Fabiana Borges like most young girls in the Favelas of Brazil could have ended up being a statistic. Many youths like herself are caught in the vicious cycle that perpetuates the poverty and crime in the favelas like raising a family too soon, being uneducated, underpaid or forced to turn to a life of crime with life changing consequences like prison or death. A life that for children of the Favelas are seen as a way of life and most are not provided the opportunity be exposed to anything else.
Had it not been for the social program called Cascadura in Favela do Fuda led by Professor Fabiano Gaudio , 11 year old Fabiana Borges wouldn’t have had the chance to open that door to a future she never dreamed of. Borges was born in Cascadura at Favela do Fuba and by age 14 her family moved to Pedra de Guaratiba where her family continues to live to this day. Life could have ended up differently for Borges, but with her tenacious spirit and the support of those around her, she continues to rise up to unimaginable heights.
Borges has had an exciting career in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaching and competing on a worldwide level. She is a two degree black belt at Gracie Barra San Antonio in San Antonio Texas USA and has plans to open her own school in San Marcos Texas this September. None of which would have been possible if not for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the love and support of her instructor, parents and friends and being at the right place at the right time.
An interview with Fabiana Borges
Growing up in the Favelas what challenges did you face? What was life like growing up?
Growing up in favelas is kind fun, you can play outside, have a lot of friends, play soccer, volleyball and go to the beach. We had a lot of freedom. Also, there was the bad and sad part of it, growing up I heard a lot of shooting in the favelas which was associate with the struggle to gain control of the drug traffic. I missed school days because of dead bodies found in front old my school. A couple of my girlfriends got pregnant at the age of 13-14 years old and had to stop school and take care of their kids. Some of my friends got involved with drugs, even died or went to the jail. When you are a kid you don’t realize how dangerous it is, this became your routine. You don’t have an idea of what it is like outside in the big world. I am thankful to BJJ that showed me the other side of life.
How did you start BJJ? How did your parents find out about it?
I started BJJ at a social project from a politician in Cascadura-RJ with Professor Fabiano Gaudio. This social work made a lot of good competitor and all of them lived or still living in the favelas. Some of them have come far in their careers teaching in Mexico, USA and winning big tournaments.
I was the one that found this project, I was always a mature girl and my parents worked a lot. They didn’t have time to look for any sport for me or even take or pick me up, so I went there and registered, filled out the form and brought it back to be signed. It wasn’t until 2013, while in Panama that my mom and dad saw me training and teaching for the first time.
What age did you start training? What was it that first interests you in BJJ?
I started BJJ when I was 11 years old in a social project in Cascadura. I was looking for some sport to do, I tried other team sports but none of it got me motivate as BJJ. I really got interested in BJJ because it only depended on me. I remember my first class my professor Fabiano Gaudio said I was really good and his words of encouragement kept in my mind.
What are the benefits of BJJ programs for underprivileged youth? What benefits did you directly saw in yourself and your peers?
I believe they can have a better perspective of life. There is a cycle going on in the favelas, a lot of girls and boys start to date and have kids in an early age. They don’t finish high school and can’t get a good job, so they work anywhere to support their family. They get used to minimum wage. Their kids grow and sometimes have to work to help their family, then they find a partner and the cycle keeps going.
There are only a few that can get out from this and Jiu-jitsu helps. Once you have dedicated yourself to training, you don’t have time to party and drink because you have to train next day. You start to travel for competition, first inside your city, then outside and if you find someone that believes in you, you can even travel outside of the country. You surround yourself with a group of good and positive people. Sometimes you go back to school or get a scholarship for private school or college and so on.
Fortunately this was what happened to me, I had great people around and they always supported me. I got a scholarship in a private school, I had to keep good grades and good results in BJJ, I made friends outside of the favelas that showed me a better side of life. I had sponsors that believed on me.
How has BJJ impacted the direction of your life and what opportunities has it opened you up to? Did you ever think you would be traveling the world, teaching, competing and spreading BJJ? How did you progress to where you are now?
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gave me opportunities that I think I would never have. I got a scholarship to a private school, I went to a public college, I traveled inside Brazil to the USA, UK, France, Hungary Mexico and Panama. I do what I love for work and I’ve made great friends though BJJ. I would never have thought that it would be possible, and I actually never thought I would go so far, it was never a dream for me. I believe I was in the right place and meet the right people that always helped me and guide me. I was always ready to take new challenges in my life and I believe that is the reason I am where I am right now.
What advice would you offer a young girl like yourself? What keeps you going? What motivates you?
To find a passion in life and be ready for the opportunities that life gives to you and don’t be scared to try and take risks. There will always be someone in this world that will help and believe in you. Work hard, be dedicated in whatever you do and be kind with people.
My family keeps me going. I want to became better and achieve good thing so I can share with them and see pride in my dad’s eyes. I remember every time I came back with a new medal he would show all the neighbors even thou he never saw me fighting he was and is always proud.
My goals keep me motivated. I have a lot of personal and BJJ goals. I write them in my mirror so I never forget it, every morning I look at it.
What is on your BJJ bucket list? What are your goals?
I am still looking to get my World title as a Black belt, I want to do a Central- South America Seminar Tour, Asian Seminar Tour and spread BJJ in as many people life that I can. I have a dream to create a community training center in Brazil for kids, where they can train, do homework, have access to computers and books.
As far as personal goals, I want to finish college.
Would you like to add anything else?
I would like to thanks important people that crossed my live and help me somehow. First of all my family that always supports me , Professor Fabiano Gaudio who was the first one to introduce me JIu-jitsu, Master Carlos Gracie and Professor Marcio Feitosa who received at Gracie Barra family with open arms and made me grow as a person and fighter, my friends and black belts Miriam Cardoso and Jonatas Eliaquim who are always there for me and everyone that always cheers on for me.