Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Volunteering with kids Internationally

 Capoeira Adult/Teenager Group (young children not pictured)

Mestre João Kanoa

I came to Rio de Janeiro to do sports with kids while trying to be a positive mentor and teach them some English.  I came NOT knowing virtually any Portuguese or any Capoeira.  Even through these language barriers, I was still able to communicate and have a great time with the kids.  I took the initiative to use my skills to help them in any way possible.  I have been training Mixed Martial Arts for a little less than a year with an obsession.  So each Capoeira class the Master, who is completely blind, allowed me to teach the kids martial arts techniques while I implemented English lessons.  Many of these kids live in a favela so for them self-defense abilities could save their lives. I tried to be very expressive with my body and face in order for the kids to understand, which they were able to.  I also used humor to keep the kids engaged in what we were doing.  I was very energetic and enthusiastic about what I was showing them and the kids mirrored my energy.  It is sometimes discouraging to not know what is going on and not be able to communicate completely but a volunteer just has to roll with the punches and do what they can in order to help.  Expect things to be confusing.  It’s not about the volunteer, it is about the kids.  If the volunteer does not feel needed then they need to think outside the box in order to help.  Be creative.  Figure out the interests of the kids and make it a game.  For example, bring a soccer ball (football) and kick it around with the kids and implement some sort of informal English class.  Smile.  A smile is a universal way of saying that you are happy because you are with those around you.  Everyone has something to offer.  A volunteer should be able to teach something to the kids but the kids can also teach the volunteer.  Have fun!  Sometimes it may feel like work but a volunteer should be having fun with the kids.  
I did pay for this volunteer program.  The money went to my housing, to support the program, and to some administration costs.  However, I believe that there are ways to volunteer without having to pay a cent.  There are even programs where you can get housing paid for by the group that you are volunteering for.  Or just do couchsurfing and volunteer to whoever needs help.  It would just take some asking around.

Check out this article!

Some good groups:

All Hands Volunteers
Peace Corps
Teachers Without Borders
Volunteer Match
Habitat for Humanity

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Intro to Surfing

Surfing can be intimidating and unnatural for almost everyone.  It requires balance, coordination, strength, and athleticism. As well as the ability to swim.  But through practice and finding the right board, anyone should be able to do it.  If a guy that failed a sobriety test (walking the line) while completely sober according to the breathalyzer can stand up on a surf board and ride it into shore, then ANYONE can!  It is a lot of fun and it can be a great workout.  The following video should help to get you started.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Brazilian Top Team

After searching through the city of Rio de Janeiro to find a good Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy, I found Brazilian Top Team.

The Brazilian Top Team (BTT) is a mixed martial arts academy specializing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing. The academy was established in April 2000 by Murilo Bustamante, Ricardo Libório, Mário Sperry and Luis Roberto Duarte, former-members of the Carlson Gracie Academy, to develop and create new training techniques for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, submission wrestling and mixed martial arts.

When I walked into BTT there was only one man in the academy.  He was probably the biggest man that I have ever seen and he actually looked a lot like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, the famous WWE wrestler and movie star.  The first inclination was to be extremely intimidated and I didn't expect him to speak English.  But he was one of the nicest people that I have ever met.  We grappled without a GI (jiu jitsu uniform) for 5 rounds starting from the floor.  He was able to submit me each time after a few minutes of me at least putting up some good defense and offense.  I just have not trained BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) long enough.  I will train with friends in my house and watch instructional DVDs to improve.  And perhaps join an MMA gym close by my house.  
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been proven to be very effective for defeating a larger and stronger opponent.  Even though I was much smaller than my opponent, I was still able to at least defend myself on the ground.  Whereas if we were sparring kickboxing it would be LIGHTS OUT for me.  In the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Royce Gracie proved that BJJ could defeat anyone regardless of the size of the opponent.  

Watch videos on YOUTUBE (BJJ Weekly), grab a friend, find some mats, and then do some jiu jitsu.  It can be effective for self defense against an attacker in some scenarios (not if he has a knife).

Psalm 144:1
"A psalm of David. Praise the LORD, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hacking Life

What the hell is hacking life all about?  That's a good question.  One of my favorite authors, Tim Ferris author of The Four Hour Workweek and The Four Hour Body, makes life hacking the driving force in his life.  He throws himself head first into something completely unknown to him previously and forces himself to learn it quickly.  Whether that something is learning Yabusame, a supremely difficult horse-back archery sport in Japan, or winning the Tango championship on behalf of Argentina (the only American to ever do so).
I would like to do the same.  I have so many interests in so many different things, many of which I know absolutely nothing about.  I need to Carpe Diem every day before I run out of days.  The key to learning things is to make the first step.  You should research about it then go to someone who has been doing it for years and ask, or if necessary pay, for their help.  Perhaps instruction can even be swapped. If you are a great guitar player and you wish to be a Jason Bourne-esque badass, swap with a martial arts instructor interested in learning how to play guitar.  Repetition and visualization of the skill is necessary to learn it efficiently. Do something every day that you are uncomfortable with if not completely terrified of.  Sitting on your thumbs all day won't get you far nor will it make your life fulfilled.  Be vulnerable and feel like an idiot for a while, I dare ya! 

Today, I taught English to a group of young capoeira students (3 to 12 year olds) through Muay Thai and self defense instruction.  Some of these kids neighborhoods (favelas) are very dangerous and it is a good thing to teach them self defense.  And with the upcoming World Cup (2014) and Summer Olympics (2016) coming to Rio de Janeiro, I hope that I can initiate a spark in them to learn English which will give them many opportunities in the future.  After the kids class, I then learned from skilled Capoeira men who have been doing it for years.  They were very open to me and patient.  I am looking forward to learning more of this breakdance fighting art created by African slaves in the 16th century.  I need to hack the Portuguese language!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Fit in Rio de Janeiro

Anywhere fit!
People like to use travel as an excuse for not working out. If its a trip for business, they say that they did not have enough time. Or if it is no where near a gym then they believe that they cannot workout. This is far from the truth. If its time that you lack, space, equipment, ect then you are only lying to yourself. A workout does not have to consist of complicated exercises and equipment. It can be done in a short amount of time (INTENSITY) or a long period of time stretched throughout the day while relaxing or working (VOLUME) using the greatest piece of equipment that you own.... YOUR OWN BODY! Find some stairs and walk or run up them. Near the beach? Go for a run. Stuck in a hotel room? Drop and give yourself 20 push-ups every 10 minutes. Whether you are at a boring hotel room in Wisconsin or an exotic beach in France, there are no excuse to not at least do something You will feel and look better as a result. Just eat right as well and do not be afraid to skip a meal if there are only unhealthy options available.
Here in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, there are pull-up bars and parallel bars (dipping) all over the city and on the beaches. There are several steep stairs near where I am staying. Rather than just sun bathing on the beach, I like to run along it. Running on the sand is very hard! But I have seen several men older than 50 who are also jacked as hell running along the beach. Coincidence? Probably not. I am also going to take advantage of the sports and activities of the city. I am looking into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training with the Gracies, rock climbing up Sugar Loaf, surfing school, and capoeira, martial arts, and futebol with children in a favela to name a few activities that I will be doing. Do some research on the city that you will be visiting and shoot out some emails about prices and times to schedule some fun exercise by surfing the internet for reliable sources. JUST DO IT! (as the slave driving company likes to say)

Paulo Leminski: If Incense were Music
Incenso Fosse Música

isso de querer
ser exatamente aquilo
que a gente é
ainda vai
nos levar além 

this of wanting
to be exactly that
which we are
is bound to
take us beyond

(Source: "Distraído Venceremos" Ed. Brasiliense, 1987)

Convict Conditioning for the previous days working on 1 arm push-ups, pull-ups, dips

Beach Run for 30 minutes


Metabolic-Conditioning (not for time)
Stair Run (about 1 min)
30 dips (broken down into 10’s)
30 pull-ups/chin-ups [deadhang] (broken down into 10’s)
Stair Run (about 1 min)
30 dips (broken down into 10’s)
30 pull-ups/chin-ups [deadhang] (broken down into 10’s)
Stair Run (about 1 min)
30 dips (broken down into 10’s)
30 pull-ups/chin-ups [deadhang] (broken down into 5’s)
*Alternated dips and pull-ups in between

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Capoeira in Brazil

Today, after 3 days of following my nose exploring through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I started my volunteer program with a Capoeira school.  The name of the school is Kunta Kinte under Mestre (Master) João Kano who is completely blind and speaks no English.  Mestre and the students were all very welcoming to me.  I was introduced to the young kids from 5-12 year olds.  They had their class as I watched.  Then they all swarmed to me to ask if I could train them Muay Thai Kickboxing and Jiu Jitsu.  I showed them the basic 1-2-3-4 combo (jab-cross-hook-uppercut) and rear leg kick while trying to implement English lesson through slow and deliberate emphasis on techniques and body parts, and obviously numbers.  They were so excited to learn the new moves that I taught them and are eager to learn more when I go to the favela to do capoeira with them and the adults/teenagers tomorrow.  Then I did a hour plus with the adult/teenager group where I learned the basic capoeira movements. I was then thrown into the circle to go against another opponent in the dance fighting ritual as the rest of the class clapped and chanted and the master beat the drums.  It was very exciting and I am enthusiastic about learning more myself and teaching these great kids martial arts/self defense and English so that they can live better lives and protect themselves if attacked.  


Capoeira (Portuguese pronunciation: [kapuˈejɾɐ]) is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and music. It was created in Brazil mainly by descendants of African slaves with Brazilian native influences[citation needed], probably beginning in the 16th century. It is known by quick and complex moves, using mainly power, speed, and leverage for leg sweeps. 
Capoeira is a fast and versatile martial art which is historically focused on fighting outnumbered or in technological disadvantage.

Simple animation depicting part of the ginga
The ginga (literally: rocking back and forth; to swing) is the fundamental movement in capoeira, important both for attack and defense purposes. It has two main objectives. One is to keep the capoeirista in a state of constant motion, preventing him or her from being a still and easy target. The other, using also fakes and feints, is to mislead, fool, trick the opponent, leaving them open for an attack or a counter-attack.
The attacks in the Capoeira should be done when opportunity arises and must be decisive, like a direct kick in the face or a vital body part, or a strong takedown. Most Capoeira attacks are made with the legs, like direct or swirling kicks, rasteiras (leg sweeps), tesouras or knee strikes. The head strike is a very important counter-attack move. Elbow strikes, punches and other forms of takedowns complete the main list.
The defense is based on the principle of non-resistance, meaning avoiding an attack using evasive moves instead of blocking it. Avoids are called esquivas, which depend on the direction of the attack and intention of the defender, and can be done standing or with a hand leaning on the floor. A block should only be made when the esquiva is not possible. This fighting strategy allows quick and unpredictable counter attacks, the ability to focus on more than one adversary and to face empty-handed an armed adversary. Acrobatics (like the Cartwheels called ) allows the capoeirista to quickly overcome a takedown or a loss of balance, and to position themselves around the aggressor in order to lay up for an attack. It is this combination of attacks, defense and mobility which gives Capoeira its perceived 'fluidity' and choreography-like style.
Capoeira in a real Mixed Martial Arts Fight! WARNING!

Stair Climb Ascent in Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro x 1 in 59 seconds
Handstand Push-ups for 12 total reps
One Arm Push-ups for 16 total reps
Pull-ups for 5 x 10 
Plyometric Dips for 5 x 10
Hanging Leg Raises for 3 x 10
Pistol Box Jumps for 3 x 3 (per side)
Capoeira Training for 1 hour