Visually-impaired Jiu-Jitsu players have end-of-the-year party

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GRACIEMAG.com showed up at Rio de Janeiro’s Benjamin Constant Institute, an institution specialized in the education of the visually impaired, this Tuesday, to check out the end-of-the-year training session at Felipe Costa’s project for needy visually-impaired children. At the edge of the mat, family members and guests watched on prideful, as the 20 kids practiced.

This year, thanks to donors, the children received gift packages including food, sneakers, shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops and, to everyone’s joy, two gis each.

Michelle Matta, Felipe Costa, João Marcelo, Raul Gazolla and Muzio.

Michelle Matta, Felipe Costa, João Marcelo, Raul Gazolla and Muzio.

If the presents were not enough, the kids also received a special visit from an actor famous in Brazil, Raul Gazolla, who also happens to be a Rodrigo Comprido black belt. Gazolla enjoyed teaching and training with the kids, even feeling the pressure when green belt Dudu, twice winner of the Copa America, had him in side control.

After training came the most anticipated moment of all, promotions and gift giving. Felipe Costa, Michelle Matta, João Marcelo and Muzio De Angelis spoke of the effort and dedication each of the athletes had exhibited. But Gazolla was the one most touched:

“I was really impressed with your level of technique. Regardless of any challenge, no one can take from us something God gives us, which is our inner strength. Imagine what you want, and you shall achieve it. I started training Jiu-Jitsu at 36 and now I’m 54, and it was one of the best things that happened in my life. It helped me in all respects, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Jiu-Jitsu will only bring you good things, so never give up. Congratulations to all and thank you so much,” said Gazolla to applause.

Michelle promotes little Caleb

Michelle promotes little Caleb

In all, ten children were promoted. The talent and skill in the Gentle Art each possessed was apparent. White belt Caleb, upon receiving his belt, was congratulated not just for his Jiu-Jitsu ability, but mainly for his being an exemplary student on and off the mat. Timidly, the tiny athlete broke a broad smile. “I’m feeling better now because of Jiu-Jitsu. I haven’t competed yet, but I want to soon,” he told GRACIEMAG.com.

During the promotion ceremony, volunteer João Marcelo, then a purple belt, was caught by surprise. “I want to tell all of you that João is the soul of the project. He is the one who holds fort oftentimes when neither Michelle nor I can be here. So we of Brasa team decided to promote you, João, to brown belt,” said Felipe Costa. The newly-promoted brown belt fought to hold back his tears.

The only female in the group, Dalila Serpa, drew attention not just for her gender, but mainly for her firm grip and tight guard. Besides practicing Jiu-Jitsu and judo, she is a composer and singer.

Dalila holds her training partner firm. Photos: Gabriel Menezes

Dalila holds her training partner firm. Photos: Gabriel Menezes

In the beginning, when she went to train Jiu-Jitsu elsewhere, Dalila hit an obstacle well known to the visually impaired, which she mentioned candidly. “When I showed up to train, I realized people were afraid to train with me for not knowing how to act,” said Dalila.

Was she bothered? “Of course not. I made a point of showing each of them I was capable of training with everyone there. After that they realized there was no reason to treat me any differently,” she said.

At the end of the session, a civil servant who watched the proceedings remarked to the reporter, “The size of the mountain doesn’t matter, it can never block out the sun; and that’s just what I saw here today. All these children represent the sun that shines under any circumstances.”

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