Recently I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Buenos Aires. Being mildly obsessed with BJJ for a few years now, my first thought after hearing about the conference was "I have to go to Rio".
Rio was definitely an amazing experience. I want to go back already, but time was tight and I lost alot of it while There. Not only to all the lovely distractions Rio has to offer, but time was also lost to language barriers, national holidays, food poisoning, etc. Shit happens I suppose - both figuratively and literally.
Here are the 5 things I wish I had known or done that would have made my trip better.
1) Learn Portuguese
English in Rio isn't widely spoken. Language barriers often slowed me down or sent me off in the wrong directions. If you speak Spanish, apparently they can understand you, but I'd consider some survival Portuguese essential before going back again.
Before leaving I started some audio lessons, but lets face it - learning a language is hard. Its more exhausting than a workout. I soon got lazy and gave up. Big mistake.
If you know me, you know that I can't say enough good things about the Pimsleur Method. I did all 90 lessons before going to Japan and after getting off the plane I was immediately talking to people (admittedly not the most interesting conversations, but being able to say "how much is this?", "where is that?" is HUGE). The Pimsleur method is expensive, but definitely worth it. There are, of course other ways to acquire it, but I would never do anything like that and neither should you.
2) Book a place at Connection Rio
Not having alot of money, I stayed at a hostel called The Mango Tree in Ipanema. The Mango Tree is a great place. Easily the nicest people I've met in hostels (I had beer unlabelled in the fridge for 4 days - nobody drank it. Name another hostel where that would happen!) and was alot of fun. But hostels tend to one giant party which, while fun, is not the best environment for training.
I would have loved to have stayed at Connection Rio - A hostel devoted to fighters who came to Rio to train. Dennis (the owner) is a great teacher one of the nicest guys ever. He let me hang out there (even though I wasn't staying there) and let me train with him at GordoJJ - a 2 minute walk down the road. As an added bonus they have a washing machine you can use. Trying to keep my Gi smelling good while living in a hostel was challenging.
3) Have decent cardio
What can I say, I'm lazy. I hate cardio and it hates me. The only time I do it is when I'm gearing up for a tournament. But everyone I rolled with in Rio either had a Black Belt (and didn't even break a sweat while tapping me), had the hunger in a bad way or were training for tournaments. Some of them were animals - training 2 or 3 times a day. My cardio didn't stand up at all. I'm doing at least 2 months of strength and conditioning before I get on another plane to Rio.
4) Figure out the bus routes
Staying in Ipanema and training in Barra the Tijuca, I had to take buses back and forth. There's alot of them, and many seem to follow the same routes. I think I wasted alot of time waiting for a "175" when many other buses going past would have taken me to the same place. I have no real advice on how to figure out the bus routes of Rio. If anybody does, I'd love to hear it.
5) Use this GoogleMap
This map, was a godsend! It helped me find the original Gracie Barra school as well as the places mentioned above.