I’ve been a fan of mixed martial arts for many years. I’ve always wanted to pursue it as a hobby, but for the longest time it just wasn’t possible for me. The past few years it’s mostly been work that has been in the way, although I had the opportunity to at least train part time in that period. Before that it was simply the lack of availability of quality instruction where I lived that held me back.
Where I grew up there was one Taekwondo school and at the time it didn’t interest me. The school system in my town was so small we did not have wrestling. I really had no options to train, and many times I think back on the “what if” scenario of having training at that young age. I may not even have wanted it, but in hindsight I really wish I had some sort of outlet that translated into skills I could use in combat sports. So why all the reminiscing you might ask?
I recently got the chance to visit Eduardo “Edu” Pachu’s social project in the favela of Tijuquinha. For those of you that aren’t familiar, a favela in Brasil is an area of the city that is populated by low to middle class people. While some areas are very poor, not all favelas are dirt roads and shacks as some are led to believe. These definitely do exist though. It is true that these are the most dangerous areas in a city like Rio de Janeiro.
The social project Edu runs here consists of muay thai training for children in the favela. He has run this project for 10 years now, two to three times a week, completely free of charge. He does this project simply to help out the community and give the children a safe place to go at night. This made me think back to the days of going to the “Boys Club” which is now known as the Stateline Boys & Girls Club. It was a place to go after school that was safe, taught values, and kept me out of trouble. It’s the same concept, but the children here are taught muay thai kickboxing by a pro fighter!
Edu is a professional mixed martial artist with a record of 12 wins and 4 losses. I was lucky enough to see his last victory live here in Rio de Janeiro at “Top Fight Night 88” which I wrote about in a previous post. In the United States group classes in muay thai for a single person can run anywhere from $80 a month on up to have a professional fighter like Edu teach you. There were probably 40 kids at the training I attended, and not one of them was required to pay. It’s a testament to Edu and the type of person he is to donate his time like this while still balancing his career as a professional fighter.
As for the class itself, a group of us went to check it out and I decided to join in on the fun. I figured a light workout would be nice two days before I competed at the Brazilian Nationals to stay loose. Well, “workout” ended up being the key word in that phrase, but “light” was nowhere to be found. To put it bluntly, I got worked. We did a lot of warm-ups and then went in to some partner striking drills. The warm-ups went forever, and although I was tired and sweating like crazy, I was having a blast and I could tell the kids were too. Once the partner striking drills came I could have went light, but I don’t think it’s in my nature so of course I decided to go hard and fast. Big mistake, and I paid for it a couple of days later in my competition, but it was fun nonetheless.
Since I’ve been here I’ve had my gear bag laying around with a ton of gloves in it and only one pair really get used (unless it’s an mma class). I decided that these kids could use my extra equipment more than me, so I decided to give a young man named Rommel my extra pair of Fairtex training gloves. These were actually the first gloves I’ve ever owned for muay thai, and were still in great condition. I’m hoping that he gets plenty of good use out of them. Here he is with me in the picture below.
It’s really great that these kids have a safe place to go at night, and also gives them good values and helps keep them away from making bad life choices. Although I was more fortunate growing up than they were as far as quality of life, I can’t help but be a little jealous that they have such an awesome activity to go to as a child and am happy for them at the same time. This brings me back to my original thought of having some sort of martial art to influence me as a child, and hopefully I can work on a similar project back at home. If someone at Edu’s level can find time to help out, I really have no excuse.
Posted below is the Real Rio Episode where we visited the Social Project as well as a market in Tijuquinha. As always, comments are welcome!