When people think about Rio de Janeiro, the first thing they think of is the famous areas of Copacabana and Ipanema. But the neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca is synonymous with jiu-jitsu – the name of the area is even used by the world’s biggest network of jiu-jitsu gyms.
Gracie Barra was formed in the early 80s when Carlos Gracie Jr moved the club and team that he had inherited from his brother Rolls to the relatively new neighborhood of Barra. Until then, jiu-jitsu had always been concentrated in areas such as downtown Rio (where the old Gracie Academy was) and Copacabana, home of Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and more.
As Barra da Tijuca grew and expanded, it soon became a modern and exciting place to be – many cariocas decided to move there from the cramped and crime-ridden Zona Sul. Whereas the south zone had to contend with a lack of space, problems with the favelas, and things such as heavy traffic and small houses, Barra da Tijuca was much more like a modern American city.
Many people compare Barra to Miami because of it’s long, beautiful beach, wide streets and beachfront condos. It’s a great place to live and the choice for many people who prefer a quieter and more easy going life than the hustle and bustle of Zona Sul.
Barra da Tijuca is also a hotspot for many other activities, not just jiu-jitsu. From surfing and kite-surfing on Barra beach (only two blocks from our apartment) to trekking in the rainforest and climbing Pedra da Gavea (the trail of which starts only one block from our Barrinha houses).
Almost all of the old-school Gracie Barra guys, including Carlos Jr, Renzo and many others, were all huge surfers, and seeing as how close the gym is to one of the best surfing sports in the city, it’s easy to see why. If you take a stroll to Barra beach you can still see many guys with cauliflower ears!
Because of the growth of jiu-jitsu in the 1990s there were some negative incidents of gangs of BJJ fighters facing off with luta livre rivals, and these young fighters were nicknamed Pitboys, and were responsible for many riots, gang fights and problems. This ended many years ago, and while BJJ was once seen in a negative light thanks to the work of gyms suchas Gracie Barra it is now common to see young kids carrying their gis on their shoulder and parents feel safe in taking their children to train.
Speaking of these incidents, Barra was where the infamous fight between Rickson Gracie and Hugo Duarte happened, which took place at “Pepe’s” beach (between Post 2 and 3) and only one block from one of our favourite churrascarias in Barra (an all you can eat beef restaurant).
Speaking of restaurants, Barra is a great place to eat out with plenty of cheap options. From open air cafes and juice stands to sports bars and more, it’s not unusual to see MMA fighters such as the Nogueira brothers or Anderson Silva at the world-famous Bibi Sucos. Many guys like to go there to refuel after training because of the healthy food, perfect for athletes.
And Barra is where all the modern amenities can be found – from South America’s biggest shopping malls to state of the art health clinics, open-air restaurants to buzzing bars and nightclubs.
With no favelas, few tourists and a high standard of living, Barra da Tijuca is a great place to spend a jiu-jitsu vacation. You have the opportunity to train at many different gyms, and you will experience the laid-back Rio de Janeiro lifestyle while still only being 25 minutes away from the more famous areas.
Contact us today to see how we can make your trip a reality.