BJJ foreigner in Lisbon
It’s been a couple of years since I moved to Lisbon and one and a half since I started BJJ training at Royce Gracie Portugal, under Hélio Perdigão. I hold my three stripes white belt with proud for many reasons besides mere training, it has been quite a journey.
I moved out from Mexico three years ago in order to study, firstly in Madrid and later, due to odd circumstances, here in Lisbon I took the chance to move in since the programme at university was entirely taught in English, so the language wasn’t a major problem; I had no clue on Portuguese besides “obrigado” or “bom dia”, knew the work from a couple writers, some football players and clubs, and some photographs that my brother had sent me some years ago from a trip he took around Portugal.
However, moving into a new city with no friends nor any acquintances of any sort, without speaking the language and being shy as I am… seemed a little too much for a couple of months. As soon as I finished the moving in and found out the way to the university and back (and a little tourism), I decided it was of a major importance to get back to training. Back home in Mexico I used to do some Muay Thai, in Madrid I tried Systema and regular gym training, so I started looking for a nice gym. Google maps offered BJJ and Kick Boxing, so I went there blindfolded, hoping to find something good, and I did.
You see, this was a little difficult since you get into the gym and people are drilling or rolling, all of them focused on what they are doing; even white belts seemed intimidating as the instructor finds some time to come and say hi. I bet you know the feeling. Anyway, as soon as I mentioned my origins, my teacher-to-be started speaking Spanish, and he took the time to explain every detail on the characteristics of the system and invited me to take one demonstration lesson. The language barrier being taken down made everything easier to make a quick decision. Nevertheless, the class was and still is taught in Portuguese, exception made when there are anglophones among us, which forced me to learn faster the name of body parts, movements, and the current jokes. Fortunately not only the instructor has tried to make it easier for me, all the peeps have been nothing but wonderful and had explained every doubt I came up with, not only BJJ reffered but also on language or just small talk.
After this year and a half I try to speak out loud in Portuguese with the people around me, and I feel more integrated into the country and its ways, and BJJ has not only been a helpful resource for staying in shape but also to find my own place here, which is not that much “abroad” anymore. This is why each one of those stripes on my white belt mean a lot more than just a step to achieve the next goal, because of course I want to get my blue belt, but a step into feeling more comfortable and integrated to a place I came knowing nothing about and for now I call home.