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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 2.20

God’s warriors on the mats: Evangelical martial arts in Rio de Janeiro


  • Raphael SCHAPIRA

Primary authors


In my paper, I will analyze the relation between urban peripheric space, sport, and evangelicalism using the case of evangelical Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Rio de Janeiro. Scholarship on martial arts and religion (Greve 2014; Alter 1993) has drawn attention to the embodiment of religious belief through martial arts training. Scholarship on religion in urban spaces on the other hand (Becci, Burchardt, and Casanova 2013; MetroZones 2011) discusses the urban dimension of religion and the phenomenon of urban religious innovation in relation to material deprivation. However, each approach on its own cannot fully explain the urban-religious-sportive assemblage evangelical Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Rio de Janeiro’s periphery represents. In my view, evangelical Brazilian jiu-jitsu as practiced in Rio de Janeiro’s areas of limited statehood is an example of the intrinsical relation between the urban, sportive, and religious in which each aspect is mutually produced and influenced by the others. Evangelical churches in Rio de Janeiro’s periphery have welcomed Christian martial arts practitioners to give classes in their establishments, and martial arts gyms allow evangelical coaches to integrate prayers into their classes. There, students learn to understand the practice of Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a way to embody their belief and to come to terms with their violent surrounding by understanding the earthly and the spiritual world as a world of fighting, embodied in the practice of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.