The International Jiu-Jitsu Education Fund is a charity determined to bring our beloved martial art to children across the globe. From Brazilian shantytowns to the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, IJEF operates under a simple ethos: the more kids learning jiu-jitsu today, the better off the world is tomorrow. That’s because we know that jiu-jitsu represents more than a martial art. It’s respect, discipline, and family.
IJEF originated with the most elemental relationship in all of jiu-jitsu practice: professor and student.
The professor was Erik Klinger, 2nd degree black belt and instructor for over 25 years. The student was a recent immigrant to the United States, just 18 at the time. For five years the professor taught the discipline of jiu-jitsu to the student. Like many young martial artists who have felt the pull of jiu-jitsu, he seemed to be at the academy more than he was away from it, training more often than not. He often helped instruct kids’ classes, constantly learning and improving until he was teaching on his own. But when he eventually made the difficult decision to return to his home country to be with family, he was a coach and student no longer.
Years passed. The relationship simmered until the day Erik received a call from his long-time student.
A young child listens to Coach Oswaldo’s instructions in Xela, Guatemala.
“Have you been training?” the professor asked.
“There is no jiu-jitsu here, professor. There is nobody teaching,” replied the student.
“Then why don’t you teach?”
The student considered it for a moment. “It would be a joy to do so. But I have no uniforms, no mats, and no time outside of my work.”
And there it was: an opportunity to spread jiu-jitsu to a place where it hadn’t been before.
“My friend,” Erik told the student, “we’ll get you the uniforms, the mats, and the money to support yourself. In return, find as many kids as you can and start teaching them — for free — wherever you can find the space.”
And so, IJEF was born.
This modest beginning– a bond between student and professor– has grown into an international non-profit with instructors in four different countries and counting. The efforts of these dedicated individuals have brought scores of newcomers into the jiu-jitsu community. Children are learning. Lives are changing. And with the help of so many generous believers in the power of jiu-jitsu, the movement continues to flourish.