both English and Portuguese) and despite being called a Mundial (world) championship only Brasilians could enter online (you needed what I think is the Brasilian equivalent of your N.I. number). Gringos have to enter through a complicated system of bank transfers (only through brasilian banks), faxes and phone calls which I eventually gave up on. Luckily Jack who works at Fightzone kindly did my entry for me. I'm really looking forward to competing again as I haven't fought since October due to injuries etc.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Copacabana's Night Market and the rest of the 1st week

Thursday and Friday saw me pushing myself to train 3 times a day even including a 7am class. I was quite surprised to find it was as busy as the other classes though the general age of the black belts was a bit older. This may have been coincidence, I'll check if I ever make it to another class that early ;)
 The odd dizzy spell aside my body is beginning to adjust to the time change and the heat which is good, I'm still very much bottom of the class but hey the only way is up! One of the great things about being in Brasil is the sheer numbers of black belts on the mats and everyone at Fightzone whether they speak English or not will always give you little pointers or show you techniques to help improve your game. A normal group session can turn into a series of mini private lessons with alot of different black belts :D Saturday was a big sparring class and the busiest so far, I assume alot of Checkmat black belts who teach in other parts of Rio & some of their students come down for this session which is why it's so busy.

On Friday between the 4.30pm and the 8pm classes I took a little walk to the Copacabana Night Market. The Night market is on every day from around 6.30pm until about 9ish AFAIK. and is about 5-10mins walk from Fightzone Academy into Copacabana, it is held in the island of land in the middle of the Road by the beach.
 The market sells a whole range of things and it is always worth looking around the whole market before you buy anything as price for the same items can vary wildly from stall to stall. It is great for souvenirs selling nearly everything you can find in the souvenir shops for a fraction of the price. There are also a couple of good havaianas stalls, some clothing - tshirts, bikinis etc, Brazilian artwork and much more. Some stalls have fixed prices which they will have on display others have no prices and are more up for negotiation. Unusually for Brasil nearly every stall owner does speak some English but if you can manage it I would recommend using Portuguese (as you are more likely to get a cheaper price) On my last trip I asked one stall owner the cost of something in Portuguese she replied with one price in Portuguese and then 'repeated' what she said in English but the price suddenly jumped by 10 Reais. I simply repeated the price in Portuguese back to her and bought it for the cheaper rate.
Even if you don't speak any Portuguese all you need to learn is how to recognise the numbers up the  amount you would be prepared to pay for something and learn how to say " how much?" which is 

Quanto custa? - (Kwan-toh coos-tah?)

 Local hand made purse + Keyring I bought at the nightmarket

And the back R$8 for Purse inc name on back R$2 for the Keyring

Referring to my previous post about Rios Buses, one morning as the bus was winding around the mountain on the road ahead of us was a solid wall of smoke from a fire, much to my alarm the bus simply sped up and drove through!!!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Riding on Rio's Buses & 1st time Back on the mats in Brasil

Woke up a little tired but super excited to finally be back in Brasil. I decided to leave the house early to allow myself time for a little walk around Ipanema before the 10.30am class at Fightzone. About 3 mins walk down the road from the house you can catch bus number 557 which takes you directly to Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana and almost past the doors of several Jiujitsu academies including Ricardo Vieira's Fightzone and De La Rivas. The bus costs R$2.75 and takes about half an hour to Rico's but you should allow about a hour during busy times.

Travelling on Rio's buses is truly an experience in itself and not for the faint-hearted. Although in some places there are bus stops in others there is nothing to mark where the bus stops you just need to "know" where to get the bus. Even if you are at a bus stop you have to flag the bus down but be careful to get your arm in quick when it actually pulls up. Riding on the bus itself is a fantastic balance, strength and grip training session even if you get a seat you will probably find it necessary to hold on with both hands firstly to stop you being thrown from your seat as the bus twists and turns and the driver makes liberal use of the brakes. Secondly out of pure terror as it speeds around the cliffs inches from the edge with only a very low wall between the bus and a long drop. (on my last trip once the bus had to reverse as it had misjudged the turn). Standing up is even worse and unfortunately that's what I had to do for my first ride on the bus this trip. At the end of the journey my arms and hands were aching from holding on so hard. I did get my walk through Copacabana and Ipanema before training but mainly because I had completely missed my stop and realised when I went past De la Riva's. After my third trip on the bus I realised that it was not my terrible sense of direction for once, but that the bus route had actually changed since I was here last.

When I finally got to the academy it was great to be able to catch up with friends I hadn't seen since my last trip and meet all of the new people who had joined since I left. It was good to see there were a lot more girls training now with another 6 girls on the mat including top black belt Marina Ribeiro and a number of extremely tough blue belts. I was thrown straight in the deep end as they were doing all sparring sessions that day. A combination of the heat, lack of sleep due to jetlag and being extremely unfit and overweight due to not training much recently ment I was dead within 5 minutes of the warmup. Glad to say I pushed myself through getting my a'se thoroughly kicked everytime and even came back for more of the same in the evening session. Despite being completely smashed I totally fell back in love with Jiujitsu in that first session and I'm looking forward to getting my training back on track and competing again while I'm here :)

Travelling to Brasil

After having one of those days where everything goes wrong inc Tap airlines forgetting to order my vegetarian meals (despite email confirmation from a customer service manager weeks ago) and a huge queue forming for the toilet on the plane after 2 Brasileiras went in together stayed in for ages, finally coming out with certain smiles on their faces! (yes in my inexpert opinion, before everyone asks, one was very hot, the other was a little on the tubby side but still quite pretty;)
On the plus side my Portuguese got a little warm up chatting to a nice Brazilian woman with no English sitting next to me on the plane and trying and failing to get some vegetarian food on the stop over in Portugal.
Pick up from the airport went smoothly as I used a taxi sent by Connection Rio, and I quickly settled into the Premier house which is across the road from the original Connection Rio HQ where I stayed for my last visit to Brasil.

After many months of counting down I'm finally here! :D

 View from the Balcony of the common room at Connection Rio Premier Where I am staying!

Turning around and looking up! Pedra De Gavea!

Monday, 25 June 2012

3 days to go - Packing for Brasil

I'm writing this on my way to Hereford where I will be working at the Hereford Open tomorrow, although I love reffing it's a great feeling that after this the next time I will be stepping on the mats will be as a competitor. While I'm running around trying to get everything done before my trip I thought I'd blog my own guide of what to pack for a trip to Brasil based on my experience from my last visit.


A fairly obvious one you'd think if you are going there to train but last time I met quite a few people who had decided to 'pick up a cheap gi' while they were there to train in.
 Unfortunately the days of bringing an empty suitcase and stocking up on gis to sell back home are long gone. Due to getting alot less Brazilian Reais for your pound and the rise in good quality British Brands ,the gi's in Brasil are actually quite alot more expensive. I saw gis on sale at academies, at competitions and even in a couple of jiujitsu shops in a small shopping centre in Copacabana and didn't see anything under £100. Another misconception is that your gi's will dry quicker due to the heat, as Rio is very humid I actually found my kit took longer to dry. How many gis you take depends on how often you are planning to train but I would recommend taking 2 days worth to be on the safe side.


If you are a supplement groupie I'd recommend you bring your own supply, supplements in Brasil are stupidly expensive! Just remember to bring them in their original packaging.. noone wants to get delayed as the authorities think you're smuggling drugs! ;)

Electrical items

Anything electrical is literally 5 times the price (something to do with their taxes) and for the same reason some of the items on sale will make you feel like you've stepped back in time (though to be fair I was looking in smaller local shops), if there is anything you can't live without I'd recommend buying it before you leave. Similarly if you are planning on getting a Brazilian number while you're out there to give to the local Brasileiras, buying a cheap £10 unlocked phone before you go would be a good investment.


If you still have room in your case by now and you like to read, books in English are very hard to come by bring your own and give them to a friend before you leave.

The above is based on what I saw on my last (and only) trip to Rio, if you've been before and have found any bargains I didn't, please comment and share!

Guys can look away now, the following is just for the girls... ;)


Fairly obvious one with Brazil's reputation but if a piece of string hidden somewhere between your butt cheeks isn't for you... buy before you go! Even their 'bigger bikini bottoms' were way to small for my taste.


Although I would def recommend clothes shopping in Brasil, unless you are an 'average size' in Brassieres you're gonna have problems, they have a strange single number measurement for Bras which I personally found impossible. I saw a great range of sexy sports bras but if you prefer to keep your puppies on a tighter rein and outta sight yet again buy before you go.

Sanitary Products

Yet again I was looking in local shops, supermarkets and pharmacies rather than big shopping centres but the products available was like stepping back into the early 90s.. enough said.

See guys, you really should have stopped reading earlier! LOL ;P Next time I'll be blogging from Brasil! :D

Sunday, 17 June 2012

9 days until Brasil – Caio Terra Seminar.

I had a very busy BJJ filled weekend. On the Saturday I reffed at the Bournemouth Open, another well organised competition by the De Souza Family and saw some great fights on the day.


Although tired from the previous day, Sunday saw me making a 3 ½ hour trip each way to Eclipse Martial Arts in Walsall for the Caio Terra seminar organised by Peter Adams. The seminar was very well attended with a mixture of white to black belts and a couple of kids.

The way Caio teaches a seminar is quite different from other seminars I have attended. He began by giving us 6 topics or seminars that we had to vote on, the winner was Berimbolo which is Portuguese for Scramble. My Berimbolo knowledge being pretty much Zero it was a steep learning curve for myself.


The format for the seminar consisted of him teaching a technique letting us drill it for a few reps while he watched and then showing the technique again pointing out the common mistakes or answering any questions for the whole group rather than going around answering individuals (although he did do a little bit of that as well). This was good as we could all learn from the other’s problems. After stopping each time he would also get us to swap partners so each technique you would drill with maybe 3 or 4 partners, great for practising the moves on different body types. Caio gave a lot of detail for each position including variations of the position you could do when suffering from bad knees so common to BJJ players! He also really encouraged as many questions as possible not only about the positions that he was teaching but also in a general question session at the end.


Once the seminar had officially finished and the obligatory photos taken, Caio opened the mat up for sparring. Some people left at this point but a large number stayed on. Despite being jetlagged he tried to spend a few mins rolling with as many people as possible. He made a point of rolling with everyone who was under 70kg as there are not many chances to roll with someone of his size who is on a world class level. He also rolled with approximately half of the guys over 70kg as well. So many seminars do not include sparring or if they do the person teaching doesn’t spar it was great to see Caio giving everyone that experience and was the icing on the cake to a fantastic day. Overall I would say that higher grades probably get the most benefit out of Caio’s seminar’s but I think everyone there came away with plenty of useful tips and positions to work on.


Big thank you to Peter Adams for organising a great event and the hospitality of Eclipse Martial Arts and of Course Thank you to Caio for a brilliant seminar and roll! :)


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Hello World! Or should I say more precisely Hello Brasssiilllllll!!!!! ;)