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Training in Brazil – Progress Mark spends 2 months in Sao Paulo, what tips does he have?

Posted by James Tighe on

During the first 2 months of 2022 I travelled to Sao Paulo, Brazil to train at the legendary Barbosa Jiu Jitsu Academy under the tutelage of Marco Barbosa, a blackbelt for over 20 years.

If you enjoy training in the Gi and have the possibility of working remotely, I’d highly recommend visiting Sao Paulo – it’s one of the largest cities in South America and has more than enough BJJ clubs!

Top 3 tips for training in Brazil:

  • Scout out an Air BnB early! The best option for accommodation unless you want to stay in a hostel, if you search a few months in advance, you should have the pick of the best places to stay. Especially recommended if you’re staying for 4+ weeks.
  • Find the right gym for you – if you want to train more No Gi or at a certain time of day, it’s best to check out their schedules and drop them a message in advance. Some top gyms in Sao Paulo to visit include: B9 Barbosa Academy, BJJ Lab, Alliance HQ, Academia Cicero Costha and Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood. The price of Jiu Jitsu is much lower in Brazil than in the UK with monthly memberships rarely topping £40.
  • Take recovery seriously! If you suddenly ramp up your 3x Sessions a week up to 7+ sessions it’s going to catch up with you quickly. Take time to rest properly, swim/walk and don’t be afraid to take a day off if you’re feeling shot

What are the classes like compared to the UK?

Training daily at a new gym may seem daunting but Brazilian gyms are honestly some of the most welcoming places I’ve visited – even though my Portuguese is very limited, they do their best to explain techniques in English where possible and during sparring everybody trains hard. As long as you show willing, show up on time and train hard, you’ll make new friends very quickly!

I trained at the midday competition class every weekday and they followed the same routine each day:

  • 30 minutes of drilling your own techniques, anything you like
  • 20 minutes of taught technique, often standing throws during my stay
  • 1-1:10 hours mix of specific and free sparring

I’ve never been to a class in the UK with a 30-minute warmup of drilling your own techniques before and I’m fairly sure it is only in the competition classes that this is the case, as everybody who attends is already graded in BJJ. The teaching is very similar to what you see in the UK with the instructor explaining and answering any queries before you drill in partners.

The sparring is hard, everybody is training to win the rounds and “sharktanking” is common with groups of 3-4 competitors of a similar weight sparring with each other for the full session. The main difference I noticed was the intensity, there is very little “flow-rolling” in these sessions, people are actively counting the score during the roll and fighting hard to win.

The early morning or evening classes have a more relaxed atmosphere where you can train at a slower pace if you need a rest or want to take less of a beating, haha.

What else is there to do in Sao Paulo?

Staying anywhere around Vila Mariana or surrounding areas is great in my experience, I stayed the entire time in Moema. Despite reports of Brazil being dangerous for tourists, this area of the city feels very safe with hundreds of restaurants, diners and bars to experience. Compared to UK prices Brazil is super cheap for food and I’d recommend trying as many places as you can!

Sao Paulo is also known for its museums and art galleries, if you’re looking for an active recovery day the central zone of the city has amazing streets to walk around and more locally Vila Mariana has a huge national park “Parque Ibirapuera” which is great for walking, running or cycling around on the rented bikes!


Thank you for checking out the blog and reading about my experience training BJJ in Brazil!

-Progress Mark


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