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Alex My Nguyen Lives Her Dream of Living and Training in Brazil

I was introduced to Alex My Nguyen by my good friend and partner at GiReviews.Net, Dan (also of DanOfEarth).  They trained together at Fairfax JiuJitsu and one day he sent me a highlight video of her competing at 3 different tournaments in one weekend (including a wrestling meet).  Alex has excellent in wrestling, judo, and jiujitsu competition and this past summer, she had the chance to live and train in Brazil.

alex my nguyen in brazil  orange belt

Alex just earned her orange belt in BJJ at her new home, BETA Academy, but as a teenager, Alex had the chance to live and do something so many adults dream of: live and train full time in Brazil.  Without further ado, I present Alex!

This past Summer (2013) I had an opportunity of a life time. Abmar Barbosa invited me to visit his school in Rio Claro Brazil. I could stay as long as I wish but I could expect to train 3x a day 5 days a week and compete regularly.

The Trip

Abmar wanted me to experience how the Brazilians train a and hopefully get some tough matches in competition. Before I was allowed to go, my father had to make sure my safety would be guaranteed, so he and Abmar worked out the details. I was to stay at his mom’s house and a close friend’s house. There, I met their daughter Nayara and we became good friends.

alex my nguyen in brazil leaving

The direct flight to Sao Paulo was about 10 hours long. I slept the whole way. Upon arrival another jiu jitsu friend of mine picked me up with out any problems and we took a 2 hour bus ride to Abmar’s hometown Rio Claro. Already the experience was feeling like an adventure due to the fact in was my first journey outside the United States.

The Culture

alex my nguyen in brazil learning portuguese

The culture was different but non threatening. Actually, it was very welcoming.  People seemed passionate about everything. I had to adjust to my new environment. That very same evening the adjustment was no longer an issue. I found commonality with the people I met at the jiu jitsu club. We all LOVED jiu jitsu and loved each other.

Time to put on a gi and train.

The Training

The practice sessions were mostly high speed drills then live rolling. My partners would fine tune my execution of a technique during the drill but there was no a prescribed time for formal instruction. That was the primary difference from the sort of training I received in the United States. I  won’t say that it is better or worse. Just different and beneficial in it’s own way.

Besides, almost every evening I would log into MGinAction or Mendes Bros Online and search for techniques that I had just practice. So I got the details I needed that way. Just had to improvise a bit. After the a couple of weeks, it was time for my first competition in Brazil.

A big one too.

CBJJE Mundials (Worlds).

The Competition

alex my nguyen in brazil sao paolo tournament

Both Abmar and my dad were warning me that I had to train hard and take this seriously. The opponents won’t be like the ones I faced in the US, they will be much tougher, they said. So that got be a little scared and nervous. I didn’t really step up my training. I always give it my all during my daily training sessions.

What ever I do, I always commit to 100%, that’s how I roll, no pun intended. Well to make Abmar and my dad happy, I said “Yes sir, and Yes daddy” but my determination was never diminished. I don’t see it as a struggle or a difficult endeavor, It’s just my nature.

alex my nguyen in brazil tournament

No big deal.

Anyways, at the Mundials I had two other girls in my division. One was the same rank as I and the other was one higher.

I submitted both of them and neither scored a point against me.

There was a lot of cheering I did not understand but I remembered a story that Koga the Judo legend told. He was fighting in Spain, the home crowd of his opponent also from Spain, he did not understand a word that was said so he just pretended all the noise was for him, ALL for him. That story stuck with me and I used that same tactic in my matches.

Moving forward, I had 3 more tournaments after the Mundials. I had the same success in all three. In the end all of my opponents were submitted except one. That one lost 12-0. I’m not trying to say they weren’t tough as what my dad and Abmar were saying. Looking back I believe it was the style of preparation that Abmar’s school used to get me ready.

alex my nguyen in brazil podium

The training in Brazil was very much like my wrestling practice so it was a perfect fit to my style of Jiu jitsu.


Speaking of wrestling, I do believe I had one advantage in Brazil. Obviously the Brazilians are legendary in Jiu jitsu but to my surprise, wrestling is not big in Brazil. I used my wrestling as much as possible and grind it out with my opponent. Something I know they weren’t use to.

In BJJ, it’s not always necessary to engage, but it wrestling, you engage like a maniac, all the time. That’s something I don’t believe they are used to.

Well that’s my theory and I’m sticking with it. 😉

alex my nguyen in brazil joao anderson

In closing, I would like to thank Abmar Barbosa and my new friends in Brazil for making the trip extremely fun, and also a great learning experience. I will no doubt return someday. Not sure when, because I have the 2020 Olympics in my sights and I have to prepare for that.

If all goes well and I don’t get injured I hope to be on the female freestyle wrestling squad.  Should it come to pass, during my Olympic Matches, I WILL use my Jiu jitsu on the wrestlers. It is my theory they won’t be use to the “gentle way” and pay for it.

alex my nguyen in brazil with team

Thank you for reading. See you on the mat!

BETA Academy, Washington DC

Do you have any comments or questions for Alex? Post them up in the comments below!

About the author: Lover of Jesus, Bowties, and BJJ. Founder of Ok! Kimonos.

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