A guest post by Kate Carsella about BJJ4Change, an amazing opportunity to support the favela kids, a documentary, and a very impressive training camp in Brazil...
Grief and tragedy are known quantities in every community. It is an unfortunate truth. But there is always relief. There are always unions borne of need and compassion. One topical example is the growing number of organizations hoping to give back to the community, to children, by way of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Yes, you read that right.
Up in Milwaukee, WI, a change is underfoot. Never Ending Light Productions, the studio behind multiple award-winning, praiseworthy documentaries is currently working on their project “BJJ 4 Change”.
Train with Jiu-Jitsu Champions. Star in your own documentary. Return home from Brazil. When you purchase a ticket to this event, a portion of the sale is going directly to the children. When you play the documentary in your city, proceeds from the ticket sales go back to Brazil and the children. Resources they need like education, mentorships, gis and new equipment that will go into the gyms where they train. We are also working with the Brazilian and US authorities to help provide paid visa sponsorships for BJJ coaches to travel abroad.
Included in the purchase of a ticket: All travel, food, accommodations, and safety within Brazil for our scheduled itinerary (the final itinerary will be published December 1st). Your ticket includes all of your training, a close-up moment in the documentary, and one tournament entry. This organization is gaining steam, and so are likewise movements and organizations around the globe.
[Edited to add: More detailed information has been shared by the organizers. The current line up is as follows and we are still working on growing the list- Rigan Machado, Rolles Gracie, Robert Drysdale, Carlos Terrinha , Clark Gracie, Penny Thomas, and a few more that are still trying to plan their schedules.
This is a 10 day trip (Jan 21st - 31st - 2016) that will consist of two days travel and 8 days in Rio to include four full days of training, two days of helping kids, and finally two days hosting the tournament, dinner, and awards ceremony.
Each team of 10 travelers will be paired up with a Championship Coach and assigned to a specific school. Travelers also have the ability to stay for Carnaval (at an additional cost). So far we have been leaving it up to the Coaches as to which schools and children they would like to represent and send the proceeds to. As you are aware, we are currently in early roll out, so the details of the coaches are coming up over the next few weeks.
In the meantime, Robert Drysdale will be working with the kids in the Terere kids project, Clark Gracie just texted us last night that he also has chosen a school. We are planning on updating and highlighting the schools in more detail leading up to the trip.
This trip will be jam packed with coaching, speaking, and filming about 8-10 hours per day depending on how light the schedule. The lighter it is, the longer we take on dinner interviews. In the documentary film, students (depending on package level) will be interviewed and followed to shoot multiple spots - including some nostalgic ones (depending on the package).
The tournament and awards dinner at the remembrance for Helio Gracie will highlight the children and provide a great background cover for the documentary. The coaches, children, and some students will also be receiving an award at this dinner and be giving a speech. We will be using this as part of the ending of the film. Each of the coaches and students has a great biographical narrative so we will be focusing on how BJJ changed their (your) life. We will be providing a detailed and authorized itinerary about a month ahead of the trip.]
The children of Brazil have long been grappling with unspeakable violence, poverty, and limited opportunities for change. Fortunately, the leading fighters, coaches, and students of Jiu-Jitsu are uniting against the grim, and pay their success and positivity forward. Recently, the Fightland Blog’s Ottavia Bourdain detailed the 1993 massacre of eight homeless children near the Candelaria church in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
"In the favelas, children were routinely shot during exchanges between drug gangs, but far more horrifying were the so called “death squads.” In May of 2012 I traveled to Rio with my husband, accompanied by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Igor Gracie. The highlight of our trip was a visit to Insituto Kapacidade, a non-profit organization founded in 2010 by four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Kyra Gracie and businessman Bruno Neves, that teaches BJJ to children in need. Using the sport as its main tool, the institute aims to educate and empower children and improve their self-esteem."
Here is an excerpt from Ottavia's interview with Kyra Gracie:
Fightland: What is Kapacidade about? What inspired you to create the institute and how did it happen?
Kyra Gracie: It all happened when in 2007 I visited the Santa Clara Family (an organization that was Ryan Gracie’s idea and that at the time took care of 70 kids), and I was touched by what I saw. I wanted to give back what BJJ gave me, so in 2010 I got together with Bruno Neves, who is a BJJ practitioner and was already involved with the Santa Clara Family organization. We started teaching the children BJJ and taking them to tournaments. That’s how Kapacidade institute was created.
What are the benefits of BJJ when it comes to children?
Martial arts help them with their self-esteem, respect, competitiveness. It builds their character into become a better person. Because for these kids reality is something really harsh and cruel. They live in shacks with no flooring and sleep on the dirt.
What are your hopes for your students?
When you are born really poor in Brazil, you don’t have many opportunities. Big chances are you will end up involved in crimes. When the children start training BJJ, we are giving them a trade. Something that they can embrace and carry on and eventually become a black belt. With a black belt on their waist, they will have a whole lot of opportunities. They might become BJJ instructors and provide for their families.
You can support the Kapacidade institute by attending their jiu-jitsu fundraising seminar at the Renzo Gracie Academy in NYC on June 22, or you can donate directly to Kapacidade through their Web site.
Meanwhile, Nico Ball of the very same Fightland Blog, has had a major life change, centering around Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
From her Fightland Bio:
Nico Ball recently left her life as a teacher to train mixed martial arts full-time in Brazil. Originally from Pennsylvania, she attended George Mason University in Virginia and got her Masters degree studying the impact of martial arts-based social projects. She’s now living the fighter’s life and pursuing her dream to become a pro mixed martial artist, but has found a way to continue her interest in creating social change by helping organize The Tererê Kids Project, a nonprofit for the children living in poverty in the favela of Morro do Contagalo. The project is centered around jiu-jitsu star Fernando Augusto da Silva, widely known by his nickname Tererê, who used the Gentle Art as a way to escape a life of crime. We asked her to send us periodic updates of how the Project is going.
The following documents one such update: Tererê’s Kids Project.
Fernando Tererê started from the bottom, achieved greatness, and is now a dedicated guardian of the pathways to success, safety, and positivity for others:
Hailing from the slums of Rio de Janeiro, life for Fernando Tererê was replete with problems from a young age. Before the police occupation of the favelas that started in 2009, drug dealers imposed “Favela law”, using violence to maintain order in the slums located a few blocks from the picturesque Copacabana beaches. For Tererê, Gracie Jiu Jitsu was a way to escape the violence that inundated the then un-pacified favela of Cantagalo.
Tererê attributes his success in life to Gracie Jiu Jitsu. His involvement in the sport as a student and later as the founder of the first Jiu Jitsu social project in the Favela of Cantagalo, Pavao, Pavaozinho (PPG), was his salvation, not only as a small kid coping with a violent environment, but also as an adult, battling against schizophrenia and drug addiction.
In 2000, as a blue belt, Tererê founded Amigos Do Morro, the first Jiu-Jitsu social project in the favela of Cantagalo, Pavao, Pavaozinho (PPG). It was in this run down academy with second hand mats, holes in the wall, and no running water that BJJ stars like Jackson Souza, Michel Langhi, Alan Finfou, and Ricardo Viera began their ascent to greatness. It was also there that the charismatic Tererê found his passion for teaching. Tererê’s personality attracted people to him and he had a natural talent for recognizing raw talent like in the case of stars like Cobrinha. It was his dedication to his students, to his family, and to his community that kept his name alive.
Now 14 years later, Tererê's legacy in the favela remains intact, despite his struggles. Amigos Do Morro, now Academia Fernando Tererê or Tererê Kids Project, is still thriving and providing free BJJ classes for the residents of the Cantagalo favela.
Sally Arsenault, a BJJ coach based in Nova Scotia, Canada uses her own personal history, along with the marketing campaign of OK! Kimonos, to speak to the needs of children today, and how BJJ can be a soothing, galvanizing, productive force for the young:
Most of my clothes were second hand, and without those hand-me-downs I would have had a very limited wardrobe. Because we were lucky just to have food left at the end of the month, it never occurred to me that I could play sports or take martial arts classes. Instead, I spent my days getting into trouble with other people who didn’t do anything productive with their free time.
The brand mascot [for OK! Kimonos] symbolizes Brendan [Hufford, creator of OK! Kimonos]’s message for children. “I want kids to know that it’s alright to be silly, nerdy, and dorky and then step on the mat at a tournament and hit a flying armbar in six seconds.” Training hard, confidence and assertiveness are key but he doesn’t promote unnecessary aggression.
Perhaps “luck” is a kind, yet incorrect word for what is going on with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s positive effect on communities and children with few options. These groups, missions, and efforts live the ethic of paying it forward. These stories are beautiful in their similarity; the chain of hard work, loyalty, and respect remains unbroken.
Luckily, this is not restricted to Brazil. In the Midwest, in Milwaukee, a group of BJJ coaches are cultivating a dedicated family of hard-working adults and children through jiu-jitsu. It is called BJJ4Change. The efforts of this group, soon to become a documentary, can be followed at BJJ4Change.org.
About the Author:
Kate Carsella is BJJ supporter, writer, and advocate for a healthier world.
[Edited to add: I asked for more information and here were their answers...
Tell me about the charity/ies and how they would help the children:
I also asked why the three price levels (US$3750 up to $12,000):
Currently, the price levels are structured out on the IndieGogo page : https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bjj-train-film-with-legends-change-lives#/comments
How many students will be permitted?
We have room for up 150. Don’t worry, it will not be 150 people in a big room together. They are going to form sub groups and their accommodations will be separated into small groups of 10-20.