Do you believe in superheroes?

In November 2019 Jiu-Jitsu Tribe co-founder Gustavo Dantas visited two of our focus projects in Brazil.  The first was "Formando Campeões", or "Building Champions" in Salvador, Bahia.  This is the focus of our current fundraising efforts. The kids at this social project are currently training on the side of the street and we want to build them an academy to call their own.

The second was Projeto Gaditas in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul.  Over the last two years, we have helped Gaditas rebuild their facility which not only serves as a training academy but also an orphanage!  We continue to support this project by covering some of their operational costs such as electric and water.

Gustavo dedicated an episode of the BJJ Mental Coach podcast to describe his experience during these visits as well as explain our vision going forward.   You can listen here or on your favorite podcast app.  The full transcript of the episode is below.

Who was your favorite superhero growing up? Why was him or her your favorite one? Did they have any special powers? Regardless if they had or not, all superheroes had one mission in common, to make the World a better place.

Now that you're an adult, you understand that Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman don't exist, right? But what if I tell that there are real superheroes around the globe executing the same mission of making the World a better place without any special powers and with not a lot of help?

You bet they exist; there are different breeds of superheroes per se everywhere. One of these breeds is the social workers around the globe that often don't make a dime or not much money to make the World a better place.

As I already mentioned, I'm recording this audio in December of 2019 to share with you my last trip to Brazil and to bring more awareness about the nonprofit organization Jiu-Jitsu Tribe.

For those who don't know, I co-founded the 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organization Jiu-Jitsu Tribe, formerly Live Jiu-Jitsu, in 2010. The idea was to support social projects which offered free jiu-jitsu classes in impoverished areas. Our nonprofit helped by providing new mats, new and used gi's and paying for tournament registrations; however, the mission has evolved, and we decided to rebrand the organization to Jiu-Jitsu Tribe.

What is the definition of a TRIBE?  A tribe is a group of people or a community with similar values or interests.

Do you feel that your Jiu-Jitsu Academy is a Tribe that connects students with the common interest of not only improving as a practitioner but also supports your journey of becoming the best version of yourself daily?

Jiu-Jitsu is a worldwide tribe led by multiple leaders (coaches) with people connected all over the World with a very similar interest in growing and improving on and off the mats.

If you have been training for a while, you understand the benefits the gentle art has brought to your life, and how Jiu-Jitsu can empower adults (male & female) and especially kids.

Hopefully, you're in a position in your life that you can afford the monthly dues for training so you can benefit from the growth of this incredible personal development tool; however, unfortunately, this is not the case of millions of kids around the World from underprivileged communities.

Luckily there are some incredible souls, superheroes, leaders of low-income tribes out there teaching not only jiu-jitsu but other martial arts as well to these communities for FREE!

Our organization provides jiu-jitsu and martial arts training facility makeovers to social projects across the globe. Besides the makeovers, we raise funds to support their necessary monthly expenses to help these amazing instructors.

How many times have you heard of the saying: "Jiu-Jitsu saved my life."? Perhaps you have even used this saying yourself, but have Jiu-Jitsu, literally, save your life?

Well, maybe it did or maybe it didn't, but the point is Jiu-jitsu social projects around the World have been saving the lives of thousands of kids and young adults of impoverished communities, especially in Brazil, where most of these programs take place.

In 2019 I had the opportunity to personally meet two superheroes and their programs in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul & Salvador, Bahia.  Let me ask you this…Do you remember when you were 12 years old? What was happening back then? Was it a healthy childhood?  What if, when you were twelve, you started to use drugs, next thing you're dealing drugs and in trouble with the law for the next decade.

What person would you become after these ten years? What would be the odds of turning your life around to a positive route by that point in your life? IF you're alive or in prison.

The odds are very low, however as the motivational speaker Les Brown says: "It's possible!" It's possible for people to turn their lives around and martial arts can be an amazing personal development tool for those who are on the wrong path in life, that is why a lot of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners say: "Jiu-Jitsu saves lives" and it did save the life of 36 year old Eduardo Oliveira, the creator of Projeto Gaditas in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Eduardo grew up in a rough, impoverished community in Porto Alegre, Río Grande do Sul. And in Brazil, usually, the drug dealers start carving a career plan for the young kids who start as "watchers", they watch if the police are coming and let the drug dealers know.  For this kind of work, a 12-year-old can make more than their mom and dad together plus flashing the new shoes and jewelry?? For some, that can be very exciting.

For the jiu-Jitsu projects located inside these impoverished communities can LITERALLY save lives, and Eduardo was saved by jiu-Jitsu and achieved his black belt by his coach Guto Campos, 2018 Double Gold Master World Champion.  Eduardo decided to start a BJJ social project to teach kids around the age that he started to get in trouble.

At first, he used some old beat up mats and started asking for donations for the gi's and the project started to grow.  Now in 2019, Gaditas has grown to 200 students in three locations and the HQ, which is located in his house where he lives with his wife, two of his kids, plus 16 adopted kids. You heard that right 16.

He arranged a sponsorship with a bakery that provides breakfast for them, school tutors, local doctors who donate their time to check their health: Physicians, dentists, psychologists anyone who can help with their health and development. Projeto Gaditas SAVES LIVES literally.

When we decided to rebrand Jiu-Jitsu Tribe and evolve its mission, Projeto Gaditas was the first beneficiary.  We were able to raise near $10,000 for the project to build new bedrooms to separate them by gender and age groups since all of them used to sleep in one room full of bunk beds. Their power and water bill were behind seven months and on different occasions, the power and water were turned off, and with the help of the donors, we were able to pay off the debt. Also, we were able to guarantee the project a monthly salary for twelve months.

Is the facility completely done? No, but massive improvements were made, and I was able to see with my eyes since my son Jonathan and I traveled to Porto Alegre to stay a few days with them and see their daily routine.

Basically, Gaditas is an orphanage that offers jiu-jitsu. In 2019, they flew 70, 7-0, kids to compete at the Brazilian Nationals. Matter of Fact, a documentary about this trip is going to be released in February of 2020 in a movie theater in Porto Alegre, and I had the opportunity the watch the trailer during my visit, and It looks incredible. All 18 kids have won Brazilian Nationals at least once. Ain't that wild?

But as Eduardo said, winning titles is not the main thing, the mission is to change lives.

One of the standouts of Gaditas started training jiu-jitsu when he was ten years old, his name is Harold. Eduardo said that he used to work with his mother picking you trash to recycle. And one day Eduardo invited him to train, the mom said no because he needed to work, but he was able to convince her, and he trained for two years.

Unfortunately, since two of his cousins were involved with drugs and crime, he got caught up on that for a few years, and eventually, he was able to bring him back to the project to train and invited him to live at the Gaditas house. One cousin died, and the other one is in prison.

Long story short, Harold became a Brazilian National Champion, and in 2019 he moved to Dublin, Ireland. He is a purple belt, just turned 18 years old, he works in a restaurant, and he is also an assistant jiu-jitsu coach who has no desire to move back to Brazil.

This is just ONE story of hundreds of people that Eduardo has saved through jiu-jitsu. That is why he is a superhero.  Now, I would assume you train Jiu-jitsu in a good facility, in a safe environment where you can enjoy your training, right?

Imagine you leaving work or school to go train Jiu-Jitsu as you normally do, but now I'm going to picture a scenario for you. You literally train on puzzle mats placed on the street, and four to five feet from the mats there are cars and buses driving by, regardless of the weather is nice or is raining. And hopefully, there will be no shooting, since it's one of the most violent cities in your area.

Would you train in this environment? Would you let your child train in this environment?  This is the reality of the kids and young adults of the social project "Formando Campeões", or "Building Champions" in Salvador, Bahia face daily for the past five years.

Since our superhero, Delio Lima lives 200 feet from the space, the forty pieces of puzzle mats are stored in his house, and daily, Monday through Friday at 5:00 pm the kids pick up the beat-up mats and put them together full of excitement.

After my first visit back on March 19th of 2019, during the first night, I slept for only two hours, because I could not stop thinking about what I saw and the horrifying stories I heard of children being brutally murdered by the drug cartel. They ended up consuming the drugs they were supposed to sell, and of course, ended up not being able to pay them back. The drug dealers will murder anyone to set the example.

Delio shared with me how jiu-jitsu has been saving many lives in that community, he said:  "Gustavo, do you see that kid right there?" He pointed to a yellow belt they call "Pastor."  "He is now twelve years old, and he trains here Monday through Friday, he doesn't miss a class. A couple of years ago he got involved with the cartel, and one day a couple of drug dealers came here to kill him. I begged for his life and thanks to God, they spared his life and told me that would never want to see him nearby them."

"Unfortunately," he said, "For some of them it was too late. They shot and killed a kid that used to train with me, literally, in front of my house. I just heard the shots, and when I came out, he was dead."  Imagine if you were the teacher of this child, or even worse if you were the parent of this child.

The night of my visit, I taught the longest and most fulfilling class of my life. I stayed on the mat with them from 5:30 pm until 10:30 pm.

Imagine if, after class, your instructor invites you to sit on the mat and share with you a sandwich of bread with butter and soda and water because that would be the last meal that you would have that night.

That was exactly what Delio did. It was dinner for many of them. For a moment, I felt bad because I didn't want to take their food; however, they were happy that I sat down to eat with them.

During my last visit in December, I saw the same procedure of them setting up the mats, joking around and excited for the class, especially because they had a guest teacher, me.

Most of the kids had gi's, maybe 10 or 15 of them didn't have gi's, but they were very happy. Again, I stayed with them from 5:30pm to 10:30pm. At 8:30pm, a few volunteers served hot dogs to everyone since it was a special night and the older students stayed to train more.  I spent the night at Delio's house and we talked about future plans of how Jiu-Jitsu Tribe and you can help to get his program off the street.

Our mission is to buy a house and transform it into a training facility for them, it's very dangerous where they are training. Not only dangerous, but it's also INSANE! If a car loses control it could cause a tragedy.

I don't know WHEN is going to happen; however, it WILL happen. I would NOT be sharing this vision and making it public to the listeners whom I respect if I didn't believe we could pull this off with the rest of the Tribe supporters and it's future donors.

If you would like to know in what stage we are currently at in the campaign, check out www.jiujitsutribe.org and see how much we have raised so far.

Ladies and gentlemen, superheroes do exist, and you can support their mission of making the world a better place. OSS!