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The day a BJJ teacher graduated his own mom to brown

Professor Vinicius Vieira was tough but wound up promoting his mom to brown-belt. Family archive.
Professor Vinicius Vieira was tough but wound up promoting his mom to brown-belt. Family archive.

Elaina Botelho Soares is crazy proud of her son, BJJ black-belt Vinicius Vieira, of Kioto Gym in Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro. The admiration is such that she made a decision: after spending decades teaching her son about life, it was time to learn from him — on the mats.

“My entire family trains,” says the 27-year-old son. “My father is black-belt Marcelo Alan Vieira, my sister is a blue-belt, and my mom trained for five straight years, but quit when she was close to getting to the brown belt. She went about four years away from BJJ, and about a year ago she came back. I incentivized her to resume training, due to the technical quality she’s always had, and what we hoped for happened: she returned, resumed competing — even in the adults’ category — and got great results. Daily at the gym, she helped me a bunch with the lower-ranked students, so this belt is more than deserved.”

(See the promotion posted Monday the 21st on Instagram.)

Vinicius says he had to treat Mom like a normal student, and he was tough when time came to promote her.

“She’d always come and comment that, when she quit, she was about to get the brown belt — that old spiel from every student trying to remind their teacher about the belt,” a mischievous Vinicius recalls. “I made a point out of always ignoring it; I’d change subjects or repeat that a belt does nothing but hold one’s gi pants. Last year she was already back when we promoted Kioto’s students, but I chose to hold her back and see how this training year would develop for her. I never gave her an inkling that her brown belt would come this year, and I think she was quite surprised — I kept it a secret right up until graduation time.”

Vinicius says that graduation day was business as usual: “Since I’m her teacher in daily training, it was up to me to tie the new belt around her waist. It was a normal ceremony, but we are happy that people are being inspired by our family’s example. Now, after turning 40, my mom wants to be a black-belt no matter what, but, if she really wants it, she’s gonna have to work very hard here.”

At the end there was no special treatment: since at Kioto there is no belt-whipping ritual, a visibly emotional Elaina got the traditional takedown.

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