From the victor’s epic tale to the outcast’s lament, the stories of life’s journey never cease. As biographies are built, the martial arts provide an unparalleled armor of honor, service, and courage to not just trudge through the valleys, but vanquish great mountains. Join us and witness the unconquerable spirit of incredible martial artists, whose journeys expand the vision of all who listen.
As one of the co-founders of American Top Team, Ricardo Liborio has established himself as one of the premier instructors of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the U.S. His pedigree speaks for itself, earning a black belt under Carlson Gracie in 1993, winning the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championship in 1996 and the Brazilian National Championship three times.
But one of his biggest accomplishments came from unexpected beginnings.
“My daughter was diagnosed with a cortical visual impairment when she was almost two years old,” says Liborio. “The results of the surgery left her blind.”
Liborio’s family worked with the Lighthouse of Broward in Fort Lauderdale, for treatment and therapy. It was here that he noticed the lack of programs for blind children. Seeing an opportunity, he approached the Lighthouse with a radical idea—a Brazilian jiu-jitsu class for visually impaired teenagers and children at his school.
“We started with just one student,” says Liborio. “But word got around pretty fast and it started to grow. Now we have a summer program with forty kids three times a week that provides transportation to and from the school. It’s a great way for them to develop social interaction, coordination, strength and get in shape.”
His daughter, now six, has earned a yellow belt and increased her confidence. Eager to participate, she has the patience to work with students as young as three and enjoys every class.
“Socially, it can be difficult for my daughter to be accepted in other groups,” says Liborio. “But in jiu-jitsu, she can perform the same through touch.”
For Liborio, the real reward of running such a program lies in the ability to give back to the community. “We really are helping people,” says Liborio. “For some of these kids it’s not just another opportunity; it’s a way for them to be accepted. To be fulfilled on a personal level, a physical level and on a confidence level. It’s amazing that a jiu-jitsu class can make such a difference in someone’s life.”
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