Like many parents, Elmer and Cristal Avalos were worried about the COVID shutdown’s impact on their kids.

The youngest, Eros, concerned them the most. A shy pre-schooler, they worried he didn’t have the confidence to start school when things returned to normal.

One day, Cristal happened to be at a cultural event at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center and saw a demonstration by students from Nature Jiujitsu in Sanford, led by Professor Tâniel Jesus. The kids’ attitudes immediately grabbed her attention.

“I saw how they interacted with each other and with the instructor,” she said. “They looked so confident.”

She called her husband and pitched the idea of getting Eros into a class. He approved, and the decision began to pay dividends immediately.

“We were trying soccer, but we could tell it just wasn’t his thing,” Elmer Avalos said. “From the first class, the moment he stepped on the mat, you could see a change in him.”

Eros, a first-grader at B.T. Bullock Elementary, has gone from a shy, timid little boy to a world champion in just two years. He took the gold medal in his weight class in late July at the 2023 IBJJF Pan Kids Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Orlando, the same month he turned six years old.

At first, the Avaloses didn’t want Eros to do competitions. Elmer said they worried about his size, and he was a little afraid himself. But he progressed so quickly that Professor Tâniel suggested he give it a try at a local event in Raleigh. He won the gold medal.

Since then, he’s competed at events all over the state and beyond and walked off the mat in Orlando with a new swagger – all thanks to Brazilian Jiujitsu and Professor Tâniel.

“He’s a different person,” Elmer Avalos said. “He has blossomed. He’s very confident in himself now.”

Eros loves to teach jiujitsu to his cousins and big sister, Ava. And though he’s a World Champion, he’s still a kid.

“He’s already talking about coming back to Orlando next year. This time he wants to go to Universal Studios, too,” Elmer said. “He wants to win 100 gold medals and earn a black belt.”