Most of the guys back home wanted to know about the differences between the North American and Brazilian academies. a few observations:
- Far fewer techniques demonstrated in Brazil. Maybe 2 per class and it was not uncommon after a brief warm up to hear "ok,..today we go to training". The emphasis was on rolling in 7 min timed rounds.
- No stand up. The blackbelts explained that the only time they performed sparring from standup was in a week or so before tournaments. They felt that standup grappling was more likely to result in training injuries.
- I found the jiu-jitsu much more "feint" oriented as opposed to straight ahead pressure. The majority of the techniques were explained in the context of setting it up with pressure to one direction and then reversing to take advantage of your opponent's reaction. The softer, more flowing style of jiu-jitsu was described by Ari as more pure jiu-jitsu - that is to say in Brazil, there was less influence of other arts like wrestling in the jiu-jitsu.
- No one had stripes on their belts. The majority of the blackbelts were not competitive wunderkind - rather, guys who just had been training for a long time.
- You don't pick your own sparring partners - the instructor always matched me up.
- I felt that people were less concerned with "who tapped who" or needing to establish the pecking order than in North America.
- The atmosphere was very relaxed - some guys dropping in, having 1 roll and then getting back into their street clothes to go back to work!
When I returned home there were the inevitable questions about "How did you do down there? Did you tap everyone out?" I laugh and respond "I didn't bring anything down there that they hadn't seen before or know how to deal with!"
Some interesting points I feel. It seems to be common place in BJJ academies as of late to "fight" and "compete" even in the dojo, which in my humble opinion, is not the approach to take if you are really interested in learning, improving, and growing as a martial artist safely!