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.