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Fighter Series: Need to Believe Foundation

Fighter Series: Need to Believe Foundation

The Need to Believe Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides martial arts training for children with special needs. These martial arts classes, like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, are offered at no cost to the students and their families.

Mauricio Alonso and Marina Malimban, the founders of the NTBF, both saw the need and the opportunity to help special needs children through martial arts. One day, one of Mauricio’s students mentioned that she worked with special needs kids. After speaking about it more with her, one of her students came into the gym and tried out a class. It went great and the mother of the student said she was surprised at how well her son responded to working with a new person in a completely new environment. The student who Mauricio spoke with was Marina.

Marina saw the need for more programs specifically geared towards serving younger students with special needs. Many of the NTBF students have previously gotten kicked out of other gyms due to behaviors caused by their disabilities. In addition, it can be very expensive raising a child with special needs and since insurance does not always cover everything they need (like different therapies, medication, or other programs/tools), the parents usually pay out-of-pocket for these things.

When it comes to finances and their child’s condition, each parent’s situation is different. The Need to Believe Foundation provides a safe space that parents can take their kids to, without having to worry about things like cost or having their child removed from the learning environment. 

The impact that the need to Believe Foundation has on its students is incredible. Students are taught self-defense, so that they have the skills to defend themselves from bullies. On the mats, they can also develop and improve their confidence, social skills, and listening/direction following abilities. Not only are the students more receptive to new information, but the instructors have seen noticeable differences in the physical strength and both gross and fine motor skills of their hard-working students – all of which assist their education at school. The students are not the only ones involved, as family members also join in to learn, have fun, and connect with everyone there.

When looking back on students before and after they have started their training, Marina says that they are more capable of “being flexible when things change. Many of our students have learned to use their words instead of tantruming, buil[t] tolerance for different textures like the mat, the gi, and other sensory experiences such as noises and new people. Our students who have been with us for a while are no longer timid outside of the gym.”

The chain reaction that martial arts can start is really great to see. Starting with Judo at the age of 5, Mauricio trained for about three years, until he focused his efforts on soccer. At 16, he was reintroduced to martial arts when his friend invited him to the Ryan Gracie Academy where he was training, in Sao Paulo. He quit soccer soon after and has since focused his efforts in Jiu Jitsu. Currently, he is a third degree black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who has been teaching the arts for many years. Through teaching, he met Marina Malimban. They would later go on to start the Need to Believe Foundation and spread the positive impact of martial arts to many more people in the special needs community. 

Whether they are applying the discipline, perseverance, and hard-working attitude they learned from martial arts to life outside of the gym or training to relieve the everyday stresses of life, these two practitioners continue to be role models for their students.

We asked them if there are any lessons to be learned from the NTBF and their students and if they had any advice they’d like to share. Here’s what they said:

Mauricio: “A great lesson is if everyone does a little for their neighbor, the world would be a better place. Give back a little, be more patient, forgive, give chances to people [to be] the best version of themselves that they can be. Go after your goals and your dreams with a good plan and lot of energy, discipline, perseverance and hard work!!!”

Marina: “Never underestimate anyone.  Abilities outweigh disabilities.  Be compassionate. Try to open yourself up to those with a disability. I have learned so much from our students. They teach me patience and amaze me everyday.  Adapt lessons to their needs so that learning can happen and celebrate the little steps which are giant for them.”

To support the Need to Believe Foundation, please visit their website at .  You can make a donation, purchase a t-shirt, volunteer time to help them in their classes, and/or spread awareness on social media.

Check out the Guardian Gym Youtube Channel and the gym spotlight they did on the NTBF, here.