Visiting Drive In’s, where kids who attend school, train for free.
Today, Dennis (the instructor from Gordo’s), had arranged for me to visit “Drive-In Jiu Jitsu”. The instructors nickname is Drive In, because he used to work in a drive-in. A few of the other guys from the house was convinced to join in on the trip.
It took about a good hour to get there in a super crammed bus that drove way too fast. I haven’t been feeling too good today, have a headache and sore throat, so it was pretty tough for me to do that bus trip. Never the less, it was totally worth it, since the experience I got from it, was very, very interesting.
Drive In, whose real name is Paulo Cezar Alves Pinheiro, is running a project for kids in a semi-favela kind of place. It was not a real slum, but it was definitely not a place with a lot (or any) tourists.
Getting a government funded place has not been possible, so now 35 kids train in a small, squatted room in an alley, that could be taken straight out of “Bloodsport”. Walking into a dark corridor next to a car mechanic, through the back room of a small, local restaurant with plastic furniture, past laundry hanging to dry, smell of food from kitchens, shouts and sound of tv shows from the small windows, the matted room is located almost in someone’s house. A few old bicycles and cases of empty Coca Cola bottles from the restaurant takes up most of the space in the alley. Outside of the door, about 40 pairs of flip flops have been taken off on the wet concrete floor. Some kids run by and a dog sticks it’s head out of a door and barks at me.
Lots of kids are on the mat, and the sparring is intense. There is not much laughing and playing around, this is serious business. It is a competition team, training seriously to win competitions and give the kids the chance to create a better future for themselves through sport. Drive In is not charging anything for the training. In return, the kids must every week show their attendance sheet from school. If they have attended school, they can train. If not, they get kicked off from the team.
The kids in the gym were amazing. I have a kids team at home, whose skills I really admire, but these were just on another level. Boys, that must have been 6 or 7 years old, rolled like they were good adult. They seemed really excited to have some rare visitors, and we got a chance to roll with a few of them.
They can’t afford to by kimonos themselves, and since they are affiliated with Gracie Barra, they have to use the expensive team approved kimonos. The solution to the problem is, that Drive In is buying them with money out of his own pocket and living in his sisters house to cut down living costs and afford to run the project. The biggest problem is funding all the tournaments, which can be very costly, so they are always looking for sponsors.
Later, the teen class was on. It was much smaller, and basically just rolling. I got some really good rolls in with some young guys, who impressed me very much. Drive In rolled for more than an hour with all of us, and he had a really interesting game. The most flexible person, I have ever rolled with. First time I have ever been caught in a crucifix from sidecontrol top LOL Very smooth and technical rolls I had with him.
It is exactly experiences like this I am looking for on my trip. Ofcourse, I like to train with world champions and high level guys, but what really interests me, is to experience how Jiu Jitsu can reach out into so many other levels of society and make a difference in people’s lives. Drive In took us for a walk through the neighborhood for some food later. I have been to many scary places on my trip, but every time with locals and I didn’t think twice about walking these dark murderscene streets today.
The easy and safest choice is to stay home on the couch, but the world is not always a dangerous place, and pushing one’s limits a little bit, can pay off with some really valuable and memorable experiences like this.
I highly admire Drive In’s work here, what an honor it was to visit his academy and meet the kids.
Location:Estr. Sorimã,Rio de Janeiro,Brazil