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Olympic medalist in judo Flávio Canto transforms lives in Rio slums
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26 October 2016
On 3 November 2016 TMhome.com reported: Flávio Canto is a Brazilian judoka and jiu jitsu black belt who won the bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and three medals in a row at the Pan American Games. In 2003 he founded the Instituto Reação, a non-governmental organization that promotes human development and social inclusion through sports and education, transforming underprivileged kids into ''black belts'' on and off the mat. Excerpts from the article follow:
Canto says, ''People who watch a judo fight usually see one guy throwing another guy. But the most important thing is to stand up.
''Every time you fall, you stand up.''
The Olympic medalist says about his students, ''They are going to have to stand up a lot of times. In the end when you look back your success is determined by how many times you stood up.'
To stand up, no matter how many times life throws you on the ground, is what Instituto Reação teaches the 1,200 children and youths in the ghettos of Rio de Janeiro enrolled in its programs.
All the kids and youngsters enrolled in Instituto Reação are required to participate both in judo and educational lessons six days a week all year round. The institute focuses on discipline, humility, courage and determination through judo.
Since the institute was started with funding pledged by Canto's friends and family, it has grown to encompass four locations throughout the favelas of Rio.
The power of meditation
Yet, despite the obvious success of his work, Canto is not one to rest on laurels. He continues to search for ways to even the odds against which the kids in the Rio slum struggle: ''They have the right to aim higher and we try to give them the tools to get there.''
One of these tools for the past few years has been the practice of Transcendental Meditation—a well-researched meditation technique which helps kids relieve stress and achieve the inner equilibrium required to excel both inside and outside the classroom, on and off tatami.
''That was a dream come true for me because I began TM long-long time ago, I think in '95. Things got better for me. I got the results, I won the Olympic medal. People knew me as a competitor who was always very focused.
I owe that a lot to TM. But I think it is much more than just for sports. It made me a better athlete but it made me a better person and it still does for sure.''
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Canto explains his enthusiasm for incorporating the practice into the life-changing activities at Instituto Reação.
''I know the power of meditating, I have experienced it for many years. And I know that they need it a lot, not only for judo, but to get better in life,'' Canto adds.
The students also experience the benefits of Transcendental Meditation, both in the short and the long run.
''TM makes me feel relaxed, feel lighter, like if I could fly among the clouds. I was able to focus better on my studies, understand more about my life and reflect what I can become someday,'' says a girl who attends the institute.