For Kim Barbosa Soerio, jiujitsu has shown her a way of how far she can go — growing from her past, and into her future.
Barbosa Soeiro was hooked since she first walked into the Gracie Barra Rohnert Park Jiujitsu Academy (GBRP) three years ago. Having found a connection to her Brazilian heritage and self-defense training, jujitsu was exactly what Barbosa Soeiro had been looking for. On that first day, she signed up for two years worth of classes.
Jiujitsu has become the only medication (of the many she’s tried) that has helped her depression. The consistent exercise combined with the team bonding has changed her life. Her partner of four years, Patrick Cass, believes the relationships that she has built contributed to her emotional transformation.
“She became a lot closer to people in a way she wasn’t used to,” Cass said. “She makes connections.”
Cass has seen her will power, and what jiujitsu has given her. Barbosa Soeiro works 30 hours a week, drives to Mills from Santa Rosa eight hours a week, is an activist in her community and practices jiujutsu four days a week. On top of jiujutsu, she cross-trains in judo, boxing and strength training.
“It’s the only thing that doesn’t make me sad,” Barbosa Soeiro said, calling it her anti-depressant. “I step back [and] I’m happy afterwards.”
Barbosa Soeiro has been able to channel her childhood experience through her training in jiujitsu. Born to immigrant parents, Barbosa Soeiro was surrounded by mental illness. During her childhood, her father’s schizophrenia worsened. Barbosa Soeiro remembers his violent fits, causing her to run away from home without any available resources. After years of homelessness, depression and stints in juvenile hall for drug possession, Barbosa Soeiro was ready to start clean.
She went back to school in 2007, at the encouragement of her youth addiction adviser, and got her G.E.D and bachelor’s degree, and is now graduating this semester with a master’s in public policy from Mills.
She’s been fighting for a long time: for stability, for the self confidence that she can achieve and complete something, and for her life. This fight is what got her clean, and what has kept her clean.
Jiujitsu has improved her strategy and focus, by showing her ways to go beyond her mental, physical and emotional capabilities. Richard Henderson, Barbosa Soeiro’s coach of one year and training teammate for the two years prior, has seen her mental foundation grow with her experience.
“The biggest [change] is self-confidence. Being able to be in front of a group and be an authority figure,” Henderson said.
This personal growth has motivated Barbosa Soeiro to earn a teaching certificate so that she can coach the introductory jiujitsu classes for kids and adults at GBRP. Her teammates and students have become a second family.
As of now, Barbosa Soeiro is working on her blue belt, the second belt level and continues to find who she is through jiujitsu.