Sunday, January 30, 2011

HHCF Jiu Jitsu Team Profile on Sergio Silva

HHCF Jiu Jitsu Team Profile: Sergio Silva
By: Adisa Banjoko, HHCF Founder

    Sergio Silva watching over his students on the BJJ path . For more info visit www.teamsilvabjj.com

The Hip-Hop Chess Federation now has a jiu jitsu team. The goal of the team is to unite some of the best minds and souls in Jiu Jitsu to help humanitarian efforts and keep peace on the streets. Each month we hope to profile 2 members of the team. Sergio Silva is an amazing guy. He has raised a lot of money for disaster victims in Haiti, Pakistan and other parts of the world. This is his story

AB: When did you start training jiu jitsu and why?

Sergio Silva: First I would like to say thank you for this opportunity to do this interview for HHCF
 I start practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in August of 1992 when some of my friends and brother start to practice BJJ with this guy name Jorge.The Jiu-Jitsu that he used to teach it used to be Half BJJ and half Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. It was in 1993 where I start practice the pure BJJ.An academy opened right next to my house(two block away).

I start practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu due of the violence in some parts of Brazil. I used to go watch soccer games and like everyone know Soccer in Brazil is HUGE. 95% of the time in the end of the game I used to watch or be very close to big fights. One day I watched this guy getting into a fight where he was actually the guy that started the fight but he had no idea how to fight. Coming back home with that scenario in my head kind of made me anxious. Get in a fight with no answers was something that made me very scared even to think about it. After few weeks I watch another scneario that made my head think very serious about enjoying a Martial Arts(BJJ) academy.

This group of guys tried to get in a fight with this rich kid. The rich kid did not wanted to fight at all, he had his girlfriend and was inside this building in a party. But this 3 guys were very serious to keep the provocation until the rich kid lost and went outside to see what this guys wanted it.
I was outside watching everything. The kid wants to talk with the big of all of them and asked him what was the problem.

The big guy did not wanted to talk much and start to push the rich kid. In fraction of seconds the rich kid put the big guy down and suddenly he was in the back choking the big guy telling him :
“THIS IS JIU-JITSU MY FRIEND YOU SHOULD HAVE TAUGHT TWICE BEFORE STARTING ALL THIS.”

The most impressive thing it was he did not throw one punch or kick he just used grappling techniques-In that point I was sold-the next thing I would have to do it would figure it out how to get the money to start practice since BJJ was very expensive.

AB: When did you decide to seriously go after your Black belt and for those seeking your level, what should they expect to endure?

SS: The idea to get my black belt came into my mind when I was a purple belt(1997).Back then we did not had that many black belts in my city-Curitiba. I was responsible for all the classes during the day and all the classes during the afternoon. One day a black belt in Hapkido came in the class to talk with a black belt.I told him that the black belt it will be in the academy at night. He replied if is ok to purple belt to teach in BJJ? He made a very weird face and left- After that day I knew that one day I would be a black belt.

If you do expect to get your black belt one day make sure to know that the journey start with several major sacrifices in your life. I went through injuries after injuries I had to stop going to University, gave up my dream of graduate in College, lost girlfriends(due of them not understanding my mat time space) and had trouble to keep jobs due of the flexibility of been traveling all the time for the tournaments.

AB: How much are chess and jiu jitsu connected in your opinion?

SS: In my opinion Chess and Jiu-Jitsu are connect due of the massive strategy game that you need to always make sure to improve. I learned to play chess when I was 8-10 years old. Back then all I knew was how to move the pieces nothing else. In BJJ my teammates where literally a nerds on the mats in how to build this perfect strategy. When start BJJ I did not even play Chess in first 8 months of BJJ training due of this crazy amount of time spent on the mats(Back then we did not had internet or videos to watch BJJ).

When I went to my first competition and lost one of my teammates was an engineer and one day he brought his chess set to the academy and start talking about strategy and how we all related through this Human Chess that is BJJ. My teacher at the time Evanri Gurgel told me to start play more Chess to improve my ground game(I taught What a Hell he is talking about it?). Back then most of my friends did not like it or did not know how to play Chess. So one day I was walking in a very busy street in Curitiba and I saw some old folks playing Chess(they looked like homeless). I approach one of them and asked them if I could play(underestimating this folks was one of my biggest mistake).
I start playing thinking that I would smash this old man. In the middle of the game he talked for the first time, until then I had no idea how is voice sound like it.
He said:“You move really fast making amazing mistakes and is all because of your speed of thinking”
He defeated me two times with no major problems at all…

In the end he told me again:
“Think more before make your moves young man…when you make a decision you can’t turn back and if you take your hands out of the piece that move is DONE”.

Playing Chess that day made a HUGE impact in my Jiu-Jitsu game,the next day I tried to move really slow in practice and people taught that I was sick or not serious. I was only a white belt trying to move like a blue or purple belt-
How Dare I was???

AB: You have hosted some historic events raising money for victims of natural disasters. Most notably Haitian earthquake relief as well as Pakistan flood victims. Tell me how those ideas together and how hard was it to organize so many schools that do battle to come together for a humanitarian cause?

SS: To tell you the truth organizing this events was kind of scary. I was in the U.S Open for the weekend and I went to get a cup of coffee.When I got there to get a cup of coffee I saw several people with the computer in the shop,I saw a young couple arguing about that the establishment did not had half and half for them put in their coffee ,people with the best cell phones. And here I was getting ready to fight the US Open with tons other of our BJJ community people spending cash to do something nice for ourselves but what are we were doing for somebody else?

Thousands of people were dead or dying and all we could think about it is how we could win this tournament. When I start thinking that way I realize that the value of the tournament went down and I did not even care as much about the result and all I could think about it was how we all could come together and make something special not for ourselves but for others…help people without have them to ask for help it was my main objective. I went around talking with ever single teachers and professors and telling what they think about this and all of them really sound very positive and supportive. It took me another week getting everyone in the same room and get the cash to help the victims. The feeling of doing something so special it was unreal.


BJJ Haiti Raises 4k for Quake Victims
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AB: Of all your matches what are your top three that taught you something about yourself?

SS: The first one it was back in 1993 when I was a white belt fighting open division.I lost my division and went to tried the Open just for fun.After winning two fight and end up getting in the finals fighting a guy that weights 260 lbs.I was fighting but I was listen to his coach where I stopped listen to my coach to listen what the other coach was telling him not me…

The other fight was in Porto Alegre I was fighting one of the best guy in that State,everyone was there but from my TEAM just me and 3 other guys.Ze Mario Sperry was his coach and for some odd reason I got intimidated for that and gave the guy way too much respect-I did an amazing fight and I wish I had that tape for that fight.I end up loosing by an advantage in the end, that time we did not had advantage and was most interpretation of the referee.

The other one was in 2009 in the finals of the Pan American Championships where I taught the fight was already done but we still had 10 seconds to go…I end up loosing by the interpretation of the referee that told me in the end that I was way more tired then the guy-I taught the fight was over but it’s only over when is over.

AB: What are the characteristics of being a good teacher? Also, what are the characteristics of being a good student?

SS: I believe that before talk we must be able to listen.When we are born that is the most effective thing that we have.Be able to listen then talk. Students as well teachers must be able to listen. Respect is one of the most important thing that a student in martial arts must have for the person that is bringing the acknowledge. If you were never able to get a triangle choke or to apply this amazing sweep and now after few months of training now you are able to pull all this sweet moves together there is one person besides yourself that you must take your hat off for it and that guy is your teacher. Loyalty to yourself and the people around you that is helping you to achieve that level- Remember jiu-jitsu is an individual sport but without the TEAM you will have nobody to practice.

Discipline is the key of Success also if you are not focus and willing to learn it will be very difficult to see any progress here…A good teacher it will listen to you if you have a problem or an injury and will understand what need to be done in order for you to progress. A good student will always listen, respect and have a great amount of discipline involve in training that everyone on the mats will take him/her serious. And also don’t forget to laugh at your teacher’s jokes even if is kind of corny.

AB:  What are your favorite Hip Hop jams that motivate you on the mat?

SS: Yeah I like the old school hip hop where they used to talk about politics and right ideas. Public enemy has a good beat that I enjoy very much.Fight the Power is Tight…I like when the motivates me to move my body or to choke someone but having fun in the process.


AB: Any last words?
I would like to say thanks for Adisa for putting this interview together and believing in the power of BJJ and Chess. I also would like to give a quick shout out for my wife and son and all my Teammates without you guys life would be very sketchy.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chess: A Game of Faith, Not Religion

Chess: A Game of Faith By: Adisa Banjoko, Founder HHCF


Chess is not an inherently religious game. But it is indeed a game of faith. Looking at almost any chess board from any period of time there may be religious symbols on the board, or the pieces. Most games today have the king wearing a Christian cross atop of the crown. Pieces from the Muslim world might have no specific outward form. The bishop, knight etc. may just be various heights but not really resemble anything specific. This is due to the Prophet Muhammad's stern warnings against idol worship.

Anyone looking at the games global impact would be hard pressed to ignore the roles that so many religions have had on the game. On the Islamic impact of chess during the Moorish rule of Spain, author David Shenk wrote “The game seemed to speak directly to the new Muslim ideals- and found its way into the progressive rhetoric of the day”. Indeed, the first complete book on chess was written by a Muslim in 840 AD.

Judaism has a rich history with chess as well. Abraham ibn Ezra was a Spanish poet and medieval Jewish scholar. He wrote a beautiful poem about the game saying “I will sing a song of battle...Yet no swords are drawn in warfare”. Jewish contributions to the game are many. The hypermodern theme of controlling the center comes from Hebrew chess masters. It was written that “Rabbis have incessantly debated the game’s virtue, some objecting that it took too much time away from scholarship but most praising chess and encouraging it among youth as a tool to focus the intellect.”

Christianity brought its own contributions. From the introduction of the queen (replacing the Muslim Vizer/General), to the introduction of the move called the Ruy Lopez (named after the Spanish priest who invented it) chess been a long time fixture of western culture and art.

Still, chess is a game beyond the dogma of all the religions that have affected its global footprint. Without forcing a specific doctrine onto the mind of the player, one is still forced by the rough and tumble nature of the game to believe in a positive future. Then ones faith is challenged to make that positive vision of the future a reality. I believe that the natural spark of faith that chess inspires influenced almost all religions to embrace the game. But again, chess does this free of dogma.

I often played some of my best games at O’Connell High with a student we will call Che. He is a  tough kid from the hard streets of San Francisco’s Mission District. He has a beautiful smile but rarely displays it. Che talks less than he smiles and dresses in a way that makes him easy to loose in a crowd. Its deliberate. Che won’t let me take his picture. I don’t know if that request it because of his shyness, or he does not want enemies on the street, or police, to have a clean look at him. Most of the people he hung out with a few years ago are in jail, or were expelled from O’Connell. He walks alone a lot, keeping a low profile from students as well as teachers.

Everything you’ll never know about Che’s psychology not found through conversation, are displayed in his play on the board. His style is aggressive and deceptive. He never backs down. Any game with him is pure pressure from start to finish. I actually stopped playing with him for a bit because it was demoralizing.

But two weeks ago, for reasons I cannot explain, I decided to go head to head with Che. The woodshop teacher asked me to watch his room for a minute. Soon as Che saw me his dark eyes smiled as he spoke “Yo Deez (my nickname is O.G. Deez- a shortening of the Disa in Adisa) lets play man. C’mon man, lets play a game real quick.” The teacher was like “I don’t care, here is my board, I’ll be back.”

I could not duck the challenge in front of so many other kids. “Thats the chess dude, lets see if Che can beat him” one of them said as he pulled up a chair.

I said “OK, but Che usually kills me, so this should be a short game.”

As soon as I sat down though, for reasons I cannot explain, I had faith that I would win. Without planning anything I just dove in, and did a variation of what they call the fried liver (so-called becoause it a nasty attack). This forced a bunch of holes in Che’s pawn structure that allowed me  to follow it with a punishing queen raid. He was shocked...I was shocked.
But now I had to follow my shock with some awe. I surgically removed his pieces and threatening repeatedly. Che stayed focus, but the initial queen raid did too much damage. He refused to die quietly though. Before the finish he snagged a knight of mine I left hanging in the fog of stress that it took to win. “Good game man, I cannot believe it” Che said as he shook my hand. The bell rang as we shook hands. “I want another game tomorrow” he said as he walked out.


A few days later we played after school. It was about an hour long game. Che was his usual, non-emotional self driving in for the kill. I secured an air tight pawn structure that locked down my control of the center. As I did that I lined up a rook on the A file trying to bash in his fianchettoed pawns and bishop. As I distracted him with the pressure on the A file, I played a risky game of chicken with my king, knight and rook on the E file so I could free up my rook on the G file. Eventually, I ran that rook to the 7th rank. In the middle of his stifled attack on my king with his queen I ran my G file rook behind his pawn and now had two rooks on the A file breathing down the neck of his king with deadly intent. He never saw it coming. Faith had got me through, again!

After my rooks won the day we laughed a bit. He promised me another game. I reminded him he wins seven games to any two I win so he should not feel too bad about it. Che told me in whispered tones after the game that he stopped smoking weed and he’s taking after school classes to ensure he graduates this year. Thats the most he’s told me about his life in a long time. We walked away from the board that day with a new sense of faith in what we could do on and off the board with our lives. Faith in winning a game with little chance of victory, opened doors of the heart, giving way to new levels of communication. 


In English the word we use is Faith. In Arabic, its Iman. In Hebrew, its Aman. However you say it, in whatever language resonates best with your heart- hold onto it. But don’t be afraid to share some with those in need.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Queens Gambit Declined with Elephant Trap by Jrobi

HHCF Jiu Jitsu Team Teaches Self Defense Basics to Innercity Girls

Yesterday I was blessed with the opportunity to teach an introductory self defense class to girls at John O'Connell High School in San Francisco. Over the course of a few hours, I got to work with about 100 girls. We worked on escaping various pins, how to stand up with an attacker standing above you (pictured above) and wrist grab escapes. I was honored that Mrs. Lassiter and Mr. Widmann gave me the option to share some of these techniques. I'm even more grateful for my instructor Alan "Gumby" Marques, my Heroes Martial Arts Team and the HHCF Jiu Jitsu Team for helping to make this day possible.

It was a great feeling to see the girls see themselves as capable of protecting themselves on their terms. As a father of two young girls and friend of the community, it was an eye opening day for me, as well as the kids.

I also encouraged the girls to continue their learning at a local jiu jitsu school, or purchase the Gracie Combatives or Bullyproof DVD. I hope to get certified in both soon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Highs and Lows for HHCF in SF

HHCF Student Raheem featured in SF Chronicle

Raheem Payton , 18, senior at John O'Connell High School, sits for a Martin Luther King "I have a dream," portrait in his home on Tuesday January 12, 2010 in San Francisco, Calif. "There is still a little bit of racism. It not just black and white people it's all races. To change it we all have to have a center connection to know that we all are all the same. We are all people. We are all human." "To keep Dr. King's dream alive I believe we all need to be connected as one. We all need to realize that we are the same people." "We're no different from each other. We all bleed the same blood.... We all have struggles. We all strive to be great. No one is perfect but things can change over time. My dream for the world is that we come to a consensus and end up on one note." "We need to find in ourselves how to deal with everybody... Everything starts with yourself. If you don't have inner peace you won't that outer peace.

 Sadly, in the same issue of the paper, there was THIS:

Gang talk: A 13-year-old suspected gang was picked up by police last week after he allegedly brandished a gun inside the lobby of San Francisco's John O'Connell High School, where he and three others had gone to confront a rival gang member.
The next day, one of the intruders reportedly showed up again looking for trouble, but when he was spotted by officers, he took off.
Cops later found the 13-year-old who had brandished the gun at Horace Mann Middle School, where he's a student. He was taken into custody.
According to police, the boy confessed to having a loaded pistol, and he admitted going to O'Connell to confront a rival gang member.
"I am grateful that no one was harmed in this incident, and we are continuing to review our procedures to provide a safe learning environment for all of our students," Principal Richard Dubar wrote in an e-mail to teachers and staff.
The cops and O'Connell administrators haven't always seen eye to eye in dealing with gang issues, but by all accounts everyone did their part to avert a disaster this time

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/16/BA2U1H96SJ.DTL#ixzz1BP3cdw00

 John O'Connell is a great school. Like many, it does not have the money it needs to support its students. Nevertheless, many teachers, faculty and staff work hard to give these kids a shot a being great. The HHCF continues to do all we can to help kids of all backgrounds from underserved areas. Every kid is not like Raheem. Sadly, some, like the young intruder to our school are far astray. But we will not stop our commitment to uplifting the youth.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Raising A Samurai in a Savage Society

NOTE I wrote this off the top of my head, forgive any mistakes.

This was my sons first year playing football. He had been asking for years and despite my ignorance to the game (I never played the game on a team, I was notoriously skinny and uncoordinated in my youth). I was scared for him to play, but he really took to the game. I watched it toughen him up, I watched him get focused, take in amazing victories and assess any of his personal shortcomings.

Across the field from where my sons team played were the Newark Memorial High School kids. Mostly Samoan, these kids played hard and all of them stayed respectful and inspirational to the youngsters in word in deed.
So imagine my horror, when I woke up and saw this:

A boy from the team was stabbed to death after defending a cheerleader at a party a day or two before. I did not know this kid personally. But I saw Justice Afoa before. I knew his face when I saw his photo...It was like my heart broke twice.

I grieved not only because of his death (which remains unsolved because too many kids are living by the "no snitching rule" to stand up for the truth). The boy named Justice, lived and died by his name on all accounts.

But I grieved also for my own son....I raise him to live as a peaceful man. To live as a just man who keeps to non-violence. But I also raised him to be a defender of the poor. To not watch people suffer and do nothing. That to do otherwise is the cowards way of living. I like to think of myself as raising a young samurai.

MMA pioneer and jiu jitsu legend Rickson Gracie was once asked about his personal ethics in regards to fighting. His response is unforgettable to me. He said "I believe that you must do what you believe you have to do. If I don’t believe I should fight, I’m not gonna fight. My decision is based more on my personal honor than it is on who I’m channeling my anger towards. For example, if I see a guy smacking an old lady I’m going to do something about that. I don’t care who it is. It’s a moral concern. I cannot live with this on my mind without taking action just because I don’t know who it is. In cases like this my honor, my dignity, and my moral code is much more important than my physical body."

But how effective is this kind of thinking, when he is walking in an uncivilized society that has zero regard for the honorable man?!

My son currently reads Time Magazines 100 Most Influential People. I have him read about four people every weekend. Then we talk about their accomplishments, what intrigued him about them etc. So at the age of 12 my son can talk to you about the merits of Napoleon, Confucius, Aristotle, Joan of Arc, Catherine The Great and many others. I work hard to ensure that he knows relevant themes of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and other paths of Eastern thought. I teach him about African history, African American history, and world history as much as I can. I let my son watch Spongebob Squarepants and other silly stuff, he's a kid. But I also have him watch movies like Mongol and Hurricane, The Book of Eli and various documentaries.

Then I wake up in 2011 and I see this:


But looking at the death of these kids in the shadow of the unsolved murder of Justice Afoa, my heart just sinks.

I'm determined not to stop raising him as I am. But, I'm not sure this country will ever see value in him, and I feel fairly certain that his gifts and his talents will go unrecognized by his generation. So what is a parent to do from here? What do we do to ensure that other daughters will have young men like Justice, bold enough to defend their honor? How can we convince young people that being like Justice is a good thing? Because it is....We have a lot of work to do in 2011.

When Thugs Cry: An Unknown Tupac Story

Recently the internet started buzzing because of a cool conversation between legendary rapper Talib Kweli and Public Enemy front man Chu...