BJJ Veteran Eduardo Rocha Training Winners in SF Bay

At first glance, Eduardo Rocha seems like just another muscle-bound bald guy, the kind you find brooding on weight benches between sets. At second glance, he’s intimidating. With copper-colored eyes that pin you to your spot like a memo on a bulletin board, Rocha doesn’t look like he has too many problems in dark alleys.

At 43, Rocha is a fourth-degree black belt and a world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter. When not training for competitions, Rocha keeps busy with a rapidly-growing academy, an even more rapidly growing son, and the hobbies typical of a Libra: surfing, snowboarding, and avoiding conflict.

Although a peace-loving nature may seem at odds with his chosen profession, Rocha’s long years of fighting have taught him to choose his battles with great care.

“Sometimes drunk guys want to mess with me,” he says. “And I think Man, you have no idea what you’re doing. But I just let it go. It’s not worth making a problem.”

Rocha’s Libran equilibrium comes in handy for more than just ripping waves and avoiding bar fights. The process of immigration requires surfing skills of the soul. An émigré leaves not only home and family, but his sense of identity behind. Experiencing a new culture, a new language and a new lifestyle means seeing the world through new eyes. The World becomes a 3D version of Where’s Wally, and you’re Wally. It takes a while to find your new self with your new eyes in your new world in the constant cycle of learning and forgetting, departing and returning, connecting and letting go. When you throw running a business and raising a kid into the mix, anyone could feel overwhelmed. But Rocha seems to take it all in stride.

“When I first came here, everybody said to me, ‘Watch out, there’s some bad neighborhoods here.’ They never saw the favelas in Brazil. This place is Disneyland.”

Born near the sea, Rocha’s first love was the water. But when his family moved from the tranquil beach town of Gavea to the gritty reality of Rio, then-adolescent Eduardo discovered a new priority: survival. So he traded his fins for fists and his goggles for a gi and began his long love affair with the art of war.

Having started training in his teens, Rocha was awarded his black belt at the age of 27 by BJJ legend Royler Gracie. Now a fourth-degree black belt, Rocha has competed over the years in a seemingly endless array of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments-with bewilderingly similar names-both here and in Brazil. Rocha has also competed in a discipline known as Vale Tudo, which translates as anything goes. As the name implies, Vale Tudo is a no-holds-barred, knock-down drag-out whack-’em-with-a-chair affair integrating elements of Thai Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and plain old meanness.

Besides the technical niceties of strategy and form, Rocha’s preparation involved countless hours spent perfecting the exquisite art of taking a punch.

How do you learn to take a punch?

Rocha smiles his crocodile smile. “You let somebody punch you until they get tired. Then, you let somebody else punch you.”

Needless to say, Vale Tudo has a high rate of attrition, and Rocha’s affection for his teeth eventually won out over the dubious attractions of the testosterone-soaked poundfests of Vale Tudo. Since then, he has dedicated his time and energy exclusively to teaching and training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Rocha’s life has had more than its fair share of ups and downs, but he speaks of it with the even tone and emotional detachment of an accountant performing an audit. The eldest of three brothers, Rocha felt the weight of responsibility at an early age. His fighting spirit appears to have been inherited from a feisty Libra mom who kept her postmodern family in balance with a smile on her face and samba music in the background.

“It used to bug me,” says Rocha, echoing the sentiments of every teenager since time began who has been embarrassed by a parent’s musical preferences. “Now, I see why she likes it. It makes you feel-you know-happy.”

Blood and betrayal, sun and shadows, divine intervention and evil spirits-all are part of Rocha’s own personal Brazilian soap opera. Following a near-death experience in a car accident, a fight that went the wrong way and the birth of a son, Eduardo Rocha decided it was time to start thinking seriously about the future. Rocha came to the East Bay in November of 2004 with a suitcase, a surfboard, and a dream of building something that would last for himself and for his family. His unique style attracted an immediate following and Rocha became their Prophet of Pain, on a sacred mission to free the real men of the East Bay from their inner sissies.

The obsessive-compulsive behavior BJJ inspires in practitioners along with his undeniable skills have been a recipe for success for Rocha in Oakland. In a sport where black belt instructors are treated like rock stars, Rocha is King of his own brand of Rocha ‘n’ Roll. The fanaticism accompanying the sport can perplex those who have not yet heard Jiu-Jitsu’s call, but those who have appear to think and talk of nothing else. The conversations of BJJ fighters revolve around three things: the submission they almost got; the new gi they did get; and whatever new style is going to revolutionize the game forever-or until next week, whichever comes first.

Eduardo Rocha maneuvers through the changing styles and conflicting loyalties of the California Jiu-Jitsu scene with seemingly unflappable Libran aplomb.

When asked to explain his success, the crocodile becomes suddenly coy.

“It’s my charisma,” says Rocha.

Could be. But with a rosy future on the horizon, Eduardo Rocha talked to me about the past.

Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

My city, Rio, is very violent. I needed to find something to protect me and my brothers.

Why not a gun?

Because a gun will put you in jail, fast. There are a lot of fights in Rio, but most of them don’t involve guns. The guns are in the favelas. At least, that’s the way it was when I started out. Now it’s different. Now it’s a war.

What’s with all the fighting?

If you want respect in Brazil, you need to be able to prove you’re strong.

Wait a minute. Is Jiu-Jitsu a fight, or a game, or what?

Jiu-Jitsu is everything. A fight, a sport, and a game.

In America we have a saying: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” What’s important to you?

Winning. In Brazil, there is no space for second place. You’re either the first or the last. In Brazil we say: “Second place is the first place of the losers”.

Is that why you moved to California?

I’m in California because a door opened for me at the right time. California is the capital of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in America. I was here before for tournaments, and when the door opened, I walked in.

Jiu-Jitsu seems like a pretty macho game. How does your school fit into the diverse population of the East Bay?

There are a few macho guys in the East Bay too. Not very many, but some.

Can people who aren’t macho gain anything from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

My school is open to everybody, but Jiu-Jitsu is not for everybody.

What’s your greatest fear?

In this world, sharks. In the other world, bad spirits.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

On a big boat, traveling alone. The ocean will be my next challenge, when I can’t use my body to fight anymore.

I hear there are sharks in the ocean.

(Rocha laughs) That’s a good thing. I like fear. The adrenaline makes me feel alive.

How about pain?

No. I don’t like it, but you have to learn to live with it.

Your name means “rock” in Portuguese. Do you feel like a rock?

I try to be strong like one.

Rocks are cold.

They heat up in the sun.

So do snakes.

We all adapt to the situation.

Rocks break.

That’s the bad thing about rocks.

I guess nobody’s perfect.

(Rocha laughs)

If you could be somebody besides Eduardo Rocha, who would you be?

Somebody who doesn’t need anybody.

Like a rock?

Or a shark.

If you could turn back the clock, is there anything in your life you would change?

Everything. I made a lot of mistakes in my life. I had to learn the hard way. Sometimes you have to walk through hell to find the way to live.

You have a lot of medals and trophies. What’s the one you’re proudest of?

Medals don’t make the fighter. You are what you are. The thing I’m proudest of is surviving here, in a strange country. Showing people that I can do everything, not just fight like a bull.

What’s your pet peeve?

Weak people. People who are always looking for the easy way out.

What do you like best about America?

The way Americans do business. Here, you can actually get something done. In Brazil, it’s all about having a good time.

How do you define happiness?

Beautiful women, my son, and a great day to surf.

Is there anything else Jiu-Jitsu gave you besides muscles and a lot of trophies?

Jiu-Jitsu gave me balance. It teaches you to survive when you’re not on top, and how to adapt to bad situations.

What’s your primary motivation as a fighter?

Fear.

Do you have a hero?

No. But I like Batman.

This interview was conducted in 2006 in Oakland, California.

South African Cape Town’s Camps Bay Travel Information

Camps Bay has long been one of Cape Town’s most popular holiday destinations. Lined with palm trees on the beachfront, with white sandy beaches, brilliant blue sea and majestic mountains in the background, Camps Bay offers you the holiday of a lifetime. The cosmopolitan beachfront with its restaurants and cafés is busy throughout the year. The village is close to many other attractions, yet Camps Bay displays a certain uniqueness which is enjoyed by all its guests – come and experience it for yourself!

History of Camps Bay

Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape in 1652, sent by the Dutch East India Company to erect a refreshment station for the passing ships on their trade route to the East (see History). Shortly after arrival, he started exploring the surrounding area.

He soon ventured over the mountain and discovered a bay with a lovely beach behind Table Mountain. Initially the area was of little interest to the company, being unsuitable for shipping with its dangerous breakers, yet attractive to farmers. By 1700 the area behind Table Mountain was known as Roodekrantz (Red bank) due to the reddish colour of the soil. The area was given to John Lodewyk Wernich, the Mayor of Bismarck, who built a farmhouse and called it Ravensteyn. After his death, his widow, Anna Koekemoer, married Fredrik Ernst von Kamptz, who built a track along the coast from his house to Cape Town. The farmhouse was later used by various British governors, among them Lord Charles Somerset, as a holiday house.

The French defend Camps Bay

When the American War of Independence broke out in 1777, the French and the Dutch sided with America to fight against England. Since the Cape was considered an important trade and supply station, both France and England sent their troops to Cape Town. The troops arrived in 1781, although the French won the race and landed 11 days before the British.

Before long, war erupted between England and the Netherlands, and for the next three years France assisted her allies, the Dutch, in the struggle to protect the Cape. As suggested by the French, a line of fortifications was built from the coast to Devil’s Peak and to the battery on Kloof Nek. Trenches were dug and a battery was built to command the beach, under Dutch command, and von Kamptz’s track to Camps Bay was demolished in the process.

The Bay of Von Kamptz

After the war, von Kamptz returned home to find his farm wrecked and his track destroyed. He lodged an official complaint, but the governor refused to rebuild the track, instead offering to buy the farm. On 31 January 1786, the government paid compensation to von Kamptz and the farm changed hands. Within a few months, two small batteries had been built.

First British Occupation

Dutch power in the Cape was fading by the end of the 18th century. When news of the Napoleonic Wars arrived in 1793, the British decided to secure the Cape. They took control of the Cape settlement in 1795, and finally defeated the Dutch in 1806 at Blouberg. In 1807 Lord Charles Somerset was to use the ‘Round House’ building in Camps Bay as his hunting lodge.

The beauty of Camps Bay eventually became better known, from the many governors who had braved the narrow road to the beach. In 1848 a better road had been completed, named Lady Smiths Pass, after the wife of the governor. It was later renamed to Kloof Road.

General information

Camps Bay is home to around 5500 families, with one of the best high schools in the country. It has some of the most prestigious properties in Cape Town, with priceless views. The famous Clifton beaches are situated nearby.

Camps Bay is probably second only to Table Mountain in its popularity for photographs and postcards. The turquoise colour of the ocean, together with the blue of the sky, the white sandy beach and the famous palm fringed beachfront -it’s just the perfect holiday paradise. The view from Lion’s Head is amazing, and the relatively short hike is well worth the effort.

Attractions in Camps Bay

The main attraction of Camps Bay is undoubtedly the unsurpassed beauty of its lovely beaches. Swimming and tanning under a bright blue sky, or taking a relaxing walk in the soft white sand are pastimes enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. Gourmet restaurants and cafés line the trendy beachfront, offering delicious refreshments and superb views. The famous ‘Theatre on the Bay’ offers delightful entertainment, and there are plenty of shopping opportunities.

A number of sporting clubs are also a source of fun and activity – bowling, cricket, soccer, squash and tennis. The lifesaving club is one of the most established clubs and acts swiftly in emergency situations. Further from the beach, the magnificent mountain range is ideal for walking and hiking, and the opportunities are near endless.

Camps Bay has it all – the perfect setting for a perfect holiday, coupled with first class dining, entertainment, accommodation and recreation, as well as picture perfect sunsets. A popular place to spend a sunny day with Capetonians, and a dream destination for tourists, Camps Bay really does offer everything for everyone.

What The Season Holds For The Tampa Bay Devil Rays

T’is the season: maybe not the season to be merry but definitely the season to eat a hot dog, have a beer, and bask in the sun at your local ball park. Move over Santa, mistletoe, and reindeer poop: baseball season is here.

This sentiment is a particularly great statement for Florida folk: of all the places to be a baseball fan, Florida is one of the best; it was made for fun in the sun.

This year, Florida fans who aren’t rooting for the Marlins may find themselves filling the seats at Tropicana Field to cheer on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

As one of the youngest franchises in baseball, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have had their sea legs for several seasons: like many new teams, they are just finding their footing. However, it appeared that they had almost found it halfway through last season: at the 2006 All Star break the Devil Rays were only eleven games below .500. With a strong second half, they would have been able to make themselves into real contenders.

Upper management, however, had other plans. Rather than contending for a playoff berth, the Devil Rays traded many veteran players for younger players who could contribute more to the future of the team. The future, as they say, is starting this season.

When the Tampa Bay Devil Rays took the mound for the 2007 opening day, they had the youngest starting lineup since the Minnesota Twins in 1983. Youth, it turns out, didn’t win this one: the Devil Rays lost to the New York Yankees by a score of 9-5.

Yet, the season is just beginning and anything can happen. Fans hope that Tampa Bay will follow the footsteps of the other Florida team and start making their way towards a championship.

As for what the rest of the season will hold, the Devil Rays definitely have their work cut out for them. Not only do they compete in the AL East – a division that include the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox – but many of their players are young and unproven. No one knows for sure which way they will go.

This unknowing, however, is part of the excitement: watching a player grow to greatness is one of the things baseball is all about. Among the Tampa Bay Devil Rays who have to chance to do just that are third baseman Akinori Iwamura, infielder B.J. Upton, outfielder Delmon Young, and shortstop Ben Zobrist.

The strength of the Devil Rays rests on the shoulders of their outfielders: in addition to Delmon Young, Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli could also have breakout seasons. The Rays need great outfielders, and ones that don’t mind being busy. That brings us to the weakness of the Devil Rays: the pitching.

Last season, the Devil Ray’s rotation received the fewest wins in the entire league with 36. They were also tied for the most losses at 70. Yet on a bright side sits Scott Kazmir, a man who could become a great pitcher. But he certainly can’t pitch every game: the Devil Rays are going to have to get better armed, and better arms. This young team must also learn how to win on the road. Last year their road record teetered on ridiculous; they had 20 wins and 61 losses.

If the pitching can solidify and the Devil Rays learn to win when they aren’t in Florida, they might have a chance to contend. Playing in the tough AL East is also an issue; one they can only resolve by getting tough as well.