The story of using sports to extricate oneself out of hardship is repeated across many different cultures and nations, with different sports and disciplines as the method of success. In America, for example, where higher education can be expensive, many young men lift themselves and their families out of difficult lives by pursuing basketball or football scholarships and professional sports careers.
However, it’s not just college- or high school-aged youths walking this road . In poverty-ridden Brazil, young children engage in the martial arts to pull themselves up from hardship.
Millions of children are born into Brazilian slums called favelas, where sadly, it is a common fate to succumb to criminality, drug trafficking, or even prostitution in the case of young women.
To alleviate these problems, many families who want to take their children off the streets have enrolled them into martial arts classes so they can spend time with other children without the vicious street environment coloring their interactions with each other . By doing this, they try to instill a new way of life based on trust, respect, patience and companionship – all of which are the basic requirements that one must have in order to devote their body and soul to any martial art.
These children are cultivated to become true martial warriors, being able to dedicate themselves professionally to the world of martial arts with all that entails.
One martial arts school that tackles the problem of helping children from disadvantaged communities is the Jose Aldo Fight School. Founded by UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, the school was established in the dangerous slums of Maré, where 130,000 people must deal with drug lords, violence, murder, and other dangers. The Jose Aldo Fight School aims to build a community for children that will hopefully lead them away from crime. It has taught hundreds of students between the ages of 6 and 22, providing them with training in Maré.
Also in Maré is Fight For Peace, a project that employs partner gyms to host not only martial arts training for youths, but also developmental programs for young people. Fight For Peace is founded on five pillars: Boxing and Martial Arts, Education, Employability, Social Support, and Youth Leadership.
Through learning from different disciplines, children manage to avoid spending more time on the streets, where crime is on the agenda. In the clubs they take special care to ensure that children remain in school and maintain their training until at least the age of schooling.
Such programs give hope to the youth of Brazil’s more crime-infested areas, where most other paths in life would typically lead to drug addiction, prison, injury, or even death. This story is a testament to the changing and formative power of martial arts, especially when applied towards the betterment of the people who are encouraged to practice it.