Stand up work at Nova Uniao and Tropa Thai Social Program

Posted: Oct 04 2014

This blog is written by Torryn Heffelfinger. 


After Muay Thai training at Nova Uniao
This past week had its ups and downs. At 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.
Week in training
Getting some sparring in while visiting the Tropa Thai social program.
Monday morning I worked on wrestling, focusing on drilling takedowns to counter various kicks. After wrestling I met up with Simeon and headed into Nova Uniao for the afternoon. The first session I caught was nogi grappling. The class was very drill heavy, the warm up was completely sport specific movements. Some of the drills included swinging armbar drills and triangle drills. Each guy would quickly (and correctly) hit 10 reps to each side, switch with their partner, and then rep out another set. The live rolling was great. It seemed like every person I rolled against had a completely different style, which was awesome because it really forced me to adapt quickly and work my game. Immediately after Nogi I threw on the gloves and shin pads and did the Pro Muay Thai class. 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.
Melanie, one the the CR guests, training at Tropa Thai.
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). The coach would show three or four possible slips or counters and then we would alternate rounds with one guy throwing and the other guy working on the techniques. 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 do dangerous and elusive on the feet.
One of the talented students at Tropa Thai
On Tuesday night 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. 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 offense and defense. While the training was great, 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.
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