In “Drive-In’s” Rio, those who go to school get free Jiu-Jitsu classes

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Paulo Cézar “Drive-In”: another warrior among the many in Brazil who save lives through Jiu-Jitsu. Photos: Gustavo Aragão.

A black belt from Rio de Janeiro, Paulo Cézar Alves Pinheiro, better known as “Drive-In”, was plenty content with his knowledge of kung-fu, until one day a Jiu-Jitsu white belt took him out of his comfort zone.

“Nineteen years ago all I did was kung-fu, until one day a Jiu-Jitsu white belt took me down three times and I couldn’t do anything but tapout to get him to let go of me,” he recounts, now with six years as a black belt at Gracie Barra headquarters under his belt.

These days Drive-In heads an important and inspiring project in his community, the Gardênia Azul neighborhood of Jacarepaguá, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro city. For those who live there, visiting this “Drive-in” is much more than a fun place to distract one’s self for a few hours, like the eponymous outdoor movie theater.

For almost eight years now the teacher has been training 35 kids between the ages of 5 and 17 who live in the community. “Practically all the students have won a medal at some Jiu-Jitsu championship or another. The only condition the teacher enforces is that they all attend and make good grades at school,” says friend Pedro Sol, of Gracie Barra.

The prize for those who don't skip school

It’s just that keeping the project up and running is no easy task, nor is it cheap. Without sponsorship of any kind, Paulo Cezár battles to keep changing the young people’s lives.

“The idea is to build on the project I started and expand the academy, to offer bigger and more modern facilities for the students I already have and future kids wanting to practice sport,” plans the headstrong Drive-In. “My life changed after starting the project, and now I’m 100% dedicated to my work with the kids.”

The efforts have been paying off, which may yield backers down the road. At the last State Championship, for example, in June, 15 students signed up and they conquered 14 (five gold, five silver) medals between them.

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