By Jennifer Vazquez
Champions and championship- worthy attitudes comes in all sizes. That is just the case when it comes to 16-year-old Alexander Ferreira. At first glance, he looks like your typical, slim-built teenager –eagerly yearning for his license –yet, for most of his life he has faced quite a few tribulations. However, his story is not one of weakness but one of perseverance, determination and, ultimately, triumph.
Ferreira’s story starts when he was just two-months old and diagnosed as anemic. The future years brought with them other health complications, including the removal of his enlarged spleen, part of his lower intestine and his appendix –the latter causing a chain reaction of complications leading doctors to fear he would not make it.
With fragile health, Ferreira’s doctors urged his alwayspresent mother, Cecilia, to not let him participate in any sports.
“I had him in karate when he was a little boy,” Cecilia said. “When (the doctors) found out, they said, ‘Get him out of there! Are you crazy?’ because they were afraid that his spleen would explode.”
Taking Ferreira out of karate and later soccer was thought as being the best possible option for the young boy in order to prevent any harm from happening that might trigger another health scare.
As time passed, however, and being restless –as most teenagers are –Ferreira looked for an outlet. He had a cousin that practiced martial arts and decided to tag along one day to see him practice. Intrigued by what he saw, he desperately tried to convince his mother to allow him to participate in the sport. After all, it had been a couple of years since his last surgery and he desperately wanted to prove that he was OK. “
After a month’s trial, I decided to let him join,” she said. “His (current) doctor says there’s no problem with him participating. It’s actually a good thing for him to exercise.”
Despite professional approval, Cecilia had and still has bouts of nerves when she sees her son practice his beloved Jiu-Jitsu.
“I still get nervous that he is going to get hurt,” Cecilia said. “He still has a lot to learn. He is not big or strong as other opponents.”
“But I have technique,” Ferreira quickly jumps in. “A lot of the guys I fight rely on strength or their size. I depend on my skills and technique. I have a signature move –the triangle.”
The “triangle”, as Ferreira enthusiastically explained, is a “choking” move designed to keep an opponent’s head and one of his arms pinned in between your legs.
Young Ferreira’s story is testament to the true power of discipline and passion –the latter trait being one that all can see when speaking to him about, not only his accomplishments, but the world of Jiu-Jitsu.
This remarkable story is far from over. After the initial trail run of a month and officially enrolling in Jiu-Jitzu at Cutting Edge, located on 210 Harrison Ave., Ferreira joined the competition team –six months after enrolling. Shortly, a couple of weeks after joining he was already on his way to take part in his first tournament. An incredible feat for someone who doctors thought –at a point in time during one of his many hospital stays –wouldn’t survive much longer
Ferreira is a current blue belt -accumulating one bronze, two silver and five gold medals throughout his championship participations. His latest gold medal-win came this year when he was crowned champion of Long Island Pride.
“Before, I was home all day playing video games,” Ferreira explained. “Now I come [to Cutting Edge]. I am stronger than ever. I have more muscle. I love it. I love to train and compete.”
Cecilia also sees the positive change that the world of martial arts has had on her teenage son.
“He was always positive,” she said. “With all the problems he’s had -my family says this too -he is a positive kid… But now the change is great… His attitude is different. He is more confident.”
She also credits Dr. Jean Maklhouf, her son’s pediatrician for always being “available -24/7.”
Though Ferreira’s passion for his discipline runs deep, due to financial constraints he and his younger brother were forced to withdraw from the competition team earlier this month. This setback is minor compared to what he endured in the past. And, just like all his other setbacks, his positive outlook is inspiring.
“Once I get my license, I can get a part-time job and pay for all the expenses and fees (that come with the completion team),” he explained with a smile.
Despite the fact that Ferreira is, for the time being, away from official competitions, he is still actively involved in training. Ferreira also takes part in teaching and helps run a few classes at Cutting Edge Brazilian Jiu-Jitzu -the same martial arts school where he trains -though, he anticipates cutting back a few hours in the upcoming future since he is, not only about to start his junior year, but also set to commence soccer practice for his high school team –another sport that was once deemed too dangerous for him!
Ferreira has learned many things from martial arts, but his mentor and sensei Josef Manuel, owner of Cutting Edge, was reminded of a valuable life lesson all thanks to knowing the young champion.
“You hear stories of people who can overcome any type of impediment -be it mental, physical or a life situation. It’s hard, but it can be done,” Manuel said.