Training Muay Thai in Rio: From Nova Uniao to the Favela

Rio de Janeiro has more than just the best jiu-jitsu in the world. If you want to train Muay Thai in Rio, you’ve got plenty of options; from the world-class MMA gym Nova Uniao to training in a favela.

This blog is written by Connection Rio team member Torryn Heffelfinger. He’ll be blogging weekly on life and training BJJ in Rio de Janeiro. In the following excerpt from his weekly blog “Training the Dream”, he talks about training Muay Thai in Rio de Janeiro.

The start of the week brought the usual great training, then I had a few days of being sick and then rounded the week off by getting out and experiencing more of what Rio has to offer. Even though it is never fun being sick I still had a chance to learn a lot.

Training Muay Thai in Rio

Monday afternoon I threw on the gloves and shin pads and did the Pro Muay Thai class at Nova Uniao. The instructor was a phenomenal coach and by watching him it was quickly apparent he has spend decades in the sport. He ran us through multiple combos. At first we would work a combo slowly and technically, and then we would switch to fast paced rounds with movement and speed.

After about 45 minutes of fast paced drilling we did specific technical sparring. One guy could only spend the round throwing punches while the other guy could only throw kicks. This would go on for a three minute round and then you would switch rolls with your partner. The drill really allowed you to see more openings and work counters. We finished the session with free sparring and core work.

Tuesday morning I headed into Nova Uniao and got some great boxing training in. The main focus was aimed at head movement and countering (both things I need to work on). We finished up with a final 3 minute round with our hands behind our backs and all we could use was head movement and footwork to evade punches; it was a great drill and even at a slower pace a difficult one. After doing the drills I can see why Nova Uniao’s Top level fighters, such as Jose Aldo, can be so dangerous and elusive on the feet.

Training in the Favela

A group of us went out to Tijuquinha and checked out Eduardo “Edu” Pachu’s social program Tropa Thai. Edu, an accomplished muay thai and MMA fighter, has been running a free muay thai program for kids in a small favela for many years. Twice a week the concrete basketball courts behind a local school fill with kids of all ages who come in to learn muay thai from some of the best in Rio.

The training is broken into two classes, one for younger children and one for teens on up to adults who have worked with Edu. The kids were very good technically and had a lot of spunk. Not only that but they are tough as well, not being able to train in a gym these kids make do training barefoot on rough concrete flooring, I know a lot of adults in the states that wouldn’t have the mental toughness to do that.

training muay thai in rio

While most of the group watched, Melanie a guest from Boston, and I participated in the second class for teens and adults. We did a lot of technical sparring and I had a lot of fun working new stuff against the kids (and they had fun getting to punch and kick a gringo). In addition I got some great tips from the instructor, who was able to spot some holes in my offence and defense.

I have to say the most enjoyable part of going was watching the kids train and learn. Social programs like Tropa Thai offer the kids something constructive that will build character and create opportunities for them. My Portuguese is getting good enough to where I could talk to some of the kids and explain to them who we (the CR Gringos) were and what we are doing here. When I told some of them that we were from across the word, train martial arts and we came to watch them train the kids faces beamed and they worked extra hard to make good impressions on us. I really enjoyed going and I hope to make it back Tropa Thai in the future.


Check out this video from 2011 of the training at Tropa Muay Thai

From training and accommodation to academy visits and special tours, and even small group classes with the best teachers Rio has to offer, Connection Rio offers everything you need for the perfect jiu-jitsu holiday!

Take a look at our brochure – we’ve got houses with pools, huge gardens, and apartments next to the beach: all within 30 seconds walk of top BJJ gyms in Rio!

Connection Rio is the best combination of accommodation and BJJ training in Rio de Janeiro. Contact us today and plan your trip to train BJJ in Rio!

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