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    Advancing Others - Lucianos journey to the IBJJF Worlds in Long Beach

    written by Elena Stowell


    Last month’s BQB blog theme was “Advancing Others”. Unintentionally, I waited until the end of the month to get my thoughts out of my head and on to paper. Perhaps that is because I was, both consciously and unconsciously, gathering data up until this point. May was a series of events that have shaped attitudes and aspects of the world. May was about recognizing something that is actual and true;

     “It is in forgetting ourselves that we are found.”  St. Francis of Assisi

     Luciano had a dream; get out of Japeri, go to America, and compete in the IBJJF World Championships. To this point Luciano’s happiness was rooted in family, friends and jiu-jitsu.  He lived a simple, humble life. Selling fruits and vegetables at the neighborhood market helped his family get by, but the resources necessary to make his dream come true were not likely to ever be within reach.

     Luciano lived with acceptance and aspiration. He accepted long ago that life was not going to make things easy for him, yet he lived with aspiration. He lived with an inner-peacefulness that comes with accepting that “this is the way things are, whether I like it or not.” That attitude, combined with some outer effort, made his journey itself, the reward. He continued to work diligently, keeping his dream in mind without getting hung up on the result. He was able to stretch and grow and not worry about looking bad, or different.  He stayed centered in aspiration.

     “Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” Native American saying

     Now his dream is a reality. Luciano is out of Japeri and in America. Thursday May 29th he competed in the IBJJF World Championships as a blue belt in the rooster weight division.  He hadn’t even stepped on the on the mat and his life had been changed – and he in turn, changed the lives of others.


    Luciano has seen things and had experiences he’d only seen on TV. I was amazed at his ability to shout out the make and model of a multitude of cars as we drove down the freeway. His family does not own a car. Most of the people in his barrio do not own a car. “Estas casas são como em um filme.”  “These are houses like in a movie,” he said as we drove through suburban Kent.  He told me how different the produce [in Trader Joe’s] looked compared to the produce he sold in Japeri. “Muito diferente.”  Despite the language barrier, being a part of a family is universal. Luciano fit right in. He made my husband and sons feel comfortable with his smile, greetings and willingness to learn and try new things. He played “mini-hoop” with Carson, walked Elmo, and had Eason help him download American music to his tablet.


     In helping to advance Luciano, he unknowingly advanced many more people. In Irvine he trained and shared stories of growing up in the favelas with Giva Santana. Giva told me what a joy it was to help someone in ways that others had helped him when he first came to the United States.  Luciano advanced the attitudes of strangers; first at Foster Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where he didn’t hesitate to introduce himself to every person in the gym, joined right into the training and showed people that they should not be uncomfortable that he has limitations because we are all the same on the mat; and he advanced people he didn’t even know, comrades of BJJ, people who came up to him telling him that he was inspirational and that his efforts motivated them. After viewing some training pictures and video people posted, “Tell me again why you say you CAN’T do something”;  “You make me proud to be a member of this community,”  and “Thank you for showing me that my excuses of being too tired or busy to train don’t mean anything.”


    Sure, I helped advance Luciano, but I learned that it is in advancing others that we advance ourselves. He has touched many lives since coming to the United States and I know that his influence will continue to make a difference.