André Terêncio, also known as André “Negão” is one of the leaders of the Brazil 021 jiu jitsu academy, a team with strong roots in Rio de Janeiro, and also in United States, namely in Houston, Texas and Chicago, Illinois where André and his wife Hanette Staack live and teach. Terêncio, who is also one of the most respected referees in the IBJJF roster got together with BJJ Heroes to discuss the developments of his most recent endeavour, the launching of “Brazil 021 Projects”.
Andre Terencio: The Brazil 021 Project
BJJH: Hi André, so lets talk about Brazil 021’s social project, why and how did it all begin?
AT: Well, we realized that there were no similar sporting activities in the neighbouring communities around our main gym. Many of our students who lived in these burgs regularly commented on the great potential for a jiu jitsu academy in this particular place called Morro do Borel (one of Rio de Janeiro’s most notorious slum), so we decided to give it a go with a few mats that were loaned to us, plus the help of the local NGO (Non Governmental Organization) that kindly allowed us to use their premises. We got one of our black belts teaching there and not only did the group grow really fast, we also saw a positive impact in the community. A while after the project started I went back to Brazil and saw the lack of conditions these guys had and the abysmal difference between my academy in Chicago and the Borel one, this had a really big impact on me, I even cried at the time when it all sunk in. So when I returned to the US I spoke to Hannette and we decided to take this project more seriously.
BJJH: I saw the video on youtube (below) where you mention that a few of your American students that came to your jiu jitsu camp in Rio had a chance to see the Borel project. They were as impressed as you were and decided to buy mats to help out!
AT: Exactly! We had the schedule for the camp all planed out and they were going to train at the main academy which is located in the upper class neighbourhood. But at the last minute we decided it would be cool to have these two groups meet as both could gain a lot from the experience, we also planed a guided tour around the favela. The whole world knows that the United States has had a big financial crisis recently and it was great for our American students to see that you can be happy, you can be a good citizen and you can be a champion with almost no possessions. They were completing the missing mats with mattresses! The decision to help this group was unanimous as the group had vastly outgrown their very limited mat area. So the Chicago group got together and bought 100 square meters of mats for the group. After this demonstration of generosity we decided to make Brazil 021 Projects, a non profit organization.
BJJH: You guys make your students education a high priority, especially in the youngsters. How do you reconcile both aspects of your students lives, do you interact directly with the families?
AT: Yes, we interact directly with the parents here in Chicago and when in Brazil (we go there at least twice a year) we try to keep in touch with everyone. But the best feedback is what we have every day at the academy. The way they behave, the way they speak, etc. When we took this new project we knew of the responsibility we were taking in, we have a leading sports figure at the helm (Hannette Staack) and when she is in Brazil she visits all the social projects, she gives lectures and trains with all her students. Hannette has travelled the whole world giving private classes and workshops, if all these people get amazed at her technical level and her posture in life, imagine the impact that she can have in a kids life! Our struggle is not only to make this kids accomplished competitors, but also to make them aware of drugs, STDs, teenage pregnancy, racism, bullying, and whatnot! We want this project to be a prevention tool first and foremost.
BJJH: And how do the families see jiu jitsu now a day? I mean a few years back, BJJ was just a hobby. Often parents tried to dissuade their kids from training as it was a waste of time, a career in jiu jitsu did not grant you a future or any financial security. You guys that deal with the parents from all these kids see any difference in attitude from the families?
AT: I think you were too polite! (Laughs) When I started training, in 1991, jiu jitsu was a rich playboy thing. Today our sport has gained respect, we have big events and people like me and Hannette can have pride in saying that we make a decent living doing something we love. As for the parents, today they see jiu jitsu as an extension of the education they get at home, and of course, you want to put your child in the right place, with the right teacher and in the right environment. Just being doing well in jiu jitsu isn’t good enough, because after all, once you hand your son/daughter to me I become a reference in that child’s life which can reflect positive or negatively in his life.
BJJH: And who takes care of your projects while you and Hannette are out in the United States?
AT: Professor Flavio Aleluia and the coaches assigned by him.
BJJH: I’m always interested in knowing who are the new up and coming athletes out there, do you guys have any stand out already?
AT: Actually there is Davi, a white belt from our Morro do Borel project. That kid is a stud, with 5 months into training he made it to the podium of the Rio de Janeiro state championship. He will go far, he has a great guard, he is super focussed and he is very humble.
BJJH: Great! Now going back to the Brazil 021 Project, who has supported your cause so far and what can be done to help and improve?
AT: Our supporters have been Brazil Combat (a kimono brand) that supplies us with gi’s at cost price, Bronx 21 (a streetwear brand), Pennant, Shidokan academy and some more fortunate students from both Brazil and the US. We are super grateful to all of them, but unfortunately we need more, we have a 100 square meter area but we desperately need kimonos, we are also planning on doing English language workshops, even professional workshops to help these kids. We are also promoting a 100% free jiu jitsu which requires investment, all of which will come through Brazil 021 Projects. We are legalizing the whole thing at the moment so that individuals and companies can donate and declare these donations tax free anywhere in the world.
BJJH: And those who want to help, how can they do it?
AT: I ask them to get in contact with us by email ([email protected]), but soon we will make official the project, after it has been legislated by the US and Brazilian governments. Then we will launch our website and hopefully launch it here in BJJ Heroes.
BJJH: Fantastic! And what of the Brazil 021 training camp? Is there one this year?
AT: Yes, the camp will have its second edition from the 24th of July until the 2nd of August, at the same time as the Rio Open and the International of Masters and Seniors tournaments. The camp will be held in Rio de Janeiro, and the participants will have the opportunity to train every day with the Brazil 021 team, we will also have tours around the main areas of the city. They will eat the best Acaí in the world and make new friends for sure. If anyone is interested, best hurry as we have very few vacancies left.
www.brazil021.com/brazil021camps (register on this website)
The Brazil 021 Project