The story of my trip around the world to train, teach and compete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and other grappling arts.


Jits Magazine interview part 2

Rolling footage from Brazil

Here is a video of some rolling in Drive-In Jiu Jitsu in Rio de Janeiro :)

Crossing Brazil off the list

Going to Brazil to travel is something I have thought and dreamt about for over ten years. Now, I finally did it.

I must admit, that I used to be a little nervous about going to Brazil. I heard lots of stories about crime and how there was nearly a 100% chance, that I would get robbed a few times while there. It definitely played a role in my considerations about going there.

Becoming an experienced traveller over the last years, and especially over the last four and a half months, (almost) nothing can scare me anymore, and I didn’t even think twice about going to Brazil. For good reason, because (of course) nothing happened to me. I did not get robbed, beat up, raped or abducted. As always, the world is always a very dangerous place, when viewed from the safety of ones couch at home.

Staying in Brazil was a different experience from the rest of my trip, albeit a good one. For so long, I have travelled really fast, visiting places intensely for a very short time. Get in, train, meet people, eat, see the place and get out. No time to relax, worry or get bored. In Rio, I decided to stay for two weeks and it felt very different than the other places I have been.

Many places, people told me, that I needed to stay longer. That 2-4 days is too little time. In fact, I think I did just as much, and some times more, in places I have visited for 2-4 days, than I did in Brazil. When I had so much time, it was just another pace, and more time was spend on relaxing and doing nothing, than on feeling pressure to do something before it was too late.

I did have a great time in Brazil though. I wish I could have trained more, but holidays, weekend and then being sick unfortunately made that difficult. I did however, go some very interesting places to train and got some experiences, I will value for the rest of my life.

I have enjoyed staying with locals during my trip and experiencing their every day lives. In Brazil, I spend my whole stay in a house full of gringos, who were there for training. I did not get to see much local life unfortunately, but it was really fun to stay in the Connection Rio house, hang out with all the guys there and make a lot of good friends, who I hope to see again one day. On top of that, Dennis Asche (the guy who runs the house), was the best connection and help I could imagine in regards of getting in touch with people, arranging visits to gyms, places, etc. He knows everyone and was doing all he could to help me get the most out of my time there, which I appreciate immensely.

Part 1 of Jits Magazine’s video interview with me

Last day in Brazil, first morning training.

I hate getting up early to train, but since this is my last day, I wanted to get as much out of it as possible and I showed up for the 8.00 class. We were about 12 people on the mat, where of six were black belts. Three of them left before I got a chance to take a photo with them. I also didn’t get any shots of the training itself, but I can describe the photos for you instead:

Photo 1: Christian is being crushed in sidecontrol
Photo 2: Christian’s face while being brutally choked in mount
Photo 3: Christian desperately tapping to 100th armbar of the day

Anyways, it was a great training, and it was nice to end my trip in Brazil with an hour of rolling with good and strong black belts. I felt my cardio was good and I kept calm all the time even under a lot (!) of pressure.

Gordo’s is a great gym, there is really a lot of talent and high level guys here. I recommend anyone considering a trip to Brazil to go train here. I wish I had the opportunity to train more, but I’ll be back another time.

Barbecue and sambo style rolling

Found a really cheap supermarket today (last day, weee) and made a nice barbecue in the house for dinner. Directly following eating too much meat, I went to the gym to roll. My pants are having some patches sewn on, so I had to go sambo style tonight.

I plan to attend the morning class tomorrow at 8 am for the last beating, before I leave Brazil. My flight is at 9:00 in the evening, so still have some time to do something during the day.

Surfshop closed today :,(

So after I finally found a place to rent surfboards, the weather or my health have kept me from going there. Today, the stars seemed aligned, so me and Hywel walked to the beach to rent the boards and get in the water. Unfortunately, the shop was closed today, so we could only sit on the beach and watch the locals ride one beautiful wave after the other.

Really sad that I didn’t get to go out today. It might have been my last chance to surf in a long time :-/

Roll and UFC today

I did not manage to attend the morning class today, which I was actually really bummed about. I have missed out on so much training due to holidays last week and being sick most of this week, so I was really annoyed that I did not get to go today. Even worse, I couldn’t find any other gym to go to today. Nothing to do about it though. Instead, me and three others from the house, went to roll this evening.

We trained for an hour or so and I especially had my hands full with Rory, a brown belt from the UK, who has a guard that is extremely hard to pass. Good practice!

Later in the evening, we went to a local bar to watch the UFC.

Only two days left in Brazil before the looooong flight to Europe!

Things, I practice in my spare time.

Nunchucks and making a house of cards on a cat (the most difficult variation of house of cards there is, because you have to gain a cats trust).

Interview, then (kind of) trained.

Jits Magazine came by the house today to do an interview about my trip. Afterwards, I went to the gym for Dennis’ class to see how I felt. I managed to do some isolation rounds and roll for about three or four rounds light. My cardio have taken a hard hit from the fever but I felt pretty alright, only a little dizzy in the beginning.

It was really nice to be a little active again, looking forward to more training tomorrow, where there should be lots of black belts on the mat.

Great success!!

Just woke up and I feel great! I have been sweating like a pig all night (it was like sleeping in a pool), but today I feel much better and on top of that, it is a beautiful day outside, so couldn’t be much better.

Surfing, training and actually doing something is coming up asap, wohoo! :-P

A bit of progress

Last night was very tough. I would be cold as ice for three hours, soaked in sweat for three hours, then repeat all night. I managed to sleep 13 hours, but woke up countless of times and had to either put clothes on or take some off to adjust to the temperature.

Have been feeling a bit better today though. Actually managed to get out of the house. Me, Gary and Dave took the bus to Copacabana beach and went for a little walk. It was nice to do something after sitting on the couch all day yesterday with a fever. There were lots and lots of people in the water, and I really wanted to go there. I hope I have time to rent a board and try it out before I leave.

Still have some fever, headache and stomach ache today, but is it not as bad as yesterday. HOPEFULLY, I can train again tomorrow. I am going a little crazy here, not being able to do anything.

Location:Estr. Sorimã,Rio de Janeiro,Brazil

Felt really bad today

Ok so I am officially sick. At least half of the guys in the house are affected by something these days, and I have been the lucky winner in the headache and fever lottery :(

I had planned some surfing and training today, but had to cancel. All I have pretty much done have been sitting on the couch, waiting to get better. Now it is 21:30 and I have given up, decided to go to bed and hope it will be better tomorrow.

It is really annoying to be sick and not able to do anything, but looking at the big perspective, this is the first time I have been sick on the trip (apart from the food poisoning in Borneo) and luckily it happens in a place, where I have lots of time other days to do stuff.

I am leaving here Monday, so the last few days is gong to be a little packed with things to do. I will do as much as my body allows me, but also have to be careful that I don’t burn out.

Goodnight zzz

Video from visit to Muay Thai project in the favela

Favela Fever

Last week, I was supposed to have gone to the little favela gym, but training was cancelled due to the holidays. I went today instead and brought a few guys from the house.

The gym is probably one of the smallest and simplest that I have come across (not counting BJJ Boracay). It is run by a very small black belt named Rioto, who welcomed us with open arms.

The gym was in a favela really near by. It was a very simple, concrete building with some old puzzle mats in a small room. Lots of noise from the little street outside, people shouting and motorcycles racing by on the sidewalks. Everyone in the gym was really, really nice and despite the language barrier, we managed to communicate well through simple english, portuguese and straight up Jiu Jitsu.

There were about 15-20 people on the small mat, and the training was really intense. For most of the guys there was no holding back on intensity, which I like sometimes, but the last two days, I have had a slight constant fever and headache, so it was really difficult for me to enjoy the rolls. I rolled a very good round with Rioto. It was really interesting to roll with such a small guy. We went nice and technical and despite the fever, aching muscles and headaches, I enjoyed that round. After training, when he stood up next to me taking our photo, I realized, just how much bigger I was than him, and I even feel small after having gone down to lightweight over the last year or so. His game was very impressive and I learned a lot from rolling with him. Once again, I would never have going to this place or met these great people without Jiu Jitsu. Another valuable experience and story in the backpack!

Please note that I am also running out of socks to wear. Sock sponsors wanted! LOL

Location:Estr. Sorimã,Rio de Janeiro,Brazil

Slow days in Rio

I am having some slow days here in Rio at the moment. Been feeling a little sick the last two days (first time on the trip, apart from the food poisoning) and in general, the pace here is just really slow. Not much is happening apart from training and relaxing. Have been going to the gym to roll a little with the guys from the house a few times. Tonight, I am going to train in a small gym in the favela and the rest of the week I plan to visit as many places as my energy level permits.

I finally found a place to rent surfboards, so will try and get in the water tomorrow morning. It seems a bit cold, but will be nice to try and ride these absolutely beautiful waves.

Location:R. Correia de Araújo,Rio de Janeiro,Brazil

Visiting Drive In’s, where kids who attend school, train for free.

Today, Dennis (the instructor from Gordo’s), had arranged for me to visit “Drive-In Jiu Jitsu”. The instructors nickname is Drive In, because he used to work in a drive-in. A few of the other guys from the house was convinced to join in on the trip.

It took about a good hour to get there in a super crammed bus that drove way too fast. I haven’t been feeling too good today, have a headache and sore throat, so it was pretty tough for me to do that bus trip. Never the less, it was totally worth it, since the experience I got from it, was very, very interesting.

Drive In, whose real name is Paulo Cezar Alves Pinheiro, is running a project for kids in a semi-favela kind of place. It was not a real slum, but it was definitely not a place with a lot (or any) tourists.

Getting a government funded place has not been possible, so now 35 kids train in a small, squatted room in an alley, that could be taken straight out of “Bloodsport”. Walking into a dark corridor next to a car mechanic, through the back room of a small, local restaurant with plastic furniture, past laundry hanging to dry, smell of food from kitchens, shouts and sound of tv shows from the small windows, the matted room is located almost in someone’s house. A few old bicycles and cases of empty Coca Cola bottles from the restaurant takes up most of the space in the alley. Outside of the door, about 40 pairs of flip flops have been taken off on the wet concrete floor. Some kids run by and a dog sticks it’s head out of a door and barks at me.

Lots of kids are on the mat, and the sparring is intense. There is not much laughing and playing around, this is serious business. It is a competition team, training seriously to win competitions and give the kids the chance to create a better future for themselves through sport. Drive In is not charging anything for the training. In return, the kids must every week show their attendance sheet from school. If they have attended school, they can train. If not, they get kicked off from the team.

The kids in the gym were amazing. I have a kids team at home, whose skills I really admire, but these were just on another level. Boys, that must have been 6 or 7 years old, rolled like they were good adult. They seemed really excited to have some rare visitors, and we got a chance to roll with a few of them.

They can’t afford to by kimonos themselves, and since they are affiliated with Gracie Barra, they have to use the expensive team approved kimonos. The solution to the problem is, that Drive In is buying them with money out of his own pocket and living in his sisters house to cut down living costs and afford to run the project. The biggest problem is funding all the tournaments, which can be very costly, so they are always looking for sponsors.

Later, the teen class was on. It was much smaller, and basically just rolling. I got some really good rolls in with some young guys, who impressed me very much. Drive In rolled for more than an hour with all of us, and he had a really interesting game. The most flexible person, I have ever rolled with. First time I have ever been caught in a crucifix from sidecontrol top LOL Very smooth and technical rolls I had with him.

It is exactly experiences like this I am looking for on my trip. Ofcourse, I like to train with world champions and high level guys, but what really interests me, is to experience how Jiu Jitsu can reach out into so many other levels of society and make a difference in people’s lives. Drive In took us for a walk through the neighborhood for some food later. I have been to many scary places on my trip, but every time with locals and I didn’t think twice about walking these dark murderscene streets today.

The easy and safest choice is to stay home on the couch, but the world is not always a dangerous place, and pushing one’s limits a little bit, can pay off with some really valuable and memorable experiences like this.

I highly admire Drive In’s work here, what an honor it was to visit his academy and meet the kids.

Location:Estr. Sorimã,Rio de Janeiro,Brazil

The amazing around-the-world burger project, SPECIAL EDITION: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This is a special edition of the amazing around-the-world burger project. Gathering experiences from all over the world, I yesterday cooked my very own, very special BJJ globetrotter burger for the guys in the house. Of course, it would not be fair for me to rate my own burgers, so today I have a guest editor on the show, none other than Jamal from Rio de Jamalgo. He just arrived in Rio, fresh off the boat, and is writing a blog about his stay here.

Here we go:

“As a Washington, DC native, I’ve had my fair share of good burgers.  Local favorites such as the amazing chain Five Guys and the new local hotspot Good Stuff have some delicious things on their menu.  Add in Shake Shack from NYC and you’ve got some stiff burger competition on the East Coast of the states.

Now Christian has been travelling the world, sampling burgers as he goes.  It sucks that the one he had in my neck of the woods didn’t compare to some of the favorites I’ve come to love.  The challenge, then, was to see if his skills in eating burgers would transfer to making them.

We fired up the charcoal from the previous nights BBQ and got to work.  The result was pretty damned good as I think some of the sausage and rib flavors from the previous night soaked up into the meat.  Throw in some fresh vegetables, some blue cheese (on mine anyways), some amazing avocado and a bit of bacon and you’ve got yourself some tasty stuff.  I think we said it was a solid purple.  The perfect lunch for my second day in Rio.”

Pool party!

All the guys staying in the house are pretty serious about training and goes to the gym 2-3 times every day. Yesterday, we did an exception and invited some friends over for an all-day barbecue/pool party in our garden. Lots of meat were consumed and only once was someone pushed in the pool with a phone in his pocket.

I have so much interesting training lined up next week, I can’t wait to get on the mats!

Tough start of the day!

This morning, I kind of woke up in bottom mount with a big, strong Brazilian black belt crushing my face so I couldn’t breathe. Basically, I had walked straight out of my bed when I opened my eyes and to the gym, where the open mat training was almost at it’s end. We just had time for a few tough rolls before it ended.

I wish I had woken up earlier, as there were about ten black belts on the mat rolling, but that will have to wait to another day. Lots of training going on here many times a day, so I will have my chance :)

The weather was really nice today so we all skipped afternoon training and went to the beach instead. We were sitting right next to a nice party camel playing party camel music.

Favela fail today

I was supposed to go train in the favela tonight, but due to a holiday, the training was cancelled. I rescheduled with the guys for tuesday instead. To make up for it, I went to Gordo’s gym, which is right around the corner, and did some no-gi training with the guys from the house. All the classes were cancelled because of the holiday.

I have a few interesting trainings lined up during my stay here. Next week I am going to “Drive-In” gym, then the favela gym and also hopefully do a day trip to a house in the jungle, that has an outdoor gym. Apart from a handful of other interesting gyms here I will go to, there are several social projects with kids in the favelas, that I would like to visit.

First training in Brazil

Just finished my first training here in Brazil. It was a special class, that Dennis Asche is teaching for all the people living in the Connection Rio house, so it was basically only foreigners there.

My body was really, really tired from traveling and climbing yesterday, but it was nice to get some training done. Dennis ran us through a number of nice drills, and then we did some rounds of sparring. He seems to be a really good teacher, and he’s got connections to everyone, so he is really helping me out with planning my time here.

The people staying in the house are obviously in really good shape, since all they do is train all day. It reminds me of the glorious days in the past (about four months ago), where I was also in good shape and had not yet tortured my body with traveling, to little sleep and too many cuba libres :D Hopefully, I can catch up a little bit while I am here, and I will definitely get back in my CrossFit gym, when I get home.

But nice to train again. The knee felt surprisingly good, in fact I kind of forgot about it till this evening. I am confident, that I can get through the training here in Brazil with no serious problems.

Tonight, I will eat a lot of meat, then sleep and be ready for rolling in the favela tomorrow evening. Maybe even go to the beach and rent a board?

Visiting Muay Thai gym in a favela

Last night, we went to a favela near by to visit a Muay Thai gym. Eduardo Pachu has been running “Tropa” for ten years, offering free training to all the kids in the area, who else wise don’t have many options in life.

There was a lot of kids in the class, and it was really inspiring to watch. Having trained with kids many places in the world, it is obvious to me, that the fire and enthusiasm they put into the training, is the same, no matter their social status or financial capabilities. This gym had less than 15 pairs of boxing gloves and only four pairs of thai mitts, and still, they managed to do a high intensity class for two hours. I spotted a lot of talent in the group, some really, really impressive young people with crisp technique and impressive power. I wished I had brought some training clothes, so I could jump in, but with my body being really tired after walking up that hill/mountain, it was probably for the best that I just rested.

This visit really made me think. Having the opportunity to help kids I have met around the world, through my blog, is something I will work more on and do more organized. I have an idea for how to do it and will hopefully realize it when I get home or maybe earlier, if I have the time. In the meantime, if you have some old equipment for BJJ or Muay Thai, that you don’t use, do not throw it out, I might need it soon ;)

After visiting the Muay Thai training, we went across the road to the smallest and simplest BJJ gym I have seen in my life. I talked to the guys and agreed to go train with them tomorrow night, which I am looking very much forward to. Photos and stories to come! :)

Arrived in Rio, climbed mountain first thing in morning.

If you have followed my blog for a while, you might remember, that in Hawaii, I was persuaded into climbing 1000+ steps up a “hill”, which was a little harder than I had anticipated.

I arrived in Connection Rio at five in the morning and got some sleep. Hywel Teague, and old friend I trained with in Manchester UK back in 2004, is currently working here, and asked if I wanted to go up the hill near by. I thought why not, and five hours later I am now back in the house LOL. Once again, it was a little harder and longer than I had imagined and my legs and knees took quite a beating. So much for a rest day! :D

Tomorrow, I am planning to go training somewhere. I have stayed away from training since Friday to rest my knee injury, so I really hope it will be fine tomorrow. Climbing a mountain didn’t help much though :)

Anyways, I am excited to finally be in Brazil and to see what experiences and adventures I will find here!

Location:Estr. Sorimã,Rio de Janeiro,Brazil