Well, here is how it has gone down so far. The first night I trained at De La Riva’s was Thursday night.
Yes, I got in on Tuesday evening, then took Wednesday to find grocery stores, find the gym, pay for a membership and get the general lay of the land.
Anyway, At four o’clock Thursday the mats were PACKED! I think I counted around 30 people in the room. Bear in mind that the room is about 15 ft x 30 ft (450 sq. feet) and it is wall to wall mats! I think I counted 10 Black belts the first night of training and, man, were there a lot of foreigners!
The class started with Professor De La Riva guiding us through some static stretches for about five minutes. He then had us circle around him as he showed a simple, but interesting arm-bar from mount. He showed it twice (once with a variation to the defense). Then we paired up and started training. I paired up with a Frenchman who was visiting for about 4 weeks – which helped me brush up on my rusty French :-). We each had enough time to drill the move about three times, then the mats were cleared and one of Professor’s Black belts starting directing people to sit in different places on the mat (mostly the black and brown belts). Then he paired people with them and it was time to roll.
Let me tell ya, there were so many people on the mat that it was like a game of bumper pool! Guys were rolling into the walls, each other, and the bystanders as well. There were about 10 pairs rolling at a time and the “stop / move / restart” sequence was constant.
I ended up rolling 5 times in that class (5 minute rounds). If I recall correctly, I rolled with two purples (one from Sweden and one from Rio), a black belt named Rodrigo (very kind to me, but with a crushing pressure game), and two blue belts (a Frenchman and a Brit). I was pretty tired, but the Professor would point to me and say…”You training”? and I would nod my head and say “Sim” (“yes”)…(It’s rare for me to say no (“nao”) to a Professor!).
The next class (back-to-back) was the exact same formula but without the stretching. Still packed, still mostly rolling.
I went back Friday and found that the Friday format is all sparring! I had planned to do two in a row again, but I got paired with some really tough rolls (more Black belts!) and after an hour of rolling I was spent, besides…the Black belts were playin’ for KEEPS that night and were literally rolling, flipping, jumping and otherwise smashing any / every pair around them. Friday is obviously intended as “competition speed” sparring!
In a nutshell, the biggest takeaway from the first week is this: Professor De la Riva gets a LOT of foreigner traffic! Of the thirty or so people in the room each night, probably 35-40% were visiting, many of them just for a few days. The other thing I noticed was that there was very little personal attention when going over technique. Of course, the technique portion of the class was only about 10 minutes long, so there wan’t much time for personal attention anyway. All this is not really a negative, mind you. It seems to make sense given that 40 % of the mat space is taken up by visitors who won’t be here in another week or so and I cant help but wonder if this has an impact on how the training here is formatted.
At the beginning of my second day Professor De La Riva came over and introduced himself (as if that was needed 🙂 and asked how long I would be training. When I told him four months his eyebrows perked up and he smiled and said “Oh, excellent…what’s your name”? I kind of took that as being a “tell”. His first question was: “How long are you training”…only after I told him 4 months did he ask me my name. Anyway, I think it makes sense and I don’t really count it as a negative. If A bunch of strangers I had never met started coming and going through my school, clogging the mats and making it tough to train..I guess I wouldn’t be so quick to devote a lot of time to their game.
Next week, I am going to get up early and go train during the morning classes. It requires getting up at 6:00 am but, no biggie, and I think it may be less crowded by the travelling contingent and I am really hoping to get a lot of “guided training” while I am here in Rio. I’ll post more as I find out how it goes! (update: See this post for an explanation to the “crowded mats”)