Note: Most of this blog post was written back in May when I was still in Rio de Janeiro, however it was lost in the shuffle of moving back to the United States and never finished. I’ve been backed up on writing in more places than just this blog, but I’m working to finish a lot of half done projects. This post is now complete, and I wanted to post it both because Richard is a good friend in Rio de Janeiro and the training in his facility is excellent. I hope you all enjoy the post!
Rio de Janeiro is known for its Brazilian Jiu jitsu. That’s why I came here after all, to improve my game on the mats. One big difference between my training here and at home is that I actually do striking back in the states as well. I’m on about the same level in striking as I am with jiu jitsu, which if you’ve been following my blog you’ll know is very basic. I’ll always love jiu jitsu more than any other style of fighting, but I know striking is fundamental to a mixed martial artist, and as that is my ultimate goal the thought weighed on my mind in my first few weeks here.
I remember before I was leaving for Brazil I was having a conversation with my father about the different places I’ve been and the people I’ve met along the way. He said he didn’t know how I’ve met the people I have and made so many connections, seemingly at random. I thought about this for awhile and why it’s happened. Many times I’ve sought out people to connect with in certain areas in the past. It’s particularly true in the case of coming to Rio. I made one connection here that really helped shape my trip though, and it was purely by coincidence.
In a house full of fighters, it’s almost a given that when there are fights on people will want to watch. As we don’t have a TV here in the house, we decided to walk down to a sports bar we had heard about called SporTV Point to see if we could catch the fights. The place was fairly empty and there were no fights on the many screens throughout the bar. It was a Wednesday “Fight Night” card and there weren’t any Brazilian fighters on the card, so in hindsight that explains the lack of people there.
Although I was new to Rio, I wasn’t about to let my lack of any language skills keep us from seeing the fights, so I tried my hardest to talk to the manager about getting the fights on. I don’t think I was really getting anywhere, but a man walked up and offered some translation help. Within a few minutes we had the fights on and everyone was happy. I went to thank the man who helped my group out, and over the next half an hour or so I had a great conversation to someone who I would later consider a friend and instructor here in Rio.
Richard Des Forest has been training in Savate for 17 years and is the president of the Pan-American Confederation of Savate. He has adapted his art to mixed martial arts as well and has trained such famous fighters as Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Royler Gracie, Anderson Silva, Urijiah Faber, and many others. He is a brown belt in jiu jitsu under Royler Gracie and twice was the Brazilian National Champion at Master Purple Belt. I was happy that we were able to see the fights, but I was much happier to have met a man with the experience and knowledge that Richard has. Not only did I get to meet and chat with Richard, but he invited me to check out his training as well.
There was no way I could turn down training with such a great instructor, and I was excited to actually use some of the boxing gear I brought with me for once. I ventured off to Recreio (another area of Rio) and found the X-Gym located in Barra World Shopping. Richard met me at the entrance, walked me through the entry point, and showed me around. X-Gym is a really nice facility. It has the traditional gym with weights and cardio machines, but also a full mat area, cage, and boxing ring for combat sports of all kinds. They do Savate as well as many other arts such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Capoeira in this portion which is called Xtriker. I didn’t know this before I went there, but I had seen the gym in pictures before as some of the guys mentioned above like Anderson Silva, Jacare Souza, and many others train here while in Rio de Janeiro.
People started to slowly fill in for class, and everyone was really friendly and welcoming. Many people spoke English which helped me out greatly. We started with some stretching and shadow boxing, and then moved into the boxing ring for pad work. As I mentioned before, Savate is a street fighting art so I learned some techniques that would not be used in mixed martial arts but definitely would be helpful in a self defense situation. After a great workout on the pads, we went into sparring.
I have to say one big difference between the United States and Brazil is that they don’t seem to wear headgear for sparring. That may just be my limited experience here as well though. I honestly like this better although I know the headgear helps with impact. The sparring session was great. I got to go with many different fighters, and although it was apparent they were of a much higher skill level than me, they pushed me just far enough so I could work on things and not so hard that I was just taking a hard beating. Of course I took some good shots, but that’s sparring!
What I really enjoyed about the class was the detail that Professor Richard gave to each student. I fixed a lot of little things in the few times I got to train with him and his team. One thing about Richard that really stood out to me though, is every time I went to train with him, he truly seemed like he wanted to be there teaching. You could tell he enjoyed it and it was his life. The students enjoyed it as well. It is such a great training environment, and I believe it’s because of him that it is this way. It really made me think about what I’m doing now, and made me appreciate the chance to do what I’m doing now full time.
I’ll be leaving Rio de Janeiro soon, but I’ll definitely remember my experience at Savate Brazil. I was able to train in a new striking art, improve in another aspect of mixed martial arts, and met a new friend all by chance. You couldn’t ask for much more. I’ve posted some pictures of sparring down below. If you ever make the trip down to Rio and have any interest in striking at all, definitely check out Richard and his team!