Professor Rodrigo Carvalho
Rodrigo Carvalho has been a Professor of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for twenty years. A native of Brazil, it was his devotion to the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle that inspired his journey to teach Jiu Jitsu to an international student base. Teaching from Ljubljana to Slovenia, to Austria, Croatia, and Italy, Rodrigo witnessed first hand the myriad of ways in which Brazilian Jiu Jitsu changed the lives of those who practiced. Jiu Jitsu proved to be an internationally understood language unto itself. Eventually, Rodrigo was offered the opportunity to teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the academy of former UFC heavyweight champion Bas Rutten in California, where he currently teaches every day.
Having experienced his own profound transformation through his practice, Rodrigo felt there was an opportunity to provide similar opportunities to the youth of his homeland. Then, while traveling to Brazil for a family visit, Rodrigo was introduced to a social project in the favela Curicica, an area known for it unbridled poverty and violence. This is an area where many children are taught that their only hope for survival lives on the trigger of a gun and the willingness to use it. However, something amazing was happening. A group of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Professors was training children and adolescents of the favela and through that training, an incredible transformation was taking place. Through the practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, these children were discovering the power within, a power to change their circumstance and situation, a power to choose a good way forward, not one riddled by drugs and violence.
The experience of seeing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu change the lives of these children as it had changed his own when he was a young man had a profound effect on Rodrigo and he now knew what needed to be done. If Brazilian Jiu Jitsu could show a child how to escape the favela, could it not also show that child the wonder of the world?
To answer this question, Rodrigo sponsored one of the children to come to the United States and compete in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championship in southern California. Seizing the opportunity as their life depended on it, the child not only performed exceptionally well at the tournament, but they were also shown a side of the world that they would have never dared to dream about. The trip did so well for the child that Rodrigo brought more children the next year to compete and witnessed those children have the same sort of experience. Organically, over time this initiative has grown, attracting not only more children and adolescents seeking a better life, but also sponsors who understand that it is our child who will become our leaders.
Thus came the inspiration for Downtown BJJ, a non-profit organization dedicated to making this idea for change into something consistent, steady, and wonderful life changing for all involved.