Training with BOPE, Wrestling with UFC fighters

As with every week here in Rio I had some amazing opportunities, including going to BOPE training HQ and helping train some of the elite soldiers. Unfortunately my training was cut a bit short because of an injury, but I still got some awesome work in.

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 with BOPE, Brazil’s elite military police force.

Wrestling with UFC fighter Gleison Tibau

On Monday I got the week started off right. The mornings wrestling training was an intense drill session, with a little bit of live wrestling at the end. We were joined by UFC lightweight Gleison Tibau who came in to train with us while he is in Brazil. First off I don’t know how that guy ever makes 155, he is the biggest lightweight I have ever seen; he easily walks around at 185-190lbs. Despite his bulk he is incredibly light on his feet, he moves quickly and precisely. When I had a chance to wrestle with him he didn’t use his strength, he used technique.

Gleison is a super nice guy who stepped in to offer some great pointers on mma wrestling techniques. After class we were talking and he said he really enjoyed how I taught the class (the drills, details, explanations, etc.) and techniques that I used. It made my day. If there is one thing my time here in Brazil has taught me, it’s that I deserve to be here with some of the best in the world.

Training with BOPE

On Monday night Antoine called and asked if I wanted to go with him to help train members of Rio’s elite BOPE, and of course I jumped at the opportunity. So Tuesday morning Antoine picked me up and we headed across town to BOPE HQ. I had been there once before, for a CR visit, but this trip had a bit different feel as I wasn’t there to tour, but rather work out with and help train some of the members of BOPE in wrestling.

The base was alive and bustling. A large group of soldiers were in the briefing area getting briefed for some sort of mission. There was also a good deal of political activity going on as well.

training with bope bjj
Several politicians from the prefecture were there to watch a judo demonstration by children who had suffered from crack addiction in the favelas. I know to most the idea of teens and children dealing with addiction of a drug like crack is a completely foreign idea, but it is an unfortunate issue that has to be dealt with in the impoverished areas of Rio. Luckily programs such as these, that work hand in hand with the UPP, help kids who have suffered one way or another from drugs, gangs, and violence. The programs offer structure, support, and a feeling of family. I have to say I was really impressed by the kids, they were all disciplined and worked incredibly hard. It was an awesome opportunity to watch them put there techniques on display.

We headed down to the gym, which has a large mat space and began to train. There were four members of BOPE training with Antoine and I (normally there numbers are larger, but there were guys prepping for missions). They were all serious athletes who when not training for missions are training to fight or compete. On of the guys, Jayson, even spent time in the U.S training wrestling.

I got a chance to show them some boxing for MMA takedowns and we had a chance to do some live wrestling. It was a ton of fun the guys were all in great shape and aggressive which always makes for fun training. By the time we finished there was a group of BOPE watching and I was introduced to them. They all were super friendly and excited to have me there. One of the guys, Ricardo, spoke English and invited me back to train whenever I was able to and said if I had any questions about Rio to let him know. He then finished by asking me this question, “Have you ever trained parachuting?” To my response of “No” he said, “Well we’ll change that.” An interesting statement to say the least.

One of the members of the group I was introduced to was 01, the Commander of the BOPE. He was a very nice guy who was enthused to have me there working with some of his troops who were preparing to compete. As we left, passing by BOPE suiting up to go on patrol and various other members cleaning weapons, Antoine explained some of the rigorous training of the BOPE. Of the last class of 100 only three made it through the training to become members of the elite BOPE force. In the last three days the trainees go with no sleep, incredibly limited food and water; they spend the days running countless simulated missions and physical tests.

The final step is running up the large hill (closer to a mountain) that BOPE HQ is on and performing tasks along the way; at three stages trainees must fight in hand to hand combat. The first stop is an all out MMA style fight (no protection gear) against a single opponent. Farther up the hill they have to fight multiple opponents at the same time, and at the final stage they have to battle armed opponents and disarm and “pacify” them. With training like that I can see why the BOPE are regarded as some of the best in the world.

Watch a video of a Connection Rio group visit to BOPE HQ

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