Black Belt Jean Carlos Freitas and his pupil Luciano Mariano on their trip to the US. Photo: Personal archive.
Jean Carlos Freitas is a Black Belt 2nd degree professor who came from a difficulty reality of poverty in Brazil, and which started to train BJJ at a social project in Rio because he didn’t have money to pay to take Jiu-Jitsu lessons or even to buy a Gi.
Today, Jean is a respected coach that has traveled the world to disseminate the art that provided him with a better future. Jean Carlos still makes sure he gives back to the community by teaching Jiu-Jitsu to unfortunate children and youngster that need financial and psychological help but cannot afford a membership at a regular martial arts school.
Recently, one of Jean Carlos’s blue belt students from a social project in Japeri, Brazil, was granted the opportunity to travel to the US to compete at the Worlds and other Jiu-Jitsu tournaments. The Brazilian student called Luciano Mariano has a disability and is a tenacious grappler despite having no arms below the elbow.
Luciano counted with the support of The Carly Stowell foundation, created by Elena Stowell who wrote the book Flowing With The Go: A Jiu-Jitsu Journey of the Soul about how Jiu-Jitsu helped her recover from the death of her daughter. Click here to know more about how Elena Found out about this particular blue belt and has decided to share his story. Elena sent Luciano’s information to the CAF-Challenged Athletes that provided sponsorship to the athlete.
In a conversation with GRACIEMAG, Prof. Jean Carlos tells his success story and how he meet the blue belt Luciano Mariano in Brazil who found in Jiu-Jitsu a way to go beyond his limitations.
GRACIEMAG: Tells us about your life before becoming a Jiu-Jitsu instructor?
Jean Carlos: Life was pretty hard. I could not afford to train jiu-jitsu, and much less, able to buy a kimono. I remember that my first kimono was paid in 3 installments. Then, I started working to the government at “Vale do Rio Doce”, a State owned company, and soon the state was privatized by former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso and many ended up losing their jobs. So, Jiu-Jitsu was the only thing I had left. As a purple belt I started working and teaching in some social projects related to evangelical churches at Praca Seca in Rio de Janeiro. Later, I received the opportunity to teach Jiu-Jitsu in Israel, where I founded Team Top Brother Israel. I was able to work with some special units of the Israeli army and the special Israel police.
How did you get involve with Jiu-Jitsu and why do you think it can improve people’s lives?
I am 2 degree black belt from team Checkmat. For many years tho, I was an athlete from team’s top brother, led by Master Cezar Guimarães (Casquinha), where I started to train with Professor Fabiano Gaudio who had a Jiu-Jitsu social project together with the master Casquinha from white to black belt. Because of the recognition and great respect I have for the master, I received my second degree for him. Many did not believe in me having a career in Jiu-Jitsu, saying that I would never have a future; But Jiu-Jitsu taught me to have determination and overcome difficulties to create expectations. And with this teaching, I could not only change my life, but as well as the lives of many athletes and other people practicing the sport. Today I can see that I am blessed, because Jiu-Jitsu opened several doors to me; I have traveled to Israel, Jordan, Japan, China, France, Italy and the United States. Where I was recognized and coached some great MMA athletes.
How did you meet Luciano?
I met Luciano Mariano at the Japeri project where I know a top brother black belt professor, Fabio Resende, who I trained with. I also have given him tuition; he always asked me to teach swipes and leg-lock position, so we spent long time training together. Nowadays Professor Paulo Marcio Reis Paulino, who was Fabio Resende’s student, leads the project. I met Luciano through this project alongside with Casquinha. I said to Master Cezar Guimarães (Casquinha), that I wanted to help Luciano, who I saw wearing a torn kimono. There was when I returned from traveling the United States with a new HyperFly Kimono and from this moment on everything began to change in his life. Then, alongside with Elena Stowel of Carly Stowell Foundation, who translated documents and letters from Luciano and sent to CAF-Challenged Athetes Foundation. The impossible for someone who lives in a humble community in Japeri, became possible when Luciano got the sponsorship, all expenses funded and the US Visa to compete in the Worlds in California.
Do you think it was difficult for Luciano to adapt to the Jiu-Jitsu training at the gym because of his disability?
I have always tried to teach him that, it can be difficult but is not impossible, and that if he practiced he would increasingly overcome the difficulties; and the best part was that he saw no difficulty but motivation to overcome (…)
How do you think the will to compete appeared in Luciano?
It was when he was watching the first CBJJO championship in Niterói, still as a white belt. It was when watching the struggles of his friends and training partners, he said: I will fight, I will overcome (….) His family and friends thought it was madness; they were worried about him, seeing that he could get hurt, even psychologically by not having his two arms, and because they feel inferior to other athletes. He competed anyway; struggled and finished in second place in the Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian CBJJO championships. He also has fought at the FJJ-Rio events, the IBJJF Worlds in California, and in his latest tournament he ranked third at ALL Star in santa cruz CA. He said, “I don’t want to stop anymore” (…) encouraging him I said: So then, we will not stop.”
Black Belt Jean Carlos and Luciano at the ALL Stars tournament in Santa Cruz, CA. Photo: Personal archive