Visiting one of the largest BJJ gyms in Rio, a wedding, and competing in a luta livre competition… All in an average week for our sponsored athlete Michael Tlalka!
This blog was written by Connection Rio sponsored athlete Michael Tlalka. He’ll be blogging weekly on his experiences in Rio de Janeiro.
This week we went to the Gracie Tijuca academy. It’s run by a 4th degree black belt Vinicius Aieta. He’s turned the class into open mat just for the Connection Rio guests. The academy has one of the biggest mat spaces in Rio and the image of over 20 pairs rolling at the same time will stay with me for a while. Vinicius was a fantastic instructor who personally picked our sparring partners and offered tips as we rolled.
On a more personal front, this week I went to Pedro’s wedding. He’s a good friend from back home and it was a pleasure to celebrate this big event with him. Even though I had to explain over a thousand times why I brought a tuxedo with me to Brazil, I had a great time. It was also a good opportunity to compare Sons and Daughters of Albion to their Carioca counterparts. My observations shall remain private to avoid a major international crisis…
Luta Livre Competition
Competing in Brazil is a hugely rewarding experience once you get all the paperwork out of the way. I didn’t really do all that so instead I had to travel to the organiser’s house the day before the event. On the bright side, I got to meet him, which would prove invaluable the next day.
On Sunday, I arrived at the arena at 1pm with about 3 hours until my category was meant to start. I found the gym without much trouble and walked into the venue. I had a perfect plan of weighing in followed by refueling and warming up for my fights. But it was not to be. As soon I walked through the door I was grabbed by the organiser, told to change and weigh in. After just making weight (69.8kg- boom), I was ushered onto one of the two mats where my opponent awaited. I am not going to lie and say that the crowd loved me straight away. I’ve heard a few “gringo”s thrown my way but I just concentrated on the task at hand.
My second fight was slightly frustrating. I took my opponent down a few times but we kept landing outside the mats which apparently didn’t get me any points. At the end of the five minutes I was expecting the referee to raise my hand but instead he announced 2 minutes of extra time under “golden point rules” (first to score points wins). It was at that moment that I’ve realised how tired I was after the weight cut and my lack of warm up. I put all my efforts into a throw from the front head lock position (thank you very much Mikey Conner) and got my points. To my despair, the fight didn’t get stopped and I still had a minute left. I dug deep and came out with the win. I wouldn’t say it was Rocky-esque but it was pretty damn inspiring.
When my hand was raised, I could hear some spectators and fighters clapping from the stands. The gringo had earned their respect. Afterwards, a few of them came up to me and invited me to train with them in their clubs. It meant a lot to me and I will certainly be making a trip to visit few of their Luta Livre academies.