Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why Every Girl Around the World Should Learn Jiu-Jitsu

DISCLAIMER: If you are under 15 years old you I suggest you get your parents permission

When I was a child, I was raised in a very unusual home. At the time I did not realize it was unusual because, from what I saw on TV, everybody lived like me. I had a mother and a father who loved me and looked after me.

My dad worked as a mechanic at an airline company and eventually went on into management. My mother was an at home mother for most of my young life then went to school and worked in mutual funds.

Not one time in the course of their life together (they are STILL TOGETHER- 41 years) have I ever seen my father physically threaten or intimidate my mother. Not once! At the same time, I’ve never seen my mother throw plates or attack and berate my father verbally. Don’t get me wrong, they argue from time to time. But even when they argue they do it from a place of love.

I really thought all kids lived like me until I was about 15. I went to visit a friends house not too far from where my home was. I walked in to say hello (“Eddie Haskell style” as his mother used to say) and the instant I walked in, I knew it was a different world. His folks were together, but it was clear it was pretty loveless. It was more like how you might imagine visiting Smokey’s mom from Friday might be like.  Over time I learned that his house was very different than mine.
His folks fought a lot (not just argued), and there was a lot of abusive drinking and drug use in the home.

Over and over again in my teen years I quickly snapped out of the idea that most kids lived and learned like I did with two parents who loved one another and worked hard for their kids.

I’ve been lucky enough to be married 17 years to a beautiful Black woman and our kids are growing up fast. Its instinctual as a father to worry about your son as a teenage boy (because you know how quickly they might get shot or killed in some random situation). But it was not until my daughter was about 4 that I saw how hard life was for little Black girls.  

Later, after starting HHCF I saw much more in depth issues Black girls face in the inner city. I wrote a two part series last year about kids I knew who suffered from gang violence in Oakland and San Francisco. You can read PART 1 HERE and PART 2 HERE .

There is a deadly cocktail of cultural exclusion, identity based depression, verbal and physical violence that almost dooms Black girls to an early demise. When I say early, I mean by age 12 or 14 its already a wrap. When I say a wrap, I don’t mean to imply that anyone give up on them. I’m saying that the issues are so deeply entrenched within them that they may not be able to recover (from pregnancy, drug abuse or alcohol abuse effects). Not because they don’t want to. There are just so few systems of support in place. They can't do it alone. Most die quietly or are put in jail before we even really knew their names. Its sad, but very real.

This is part of the reason I fight so hard to promote chess to Black and Latina girls.
But you see, I quickly understood that this issue was not an issue for Black and Latina girls alone. This is a global crisis. Since starting HHCF I have seen soulbreaking documentaries about human trafficking . I have also watched many girls at the schools I work at fall victim to the streets. Many were Black or Latina, but some were White and some were Asian. I quickly realized that the mistreatment and abuse of women is not an American thing, its a male thing and it has manifested itself under every religious, political and social system we can think of. It is the duty of the men of the men of wisdom and truth to protect the women of this planet. Sadly though, we are failing to do that in large numbers. This is why I think all women of the world should learn Gracie aka Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or any other martial art they can.

About two years ago I taught a womens self defense class to girls at a high school I work at. It was so amazing to see their faces light up when you showed them how knowledge could overpower strength and speed. I told them about the creator of Gracie Jiu JItsu  and how he was a small man. I explained that they deserved to be defended, but they had to know that they were the first line of defense for themselves. They soaked it up and some still thank me for what I showed them. Even more impressive, not one of them used what I taught to fight another girl on campus or bully another female.  

Another thing is that watching girls who do judo and jiu-jitsu I have noticed a totally different level of confdence in them (on the mat and off the mat). Its a great thing to see.

Bottom line is that working at high schools has taught me one very specific thing: Many of the boys of today have no respect for girls. This is not just a teenage immaturity that needs a little guidance. These boys (most without fathers) are physically aggressive and feel little remorse for their actions. It is very scary to watch. The only thing more scary than the boys violence, is the girls acceptance that their being beaten is just “how it should be”.

Last year a girl I’m trying to reach out to asked me if I ever hit my wife.

“Never” I said.

“G.O.D.?!?!” [they spell God out meaning “swear to God”]. She searched my eyes for any level of weakness or faultiness.

“G....O....D!” I shouted with a smile. “I don’t hit my wife. She’d leave me for real if I did. But, I don’t even pretend to. I don’t threaten her. I never have.”

She shook her head, faithless of my words and said “I’m gonna ask her.”

I encouraged her to do that. The point is, what bothered me in the exchange we had that day was just that it was inconceivable that a women live her life without being beaten by the men in their life.

As men, I take on the duty to change that trend. I can’t save the women of the world. But I can work within my sphere of influence to help young girls physically and mentally. Mentally I believe all the women of the world should learn chess. Physically, they should be training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I favor Jiu-Jitsu because its made for people without lots of strength and speed to win. Also, woman cannot be raped if they cannot be grabbed and pinned down. This is super crucial to understand. If a women cannot be pinned or grabbed they are safe. If they can keep themselves safe, they cannot be trapped and if they cannot be trapped they can escape!  

If Jiu-jitsu is not available, I suggest judo (especially because its usually cheaper than jiu-jitsu). But if Kung-fu or kickboxing is near you- take that.

Girls often talk about how fighting is not like a lady. I remind them that the female lions of the pride are the ones who do the hunting. I remind them that the mother falcons and eagles are super dangerous and it makes them no less beautiful. Kyra Gracie, UFC fighter Ronda Rousey and many other women out there are very lady like (however you define that) but are clearly amazing at self defense.

If I could, I’d take every girl on the planet to learn Women Empowered by the Gracie Family.

But I can’t. I can only encourage every girl, parent, uncle, aunt and cousin to take a female they love to a class on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for no less than a year. Help them learn to have faith in their body and mind.

Military strategist Sun Tzu said something like “Don’t count on the enemy not coming, be prepared for them when they arrive.” My hope is that most of the women I know never have to use Jiu-Jitsu. But if they do, I want them to be calm under pressure and use what they were taught to be safe and return to their families and friends.

This summer my oldest daughter who is 11 will spend it learning jiu jitsu and boxing basics. This is because I know that I won’t be around forever. Her brother won’t be with her in every situation. When something happens, I want to know I trained her right- regardless of the outcome. As a father and a friend of my daughter its my duty to prepare her. I’m not preparing her to be a fighter. I’m preparing to make her a woman of the world, who is confident within her own mind and body. Whatever else that is born from it, is her choosing. If you live in the Bay Area I suggest taking your daughter to and letting them take a free introductory class. I encourage you to share this with other women and girls you know.

Much Respect,
Adisa Banjoko

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