Fighter Series: Who is Carlos Alvarez?
Carlos Andres Robles Alvarez is the first blind Hispanic BJJ Black belt. Born with congenital glaucoma, Carlos’s vision slowly deteriorated over time. Around 11 years ago, he lost sight completely and is now 100% blind.
Due to the pressure on his optic nerves, Carlos’s eyes are slightly larger than most people’s. Because he looked different, he was bullied. As a teenager, he became the target of many pranks and experienced a lot of rejection, which led to him consider suicide.
Tired with all of the bullying, Carlos wanted to learn how to defend himself. As his vision gradually declined, he decided to stay away from martial arts that focused on striking. This is when his friend introduced him to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At his high school, there was a room where kids could practice martial arts, so Carlos practiced with his friend. Very soon after, he found a Jiu Jitsu school close to his house and enrolled there. Due to some prior experience with BJJ, he was not intimidated or overwhelmed by his new BJJ academy - quite the opposite. Carlos explains that he felt very happy and very positive about starting because he already had some experience going in.
In April 2009, Carlos Alvarez officially began his Jiu Jitsu training. While he actively tried to avoid confrontation, his BJJ training gave him the confidence and the technical ability to handle situations with these bullies, when he had to. He quickly put a stop to the bullies who were messing with him, which is why he recommends BJJ for anyone who is a victim of bullying.
To this day, Carlos still believes that Jiu Jitsu has changed his life for the better. When he first started, he said that he was a “very skinny, weak person.” Now, he says Jiu Jitsu has constantly inspired him to be better and has given him increased mental, physical, and spiritual strength. Similar to many others in the Jiu Jitsu community, Carlos believes that BJJ is symbolic of life. He explains that we all will have to deal with difficult situations and face adversity in our lives, but it is how we deal with it that shows who we truly are. In these tough situations we find ourselves in, we can choose to react in any way we want. At the end of the day, we will be stuck in the same situation, unless we stay calm, search for a solution, and take action to improve.
Carlos Alvarez is an incredibly inspiring person, who serves as an excellent role model for never giving up and fighting to achieve your goals. Despite his medical condition, Carlos never gave up and always worked hard and believed in himself. Currently, the “Blind Warrior” continues to train, teach, and compete in BJJ, while still making sure to spend time with his family.
To learn more about Carlos, please read the insightful Q&A below:
What is your name?
Carlos Andres Robles Alvarez
For those who may be unaware, can you please describe your disability?
I was born with congenital glaucoma, which made me lose my vision over time. Around 11 years ago I lost my sight completely and am 100% blind.
What does a regular day look like to you?
First thing I do is take my service animal Bowie for a walk, hydrate and prepare myself for the first training of the morning at 7am. I teach the 7am class at Gama Filho Martial Arts, and then take the 10am class with Professor Henrique. After training I go home to wash up and have lunch, and then I typically listen to podcasts and videos, trying to educate myself in English. Some evenings I train again, but most nights I spend time with my mother. I don't do too much other than BJJ!
In a video from Mat Made, a show on Instagram, you say that you started BJJ to learn how to defend yourself from bullies. Could you explain a little more about that situation?
So, as I said I was born with congenital glaucoma, and this glaucoma made my eyes look pretty big due to the pressure on the optic nerve. So when I was a teenager I was a target, I suffered a lot from bullying because I was a skinny little man with big eyes and the people used to make lots of pranks on me. I was the kid that nobody invited to the party. I was the kid that suffered a lot from rejection all the time and it led me to consider even killing myself. But thank God I never did, because I had a very strong faith in God and my family was always supporting me, but I was still tired from all the bullying so I wanted to learn how to defend myself. Unfortunately I was bad at the majority of all the sports, and I didn't feel comfortable with a martial art that was with striking because of my progressing vision problems. But one day, as a blessing from God, one friend introduced me to BJJ and I fell in love immediately with the sport, and I have been doing arm bars and choking people ever since.
When did you start training?
I found a school near my house and started training in April of 2009.
What were your thoughts heading into your first Jiu Jitsu training?
When I was in high school there was a room where we could practice some martial arts, and a friend of mine introduced me to it then, so when I found a BJJ school I was not intimidated. I was very happy and very positive to start because I had already seen it before losing my sight. I fell in love immediately, especially of my favorite submission, the arm bar!
Did Jiu Jitsu help you solve the issues you had with bullies?
Yes, it helped me handle the situation better. I would still try to avoid the confrontation, but I had the confidence to face them when I had to. And nobody wants to get beat up by the little blind kid.
Do you feel like you are at a disadvantage when grappling?
Yes, there is a disadvantage while standing, especially if I am not able to start with grips. I am not very comfortable with the freedom of movement and take-downs, but once we are on the ground and I have my grips, I feel no disadvantage at all.
How does BJJ training translate to your day-to-day life?
It always gives me motivation to wake up knowing I get to go train, because every time you train you improve not only as an athlete but also as a person. When you're in a difficult situation in this sport, it's easy to freak out, but we need to breathe and find a way to escape. So whenever life throws us bad situations, we need to stay calm and relaxed and search for a solution. That's one of the biggest lessons I've learned in this martial art. I've faced many giants in competitions and in real life, and that's why I call myself the real Blind Warrior.
Specifically, how has Jiu Jitsu changed your life?
It has given me many many benefits. When I began I was a very skinny, weak person. It motivates me. It gives me more strength physically, mentally and spiritually. It has also given me a purpose in this life, because thanks to Jiu Jitsu, I am able to work and have something to look forward to every day. And most importantly, whenever I'm doing Jiu Jitsu, I feel equal. I don't feel like a blind person when I'm rolling. I feel complete.
What would you say to someone who is currently being bullied but doesn't yet have the confidence to stand up for themselves?
The first thing to do is to tell the people around you that are close to you what is happening, like your parents and teachers. Don't be embarrassed to seek out help, like therapy. Of course I would also say they should find a martial art to practice to learn how to defend themselves and gain that confidence to do so. And of course the martial art I would recommend is BJJ!
What lessons would you like people to learn from your story?
I think the biggest lesson is to know that everything is possible if we have faith in achieving whatever goal or dream that we have. And that we need to fight, because we are not given what we wish for, we get what we work for. I hope that I'm an example and inspiration to people because thanks to God and the support of my family and my determination, I've been able to achieve many victories and goals in this martial art, and that has a big space in my heart.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with people?
Always continue fighting, no matter what. No matter how many times people tell you that you can't do something, have faith and work hard and you will surprise yourself and the people around you.
What are you currently up to?
Always teaching, training and competing. Because of my disability and my status in this country, it is very difficult for me to make money, so I am always trying to raise funds for competitions and to help support my wonderful mother who sacrifices so much to help me. So, if anyone would like to help support me, I am available for seminars, and I also have my own line of fight wear. If people would like to purchase Blind Warriors gis, rash guards and hoodies, I would love and appreciate the support! I am hoping to have a website in the near future, but for now they can reach out to me through email or instagram. Thank you very much for your time and attention, I really appreciate this opportunity and it's a big blessing for me to share my story with this wonderful Jiu Jitsu community. Oss!