By Arwin Manalac
Like most jiu-jitsu practitioners, I have always wanted to visit the birthplace of BJJ. The appeal of Rio is too strong for a guy like me; exotic beaches, friendly people, beautiful women and strong jiu-jitsu – what more can you ask for? Originally, I wanted to go for only a week with a friend, because I was only permitted two weeks a year for vacation time. But then it dawned upon me, I didn’t know the language and I didn’t know what gyms I wanted to train at – actually it didn’t even matter to me what gym as long as I got some good training in. Rio also doesn’t have the best reputation for safety, so I was in a bit of a tight spot. Even then, my friend was unable to take work off on the same dates as me. About four months later I was sitting on Facebook and saw a Fight Travel post about a training trip to Rio for two weeks. I was so anxious to go to Rio already that after contacting them – I was sold.
On paper, Fight Travel had everything I needed for a relatively affordable price. The main attraction for me was the fact that it was two weeks, pre-planned and included a guide. So how was it in reality? Even better than advertised!
Basically, we arrived at the airport and met up with our guide and the rest of the guests. There were about eight of us. We jumped into a van and had a thirty-minute ride to the hostel that we stayed at. During that ride we had an opportunity to mingle and get to know each other a little. It’s really easy to get to know others when you all have one similar passion.
The hostel we stayed at was nicer than expected although space was a little tight. The staff was very friendly and the location is pretty much ten minutes from everything we needed, right in the center of the city. Our rooms had a/c and fans to stay cool and there was a cheap laundry service located right around the corner. Everything was planned out very nicely.
Most of our training was done at the Nova Uniao academy. We had access to all the martial arts classes and the weight room. For those people who really wanted, we were also able to train at Gracie Humaita, GF Team, De La Riva and BTT but for our trip, everyone was happy with just going to Nova Uniao. Not only were there tons of people to train with, they had the best facilities and there is of course the celebrity factor of seeing many UFC champs there like Jose Aldo and Renan Barao. Vitor Shaolin Ribeiro was in the house when we visited as well!
As a blue belt, I really got a lot out of the training there and the crew was very welcoming to us especially since they knew we were part of the Fight Travel group, so that made me feel very easy. There are a lot of stories floating out there on how unwelcoming some of the gym can be if you’re an outsider, so this was a big relief.
Lastly, the rest of the trip was loads of fun. Our guide was a super nice and friendly guy. He took us to all the best spots related to beaches, tours, relaxing, eating, going out and everything else in between. There was no wasted time and we really got to experience everything in two weeks. I had to write this review to really let people know on how amazing this trip is and to get the word out there. They really don’t receive enough praise for what they are doing. The trip is small and unbelievably personal. All the guests become close friends and it goes beyond a regular trip. This has been, hands down, the greatest trip of my life. I’d do it again as soon as my job can permit me.