Thank you to all @welivejiujitsu supporters who have donated or continue to donate to the non-profit organization Live Jiu-Jitsu. Our 501 (C)(3) organization supports social projects in Brazil 🇧🇷 and USA 🇺🇸. From paying registrations to tournaments, new uniforms to facility upgrades. The project featured today is @projetogaditas from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, an amazing project that is literally saving and changing people’s lives. They needed some wall mats and with the partnership of @portotatames they gave us a good deal for them to add the mats to their facility.✌🏽🔝 If you would like to know more about @welivejiujitsu please visit www.livejiu-jitsu.org. LINK IN THE PROFILE!☝🏽 #welivejiujitsu #jiujitsu#jiujitsusavedmylife #jiujitsusaveslives#jiujitsusaves #payitforward
Jansen Azarias on Reaching a Higher Ground
By Danny O’Donnell
Higher Ground is an organization whose mission is to “empower one life at a time to reach, transform, and elevate the community through love and building character.” This is mainly accomplished through a series of programs designed to help young people grow and flourish so they can ultimately contribute to the community that they are a part of. These programs are focused on developing social and emotional skills like self-control, grit, emotional management and growth mindset. The activities used to build these skills include grappling, boxing, dance, music, drumline, art, robotics, digital arts, computer coding, outside sports, and homework help. Higher Ground also functions as an alternative to detention for Pima County Juvenile Court Center. There are currently 10 school locations where the Community Schools Strategy is implemented to help students who are chronically absent.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Purple belt Jansen Azarias is the founder and Executive Director of Higher Ground. The organization started as Jansen was working through personal issues with his wife and son. He saw that teaching his son and tutoring him in school were having tremendous benefits and he eventually began helping his son’s friends using these same means. Jansen realized how powerful the lessons he was able to impart to these kids were and eventually began teaching about 60 of them in a church building. This started over 10 years ago.
Jansen’s journey into personal development began at a very young age. He started practicing martial arts at age 6. “I’ve done several of them including Eskrima, Aikido, Taekwondo, Kajukenbo, Boxing and many others. I first got introduced to Japanese Ju Jutsu in the Philippines and found it extremely enjoyable. I then got introduced to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu through a neighbor of mine, a purple belt who trained with his son in his garage and I enjoyed the handful of sessions I was able to go.” Jansen soon realized how important the lessons martial arts instilled were and how they could be beneficial to the youth. “When I started Higher Ground, several of the kids wanted to learn martial arts. I decided to teach them Japanese jujutsu.” After competing in a local grappling tournament and seeing positions on the ground he was not familiar with, Jansen decided to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He found David Reilly of Undisputed and began taking his kids there about 6 years ago.
The grappling program at Higher Ground is just one example of how the organization strives to give the youth a positive outlet and opportunity to grow. As the leader of the organization, Jansen is always evaluating what is being offered and how it will ultimately be of the most benefit. “I drive the vision and ensure that our organization stays focused on our mission. I am also the face of our organization and represent us to other organizations, donors, and partners. Additionally, the majority of the programs developed at Higher Ground are developed by me and my wife. I also mentor and life coach several students and am often involved in ensuring that they build the skills they need. Finally, I am also the coach of our grappling team that competes all around the country.”
Although Higher Ground has come a long way as an organization, Jansen has set aggressive strategic goals over the next 5 years. “The 1st one is that we will continue to build an organization that has high quality structure, skills, and capacities to support our programs and growth. The 2nd one is to double the amount of students we serve from 2,000 to 4,000 kids by utilizing our Community School Strategy to be in more schools. The 3rd one is to diversify our funding sources to ensure sustainability of our growth.” To learn more about Higher Ground and to get in touch with Jansen or its other leaders you can visit www.higherground.me.
If you happened to have been training for a while, then there is a very good chance that you have either heard from your training partner, your instructor, or one of the people in your class saying: ‘’Jiu-Jitsu is my therapy.’’
Have you also ever been in a situation when you were contemplating about whether you should go to your Jiu-Jitsu class or just stay at home due to some personal and/or professional issue that was bothering you, and for some reason, you ended up going to your session? You then had a good time and even told yourself: “I’m glad I came for today!”
If you have ever experienced this in the past, then you know how Jiu-Jitsu is good for the body, mind and soul, and we all should embrace the jiu-jitsu therapy. 🙂
The word therapy as described by Google means; ‘’Treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder,’’ and jiu-jitsu can most definitely help you with that.
If you are having a bad day or going through a hard time and you go practice jiu-jitsu, then there will be a good chance of your anxiety and worry level being reduced, even if temporarily. Jiu-Jitsu helps bring some level of calmness into your system and if you remain committed to it, you will see long term improvements and progress in your physical and mental health.
Jiu-Jitsu is a very effective therapy and over the years it has literally saved the lives of thousands of people like it did for 17 year old Abrey Veneziani.
Abrey is a Jiu-Jitsu white belt from the social project “Pedra 90”, led by 5th degree Black Belt Fernando “Fepa” Lopez in São Paulo, Brazil. Pedra 90 is one of the social projects that Live Jiu-Jitsu supports.
She was raised by her grandmother because her mother lived quite far away. However, she lost that relationship when she lost her grandmother at the age of 12.
Abrey took this loss so badly that less than two months later she fell into a huge depression. She lost her appetite, stopped eating, and lost nearly forty pounds. However, with good therapy and medication she was able to start getting her life back. But, there was another issue that was troubling her.
She said: “I was always feeling angry because of my grandmother’s death and I started to hang out with the wrong people. I started to drink alcohol and use drugs. I wasn’t respecting my aunt at all (Who she moved in with after her grandmas’ death) and my life spiraled out of control. They were about to kick me out of the house when I was from 15. Then I found Jiu-Jitsu.”
Jiu-Jitsu was a perfect way to escape the pain she had been feeling. However, it wasn’t that easy for her to join. One of Abrey’s friends, who trained at “Pedra 90″, made it her personal mission to invite her to go and she repeatedly said no.
However, one night Abrey had a terrible dream and her grandma was telling her in this dream to be careful with her associations and whom she was hanging out with. ‘’You need to stop hanging out with these people, it’s going to get you killed!” Her grandmother’s voice boomed.
The very next day she contacted her friend who had been trying to invite her for a jiu-jitsu session for over a year and a half and this platform provided her the opportunity to get back in touch with herself.
With consistent jiu-jitsu sessions, Abrey started to quickly discover that Jiu Jitsu was her therapy by saying:
“Jiu-jitsu saved my life from Depression and drugs and for the first time I found a sense of belonging. It sure feels like home. The support from my teammates was also out of this world, and this helped me get better faster. I was also lucky to meet my boyfriend who just happens to understand the importance of my jiu-Jitsu goals. My goal is to compete in tournaments, become a teacher and use jiu-Jitsu as therapy for people the same way it did for me.”
Live Jiu-Jitsu helps the social projects like “Pedra 90” to buy new mats, gis and/or registration costs, etc. People like Abrey can go into an environment not only with the opportunity to be around positive associations but also be backed by full support in a safe place where she can grow not only physically but mentally.
Jiu-jitsu is a therapeutic exercise and it is something to incorporate in your lifestyle. Next time you might be having a rough day, and you don’t feel like training, I would like you to try the following;
Imagine a box, and inside the box you’re going to place all the negative thoughts and concerns you have at that moment. Then close the lid on all negative thoughts that you just unloaded and tell yourself:
“The box is on the shelf, after Jiu-Jitsu I will pick back up and deal with it.”
While your worries will still be there when you are done with your training, jiu-jitsu will have helped you enter a better state of mind to deal with whatever situation life throws at you.
Of course the thought might float through your mind during training so you just have to be self-aware and say: “After class I will deal with it.”
The impact of jiu-jitsu improving the physical and mental state of practitioners can’t be overemphasized. Keep up the good training and if for some reason you haven’t been training in a while and miss your jiu-jitsu class, I hope this can be a little push for you to get back in and sign up with your school again. 🙂
If you would like to support us by buying our merchandise and/or donating to our nonprofit organization LIVE JIU-JITSU, visit the website www.livejiu-jitsu.org. Your donations will be used in supporting of social projects in Brazil and the U.S.A.
How meaningful has your BJJ competition experience been to you?
By Gustavo Dantas
Have you ever competed in a jiu-jitsu tournament? If so, regardless of the outcome, what is one of the most meaningful experiences you have had in a tournament?
If you haven’t competed yet, it is never too late to try J. I believe that every jiu-jitsu practitioner should try to compete at least once in his or her life. The entire experience will first have you focusing on getting ready, your diet, and the amount of sleep you are getting. When the day of the tournament arrives, that focus will change to where you are evaluating your mental and emotional state, as you try to perform your best on the mat, while under pressure.
Personally, competition changed my life in so many ways. As a teenager, it gave me direction while also teaching me about success and failure. I learned how to deal with my fears and anxieties, so that I could perform to the best of my abilities, both on the mat and in my life.
I don’t know what benefits competitions have brought into your life, but I know that there is a good chance that you have learned some important lessons and gained some powerful memories.
All those lessons and experiences that we have had are great, but most likely not too many people have had the life experiences like Wantuir Spenciere has had in his lifetime.
Wantuir is a competitor who discovered the sport of jiu-jitsu when he was only 10 years old. He stumbled across a social project, “Projecto Pedra 90”, that is led by fifth degree black belt, Fernando “Fepa” Lopes in São Paulo, Brazil. The project offers opportunities to both kids and adults in impoverished areas of São Paulo, and allowed them to train in jiu-jitsu for free.
The “Projecto Pedra 90” has become quite successful over the last decade as it has impacted thousands of people.
Wantuir is one of the thousands of success stories in this project and his coach, “Fepa”, stated “When Wantuir discovered BJJ, he fell in love with the sport and in only a few months, he was already competing and doing well”.
In 2009, when Wantuir was about to turn 16, “Fepa” had the idea to take him to compete at the IBJJF Pan Championship in California.
Everyone managed to raise the funds that were needed for both the competition and travel, but there was a much larger problem that they still needed to solve. Wantuir had never met his father and he needed a signature from him for both his passport and travel authorization, and he needed it sooner than later.
Thankfully, “Pedra 90”, quickly found his father in Sao Paulo, so Wantuir had the opportunity to meet him and obtain his signature for the trip. What do you think about that as a meaningful tournament experience?
When Wantuir was 20, he had a chance to go back to the United States for a few months, and this is when he had an opportunity to fight his first MMA fight.
Wantuir is now one of the instructors for the Social Project and you can watch him compete at the IBJJF São Paulo Open on September 16th and 17th. He will be there with eleven other teammates and they have all been sponsored by the non-profit organization of Live Jiu-Jitsu, which I co-founded in 2010.
Kneeling: Wantuir (third from the left) and “Fepa” (Fourth from the left)
Live Jiu-Jitsu has been able to purchase new mats for projects as well as new and used gi’s. LJJ also pays for tournament registration fees with the help of financial donations, memorabilia donations from athletes like José Aldo (Former UFC Featherweight Champion) and Marcio Andre (Black Belt World Champion) that are auctioned on Ebay, and sponsorship partnerships.
Back in 2012, I came up with a concept to help BJJ competitors become more emotionally mature to handle the under pressure situations on and off the mats more efficiently. Live Jiu-Jitsu partnered with The BJJ Mental Coach, so that this concept could continue to grow and improve while helping competitors.
100% of the proceeds from the sales of The BJJ Mental Coach merchandise (T-Shirts and Patches) that is sold by Live Jiu-Jitsu is donated to our non-profit organization to help fund social projects in the United States and Brazil.
You can find those products and the LJJ patches on the website www.livejiu-jitsu.org
I encourage you to become a supporter of the Live Jiu-Jitsu non-profit organization and help the social projects in both Brazil and the United States. This will allow us to continue doing amazing work as we change lives through jiu-jitsu.