I’ve taken my sweet time in writing the follow up to my first post on researching BJJ in Argentina. In my defense, in the four months since I’ve been back I’ve been travelling like a madman — San Francisco, Boston (twice), Minnesota, and the UK (five times) — and finished deploying a huge Salesforce project. Compounding that, I had a nagging injury before I went to BA that got exasperated afterwards training in Minnesota, so I’ve been off Jiujitsu for the past few months and not happy about it. That made it a bit hard to write anything on the subject. Anyway, I’m feeling better now and getting back on that horse even if the horse is looking at me like ‘Wow! You really let yourself go.’
My original intention wasn’t to visit all the places I researched in my original post. I planned to find one that was close, with a convenient schedule and just go there like I’ve done in Panama and Boston. Since I was working during the days and had some social events in the evenings, I had all the schedules at the ready and ended up going wherever had a class scheduled whenever I found myself with a free moment. Turned out that those all ended up being at different places. I have mixed feelings about this approach; I liked spending more time at a single place. You get a change to know the people there better and they get to do the same. Though, with my limited schedule I glad to visit as many different places as I did. It’s always fresh, new and exciting. So, there’s a trade off.
I was staying in Palemo Soho near Darregueyra and Guatemala, so all the travel times are based on that. Your results may vary.
On a side note, Buenos Aires seems to attract a lot of BJJ players from abroad. I saw a guy with a Roger Gracie shirt in Puerto Madera and another with a Royce Gracie/TeamRoc shirt in a cafe near my apartment in Palermo Soho. In fact, at 2 of the 3 gyms I visited, I ran into fellow New Yorkers.
Sukata Brothers – http://sukata.com.ar
On my first Saturday, only Sukata and Pitbull had classes and I ended up at Sukata.
On a quiet Saturday morning, Sukata is about a 15 minute ($20 AR) cab and 50 minute walk from Palermo Soho. I attended the 10:30am beginners GI class. The gym is a small storefront with a basic fitness/free weights area in front and a small room for BJJ in the back. No fancy zebra mats here; just a tarp stretched out over the type of thin rubber tiles you see in a weight room. Made a mental note not to get caught in any Judo throws.
The instructor was purple belt whose name I didn’t didn’t catch (Perhaps Luis?). He didn’t speak any English and neither did anyone else in the class of about 10 white and blue belts. No preocupes. Yo hablo spanglish. Plus, arm bar needs no translation. He showed two arm bar escapes that I really liked, a novel side control escape, and a kneebar sub from within half guard that has since become my secret half-guard killer. I do recall thinking whites belts and kneebars are usually a recipe for disaster. Then he busted out a spider guard sweep to a calf slicer. Now I’m thinking, someone here’s going home with a torn ACL and it ain’t gonna be me. We started rolling to a round timer that sounded like a school bell. I kept feeling that panic about being late for something every time it went off.
I was told that weekday mornings are the advanced belts. Unfortunately my schedule didn’t allow for that. Plus, if I’m fighting black belts I want my A game. At 8 am, I’m still working on my Zzz game. Freddy Sukata teaches the Tuesday evening class. $30 peso mat fee. Gym has showers and a locker room.
Gracie Academia Buenos Aires – http://www.graciebuenosaires.com.ar
Most of the gyms in Buenos Aires have evening classes starting at 8pm (20:00) or even 9pm (21:00). On Monday, I had a late dinner scheduled so, I needed an earlier class. The Gracie Academia at Club Flex had a beginners class at 7pm and advanced at 8:30(ish) so I went there. It was a bit hard to find. There’s a single dark doorway with a staircase leading right up to the gym on the second floor. I must have walked past it about three times. The class is held on the ‘third floor’ which I suspect was once the roof now covered with a thin ceiling supported by scaffolding. This was winter in Buenos Aires and it was about 35 degrees Celsius outside. So, while I appreciated the homage to the open air gyms of Brazil, I secretly wished I could wear socks and not look like a fool.
The instructor, Sebastian, spoke English fluently and was great at making sure I was following everything. In the beginner class, I met a fellow New Yorker from the Upper East Side who was a university student doing a semester abroad. The beginner class had about 20 people but, for the advanced class that dropped to about 7; blues and purples only. That day there happened to be a black belt from Brazil visting BA on business. He was invited to teach the class and taught some interesting sweeps from half guard.
Gracie Academia is about a 15 minutes cab ride from Palermo Soho; $20 peso. No locker rooms or showers that I saw.
Dudu Duarte – http://www.dudubjj.com
On Wednesday, I ran over to Dudu Duarte during a 1 pm lunch break. Based on the Google map I put together of all the gym locations, I thought it was much further, but it ended up being closer than the previous two. That’s because taxis can go across on Av. Cordoba much quicker than through the local streets. It only cost $10 pesos and was 10 minute cab ride. This was the largest of the gyms I visited with a more modern fitness/free weight in the front and a very sizable mat area in back. It also had really high ceilings and large windows, which made me feel like I was training in a cathedral. For a midday class, there was a rather large group of whites and blues. Included in the mix were a few foreigners; two Australians and another New Yorker, this one from the Upper West Side. Head instructor, Dudu Duarte, taught the class. He also spoke English and mentioned that he had lived in the US for a substantial length of time. He was a really nice guy and had a good approach to breaking down a move into its individual components. He showed us a transition from an abandoned arm bar to a single leg takedown involving a backward roll that at first glance looked complex but ended up being surprisingly simple and effective.
Following class, we rolled. After about 10 fights or so I was exhausted and started getting ready to leave. Of course, this is always when someone asks you to roll. You hesitate for a brief moment while the little angel on your left shoulder says, ‘You’re tired and should call it a day.’ and the devil on your right shoulder say ‘Put on your big girl pants and do it!’ It didn’t help that it was a young woman in her late teens who asked. Even though she was a purple belt, I probably outwieghed her by 70 pounds. Ok, one last easy roll. Mistake. I started off slow and she started off like a starving mongoose attacking a baby cobra. She went knee on belly and, before I could react, spun me into a baseball choke that caught my chin and almost snapped my head clear off my shoulders. Let’s call this one a learning moment … and I got the hell learned outta me.
The gym has a locker room with showers. I don’t recall being charged a mat fee.
For the second half of trip, my wife and I went to Cordoba for the weekend and then San Juan, where she was delivering a presentation at Argentina’s national HIV conference. Cordoba has some BJJ gyms, but I hadn’t been there before and wanted to leave my days for sightseeing. San Juan is a much smaller city with less to see, which left me with some time on my hands. Unfortunately, Google turned up nothing and after a fairly extensive (my wife said obsessive) search around the city, I’m pretty certain there weren’t any BJJ schools there. If you know of any, please add them to the comments below.