Friday, November 18, 2016

Long Island Hustle. Jiu Jitsu for the People

I just finished moving. Now I’m leaving again. First stop Philly. A quick stop. I left my kimonos there because I didn't have enough room to haul them back to D.C. with me. So I have to stop by, say hi to my dad, and then off to New York less than 24 hours later. 


New York is loud. And fast. People rush by in all directions caught up in the whirlwind circus of their lives. I cleared my throat, clutched my belongings, and looked up from my phone in search of the exit.

Hesitation attracts attention.

Before I could complete the 90-degree turn that put the subway entrance to my back a skinny black guy with a worn out baseball cap and an oversized coat was asking me where I was going. New Yorkers are a mix between warm generous direction givers and rough, cutthroat entrepreneurs looking for the next naïve person they can scam a couple dollars off.

I shrugged the guy off and made my way towards the door with the faked confidence of someone who knows exactly where they are going in life. Bright lights and the overwhelming sound of rush hour traffic invaded my senses as I exited the Port Authority.  Once outside, I looked for a stationary figure that looked like they belonged. I hate blundering up to someone to ask for directions only to find out that that person was just as lost as I am. I also despise the ever-present tourists with their eyes glued to cellphones trying to orient themselves in the middle of a crowded sidewalk. Both actions leave you tainted with the mark of the beast, a naïve, unsuspecting beasts that are 100% more likely to have their possessions snatched up in a random act of robbery.

New York

I quickly found someone that looked like they knew what they were doing and walked up to them for directions.

“Yo! Which way is Penn Station?” Polite but not too much. It was a straight shot down 8th street. Perfect, I wouldn’t have to walk around looking, consulting my phone for directions every two seconds.

I returned to faking an impassive façade of confidence as I made my way down 8th street. I was heading to Long Island. I had two hours to get over there and find my friend, a brown belt who teaches classes to kids at a local library. 

A lot of people train Jiu Jitsu for a lot of different reasons. Some want the medals. Some fall in love with in intricate allure of the Arte Sauve. Some people are looking to be more rounded MMA fighters. Some people, like my friend’s students, just fall into the sport. Whether they like it or not, its one of the few recreational activities provided by them as an after school alternative to roaming the streets (apparently some of his kids were recently found wandering the streets which just goes to show you the lack of responsible adulthood we are dealing with in today's educational system). Government funding is quick to fix budget deficits by cutting extracurricular activities, especially those that are designed to get your mind and body moving in a creative way. 

Brazil is oversaturated with martial arts or sports based social projects, and now, more recently I’ve been peeping a lot more of said programs creep slowly into the east coast culture.

More and more people are starting to offer free jiu jitsu classes, especially in New York, where I have a few friends trying to bring the gentle art to the big apple's not so gentle school kids. On Wednesday, once I finally found my way to Long Island, I was able to catch my friend's class that works with kids from 3-13 years old at an after school program that holds free Jiu Jitsu and music classes. For most of them it's their first time experiencing something like that, for a few of them, it seems it's the first time they're experiencing any kind of mandatory physical activity. What the hell happened to gym classes and youth sports leagues? 

It was definitely dope to see the next generation be introduced and slowly find a love for a jiu jitsu. Hopefully its something they will continue to grow in throughout the rest of their academic careers. 

This Tuesday I'll get to stop back at the Bronx to see how jiu jitsu has been integrated into highschools by another friend of mine. 

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