Fightzone Checkmat Academy, Copacabana RJ Brazil.

One of my favourite matches ever to watch is the match between Ricardinho Vieira and Robson Moura from the 2001 Mundials at the Tijuca Tennis Clube in Rio de Janeiro Brazil.

For at least three years I posted this video on my Facebook page with the promise that I would one-day travel to Brazil to train in a class with Ricardinho Vieira. For three years I made this seemingly empty promise and after three years it finally came into fruition. With the help of Dennis Asche and the team at Connection Rio I had the opportunity to visit the academy of one of my all time favourite Jiujiteiros.

The Academy

Being familiar with Youtube instructionals I had seen Fightzone many times before on my laptop. Seeing it in person finally I felt like I had been there many times before.

In my first visit I played the role of spectator as I was still recovering from hernia surgery and wanted to see the classes before committing myself physically. After watching the class I could see that it was very competition orientated and that the participants were absolute gamers. This style of class in combination with Ricardinho’s teaching really enticed me to join in as soon as I could.

The second day I visited Checkmat marked my third time back on the mat after surgery and I felt preoccupied with my abdominal scarring. Worried yet excited to train. After watching many of Ricardo’s student’s battling hard with each other I felt that I was about to get my arse completely folded up and handed to me with a bow on it. One of my first rolls there was with possibly the biggest black belt I had ever seen in my life. His name was Charles… Charles was a monster. After explaining to him about my recent surgery he told me that he understood and that he would take care of me. And he did. I never rolled with someone that was as big as he was that was also able to (and chose to) hold back on his strength and weight in order to roll with complete technique enabling us to get the most out of our training together without causing my body to internally and externally explode. Which, I was more than grateful for. Many of the students in the classes spoke English and were more than helpful and friendly with me, which is always a bonus when visiting new academies around the world, especially when you are a gringo. In fact, there were more gringos in the classes than I had often expected. A few times I had actually drilled and rolled with many other gringos only to find out, after two days or so, that they were also foreigners. It was quite hilarious to think of us all together trying to communicate with each other on the mats with our own brand of broken Portuguese when we could have easily spoken English to each other.

Ricardo’s style of class was different to many others that I have experienced. From what I could gather in my few weeks there he really wanted to design each class to cater towards specific positions rather than solely on techniques. We would often train a position for a week or so learning multiple attacks and defences in order to build a game and arsenal of weaponry customising each athlete to that position. We were given moves to hit depending on our partner’s reactions and told to drill so based on each reaction. I really enjoyed this style and definitely saw the efficiency of this practice developing the athletes timing and customisation of each move to each person’s body type and style.

Ricardo, while explaining and teaching each position, would give his opinions on strategy and philosophy within the areas of competition and training. This for me was gold as it is the part, in my opinion, that defines each person in his or her own journey of Jiu Jitsu and it intrigues me more to know about each person’s perception. I wont go into details, as I believe it is something I cannot explain as well as he did each day but I will mention something that will definitely feature in my own training and teachings. It was the idea of not accepting three points being scored against you in training. From what I could understand Ricardo explained that it was more acceptable in his academy during training to avoid having three points scored against you in a guard pass, giving up your back or other bad positions in order to become comfortable in these positions and learn to defend from there. “Why create a habit of giving away three points if you never open your game and become comfortable to defend yourself from anywhere?” He explained of course in training you will get tapped and you will be in bad positions but after a while you will know that position and be able to relax there and escape, with zero points awarded against you. “Não existe tres pontos neste academia.” Which translates into “Three points does not exist in this academy.” I honestly thought this was one of the coolest things I have heard since beginning BJJ and it has become an adopted mantra for myself and for one of my Connection Rio housemates and black belt CJ Murdock after we had discussed this concept together.

I was not able to roll with Ricardinho on this visit to Brazil but I do hope to be able to have that opportunity one day in the future, as Fightzone is definitely an academy I would like to visit again.

The classes

Ricardo’s style of class was different to many others that I have experienced. From what I could gather in my few weeks there he really wanted to design each class to cater towards specific positions rather than solely on techniques. We would often train a position for a week or so learning multiple attacks and defences in order to build a game and arsenal of weaponry customising each athlete to that position. We were given moves to hit depending on our partner’s reactions and told to drill so based on each reaction. I really enjoyed this style and definitely saw the efficiency of this practice developing the athletes timing and customisation of each move to each person’s body type and style.

Ricardo, while explaining and teaching each position, would give his opinions on strategy and philosophy within the areas of competition and training. This for me was gold as it is the part, in my opinion, that defines each person in his or her own journey of Jiu Jitsu and it intrigues me more to know about each person’s perception. I wont go into details, as I believe it is something I cannot explain as well as he did each day but I will mention something that will definitely feature in my own training and teachings. It was the idea of not accepting three points being scored against you in training. From what I could understand Ricardo explained that it was more acceptable in his academy during training to avoid having three points scored against you in a guard pass, giving up your back or other bad positions in order to become comfortable in these positions and learn to defend from there. “Why create a habit of giving away three points if you never open your game and become comfortable to defend yourself from anywhere?” He explained of course in training you will get tapped and you will be in bad positions but after a while you will know that position and be able to relax there and escape, with zero points awarded against you. “Não existe tres pontos neste academia.” Which translates into “Three points does not exist in this academy.” I honestly thought this was one of the coolest things I have heard since beginning BJJ and it has become an adopted mantra for myself and for one of my Connection Rio housemates and black belt CJ Murdock after we had discussed this concept together.

I was not able to roll with Ricardinho on this visit to Brazil but I do hope to be able to have that opportunity one day in the future, as Fightzone is definitely an academy I would like to visit again.

Tips for the academy

To get to Check Mat from the Connection Rio hostel you will need to take the 557 bus heading towards Copacabana. This bus trip will take roughly 20 to 40 minutes depending on traffic and cost $3.40 Reais one way. Bring headphones and look to take a seat on the bus whenever you have the opportunity, as some of the roads can get a little hairy.

Once you pass Ipanema and enter into Copacabana the bus will take a left turn at Aveninda Nossa Senhora de Copacabana and I advise that you Leave the bus at the second bus stop on this street.

You will be right across the road from the academy on Rua Fancisco Sá. Check the screenshot from Google maps attached to this article.

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It costs around $R350 for one month unlimited classes and it is well worth the money based on the level of Jiu Jitsu within the academy. As I mentioned earlier many people speak English and the academy manager, Gabriella, was very helpful too. Gi’s and other assorted BJJ shirts and Nogi attire is available on site for you to purchase, ranging from OSS kimonos, Keiko Raça and Shoyoroll.

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