This post is to celebrate the Olympics taking place in Rio and the 20th Year Anniversary of Rocinha Jiu Jitsu.
Here is Leandro's story!
Rocinha' Olympic hero wakes up at 6am, take the bus and works until 4pm working on getting the subway/metro ready for the Olympics.After work he becomes a hero to over 60 children in the favela community. Since 1996 Leandro Souza Dos Santos, 31, gives free jiu jitsu lessons were many have been here for years. On August 4th the everyday fighters will be one of Rio's chosen for the torch relay.
"Fighting has changed my life. I lost many friends to violence. Sport can change your view on life. Sport gives Discipline and self control. I am a winner and I am now reaping the rewards. I have my own home have a good job."
Born in a family of 8 brothers, Leandro remember the time when as young boys, sleeping "on top of one another" in a one room house. At the age of 14 he found jiu jitsu and at 16 came his big break. A good friend of his took him to the Gracie Family Academy.
"I was a fighter who had ability. One the first day, they decided to give me a scholarship. I trained morning, noon and night. I trained there for 3 years and received my black belt."
Leandro and friends created the Rocinha Jiu Jitsu project 20 years ago to help change the lives of children in the community. We demand that the kids stay in school. Everyone watches out for everyone, helping and once takes account for the performance of his training partners. I feel so proud to represent my community carrying the torch. And be an example for these boys.
Leandro, father of Larissa, 14, Leonardo, 12 and Gabriel, 9 all participate in Jiu Jitsu and are talented. With dad being being a jiu jitsu teacher the kids has full access to being able to train almost everyday.
"Im not saying this because I'm her dad but, Larissa is a good fighter. They have created a the group "Jiu jitsu girls". My daughter knows how to defend herself."
Leandro says that many of these kids improve in school after joining the jiu jitsu academy.
He says "By design, its been hundreds of this favela. We work the mind of the children too. They need more attention and love. Sport also teaches the value of discipline. All of the stress is on the mat."
"My parents came from the Northeast with six children and fought a lot. Me and my sister already were born here and didn't cause much trouble. But my brothers say that things became difficult and they would often share bread and a plate of food. My parents fought a lot. Today, myself and two of my brothers and a nephew, are fighters. I lost so many good friends to violence. Fighting really changed the vision of my life. Often, young people go to a lifestyle path that is not legal because they spend too much difficulty. They learn crime is easy money but it does not lead to happiness. In the academy, they find an environment of much attention and affection. Some become fighters, others will work in other areas. Six years ago, I started working on the subway in Leblon. Before I worked in projects in Rocinha. I managed to buy my house and I am very happy. Now my dream is to make a UFC fight because also fight MMA . Even if it's one fight."