White Belt Rhyllary Barbosa Uses BJJ to Thwart Brazilian School Shooters

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Someone put some stripes on this girl’s belt.

It’s been three days since two young men armed with handguns, a hatchet, and a crossbow with arrows, opened fire on students in an apparent mass murder and suicide pact in Sau Paulo, Brazil. As further details on the tragedy have been made available by the Brazilian press, 15-year-old Rhyllary Barbosa, a white belt in BJJ, has emerged as a standout hero in the otherwise tragic event.

Barbosa is being roundly hailed for bravery and calm under life threatening duress, after she went head-to-head with one murderer in an effort to safely free students fleeing the school as shots rang out.

She detailed to Brazil’s G1 news how she heard the first shots while on a snack break with friends.

“I heard the first shot and I turned around,” Barbosa recalled. “I was very scared…but my intuition was to open the door and get other students out of there.”

To get to that door Barbosa would have to physically approach and then get by one of the two attackers, 25-year-old Luiz Henrique Castro, armed with a hatchet, while his accomplice continued to fire a .38 pistol into the panicked crowd of students. And so she did, leaving her friends behind and confronting him solo. Castro fought back, grabbing Barbosa’s hair and throwing blows. One one point he tried to trip her, but the young grappler based out like a jiujitiera before sprinting to the door and throwing it open.

“I did not let him knock me down. As soon as he took my arm I started to shake him off, and he grabbed me by the hair and gave me several punches. I kept my heels pinned to the ground,” she said.

Barbosa’s brazen fighting back is believed to have disoriented both attackers, forcing them to alter their plan as students swarmed out the open door.

“I don’t think he expected someone to run at him. He dropped the axe. He tried to hold me so I wouldn’t leave the school. Then he even tried to hold some [of the other students] back.”

Both attackers ended up being former students of the school. Castro and accomplice Guilherme Taucci Monteiro, 17, killed eight and injured nine. Five of the dead were students, all believed to be less than 16-years-old. Monteiro reportedly shot Castro and then himself at the end of their assault.

Barbosa credits jiu-jitsu with saving her life and the lives of the students she was able to help escape.

“The jiu-jitsu taught me to defend myself. It’s a personal defense,” she told reporters. “God put me there to avoid the tragedy and I’m grateful to have another chance at life. I’m just a survivor.”

You can watch Globo 1’s interview with Barbosa, as well as footage of her taking on Castro.


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Kimberly Kaye
Kimberly Kaye is a blue belt under Plinio Cruz now training BJJ and Muay Thai out of NOLA MMA. When she's not being choked or kicked by large Louisianians, she's a student of integrative medicine/nutrition at FCMA and rehabilitator of deaf bully breed dogs no one else wants. Kimberly coexists with the rare diseases CIPO and Ehler-Danlos Syndrome, and is an advocate for disabled individuals in the martial arts community and world at large.
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