The Story Behind the Mural

We like to call it “The American Dream”. It depicts the journey of my husband, who is a Brazilian immigrant, from his homeland in Brazil to Folsom, California. My husband came to the United States to compete in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament in June 2009. While at the tournament in southern California, one of his teammates mentioned that a gym in Folsom was looking for a Brazilian Black belt to teach some classes. He thought about Folsom, then mentally said, “Folsom, Folsom prison, Johnny Cash, I like Johnny Cash.” That was how he ended up in Folsom, California. With $200 in his pocket and not knowing how to speak English, he found himself teaching at a MMA gym on Natoma street where he meet me, his future wife. The mural celebrates the hard work and dedication it took to achieve the American dream, which for him would not have come true had Johnny Cash never went to Folsom Prison. He is now a married man, a father, a homeowner, a business owner, owns a commercial building, and is a United States citizen. If ever a person was living the American dream, it is him.

Jiu Jitsu Defined

The words Jiu Jitsu means “gentle art”. BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique, taking the fight to the ground – most notably by applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person.   A guiding principle is to make the most efficient use of mental and physical energy. The objective of Jiu Jitsu is to dominate the opponent; however, the basic principle is to defend oneself.

There are three skills that must be mastered by the practitioner of Jiu Jitsu: Movement, balance, and leverage. The movement is used to create situations of unbalance in the opponent.  The proper balance must always be maintained to have control of movements. The leverage is used to increase strength and allow a person to move an opponent or even attack him. BJJ training can be used for sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition or self-defense. Sparring (commonly referred to as “rolling”) and live drilling play a major role in training, and a premium is placed on performance, especially in competition, in relation to progress and ascension through its ranking system. The practice of Jiu Jitsu provides students with various gains, such as increased flexibility, weight loss, physical strength, increased self-confidence, and self-esteem.

Jiu Jitsu Origin

Jiu Jitsu was created by Buddhist monks who were nomadic people that were often plundered by other people. Because of their religious orientation, they could not use weapons. Therefore, they developed a defense based on the study of animal movements, based on the principle that leverage allowed a much weaker individual the ability to defeat stronger and heavier opposition. Soon Jiu Jitsu crossed Asia and reached Japan where it became the fight of the Samurai warriors.

After the First World War, there was a large immigration of Japanese people to Brazil. Among the immigrants was Count Maeda Koma. Maeda arrived in Pará in the mid-1920s where he met Gastao Gracie, an influential man in the city of Belém do Pará. In gratitude to his friend, Count Koma Maeda taught Jiu Jitsu to the eldest son of Gaston, Carlos, who soon had mastered the techniques; however, it was his brother, Helio Gracie, who developed Jiu Jitsu to the point where the sport is today, recognized as the most perfect form of grappling around the world. Helio, with his 63 pounds, beat opponents with more than 100 on him thus proving that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu overcomes strength