Fighter Series: Who is Charlee Funes?
In May 2021, 7th grader Charlee Funes was aggressively attacked by a bully. Charlee’s hair was pulled and she was pushed to the ground, landing face first on concrete. When Charlee asked her to stop and leave her alone, she wouldn’t. This was not the first encounter Charlee had with this girl nor was this the first time this girl bullied other kids, as there have been past incidents where this bully targeted Charlee and multiple other students.
After this physical confrontation, Charlee suffered scratches and bruises to her face, chipping one of her teeth in the process.
Like many people, Rener Gracie saw Charlee’s story online. As a very high level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and head instructor at the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy, Rener knew how BJJ can positively impact lives. He believed he could help Charlee and made an Instagram post, asking for more information about the situation, so that he could help connect Charlee with the right resources to prevent anything like this from happening again. In less than 24 hours, he was in contact with Charlee’s mother Kimberly, planning out a way to prevent this from happening again.
In the days following the violent incident, Charlee’s story was shared through various local news outlets. Jeff Kim saw some of these reports and reached out to Rener Gracie. He informed him that he owns a martial arts gym, Fusion Academy of Martial Arts - a certified Gracie Jiu Jitsu Training Center. Located close to Charlee in Illinois, Jeff reached out because he wanted to work with Charlee. Seeing that working with Jeff could be a great way to help Charlee, both mentally and physically, Rener connected Charlee with Jeff.
In the summer of 2021, Charlee began training under the Gracie Bullyproof program, despite feeling nervous about trying something new. In a meeting Rener had with Charlee, he says that the Gracie Bullyproof program will help her develop the confidence she needs to stand up for herself, while teaching her the skills and techniques to defend herself if she ever needed to.
After summer ended, Charlee returned to school. On the first day, Charlee said she felt nervous, but soon overcame this as she felt she was “bullyproof.” She now had the confidence to stand up for herself and says in addition to feeling more confident, she feels stronger.
Charlee Funes endured a very difficult bullying experience that took a mental and physical toll on her. After connecting with Rener Gracie and Jeff Kim, she started her Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training, under the Gracie Bullyproof program, in the summer of 2021. When it came time to go back to school, she had developed more confidence in herself. She started to stand up for herself more and had the Jiu Jitsu techniques to back up her words.
Charlee’s story is a very inspiring example of how BJJ can be used to change lives for the better. There is a common theme among people who do Jiu Jitsu: after starting BJJ, they become stronger mentally and physically, while still remaining the kind and respectful people they were before they started. As for the resilient Charlee, here’s the advice she would give to anyone who is a victim of bullying or harassment: “ You’re not alone. There’s always help out there. Don’t ever let anyone put their hands on you or call you names. Stand up for yourself.”