Where is the Mecca for BJJ in the world today? No doubt many people would say Rio de Janeiro; I mean it is the birthplace of BJJ after all. Back then, all the major tournaments were held in the famous Tijuca Tennis Club in Barra de Tijuca. Today the only major tournament held there is the Brazilian Nationals or Brasileiros. Where have all the other major tournaments moved to? You guessed it; California. And thus BJJ in California may have already overtaken Rio.
The New Mecca: BJJ in California
Rio is a beautiful place, no doubt about that. But Brazil has a country also has high levels of poverty and crime and thus many people, if given the opportunity would emigrate to the United States if given the chance. BJJ athletes are no different. Rorion Gracie moved to California in the 90s and began teaching out of his garage. He may have been one of the first, but he certainly wasn’t the last and today most of the highest level BJJ athletes are living in California. There is no doubt that BJJ training in California is some of the highest quality out there.
Here’s a quick list of the top BJJ athletes living in California today; you can see why BJJ training in California is so appealing.
- Rafael and Guilherme Mendes
- Saulo and Xande Ribeiro
- Leo Vieira
- Lucas Leite
- Kron Gracie
- Andre Galvao
- Caio Terra
- Jeff Glover
- Bill Cooper
- Dean Lister
- Keenan Cornelius
- Samir Chantre
- Clark Gracie
- Rubens ‘Cobrinha’ Charles
- Nino Schembri
So why are all these top level BJJ athletes, particularly the Brazilian ones, move to California? Let’s look at the top reasons that make California and thus BJJ in California so good.
Why do Brazilians like California? 3 Reasons
#1: The Surf
Ever wonder where the ‘shaka’ hand gesture from BJJ came from? The answer is surf culture. BJJ and surf culture are quite intertwined, in fact many of the Gracies’ early street fights were fights with other surfers! Many BJJ athletes are also big time surfers so when they want to move to the United States, guess where they went? That’s right California
#2: The Weather
Winter in Rio is like summer in many other places. It’s a beach culture and many people walk around shirtless in board shorts or in bikinis all day. What other spot in the United States can you get a culture that’s even remotely similar to this? That’s right, only in California and only because of the weather. Can you imagine doing this in New England? You would freeze to death.
#3: Other Brazilians
Because so many Brazilians (BJJ athletes and otherwise) move to California for the two reasons above, even more Brazilians want to move there because there are already so many other Brazilians! California has a thriving Brazilian community, and it only attracts more and more Brazilians.
With all the top level athletes in California, it’s not surprising then that even more BJJ athletes, especially the young up and coming ones move there to get the best training in the world. Further, since all the major tournaments are there, it’s even more convenient. These are just some of the reasons why BJJ in California may be the highest level in the world. If you are in California, you can’t go wrong; there is a saying that in San Diego you can throw a rock and hit a black belt. So if you are an aspiring competitor who has outgrown his local academy, perhaps it is time to consider BJJ training in California?