Archive for the ‘News’ Category

One Mat, One Instructor, One School

Friday, April 11th, 2014

By Professor Josh Skyer

“A serious student is much more concerned with training his mind and disciplining his spirit than with developing martial skills.”
― Eiji Yoshikawa, Musashi

It is said that true men remain loyal to those to whom they are indebted. This virtue is taken from a 400-year-old Martial arts scripture entitled, “The 8 Virtues of the Samurai”. As a student of the Martial Arts, I have always been taught to use the practice as a vehicle for personal development and self-improvement; consequently, loyalty has taken on great meaning for me.

As most experienced practitioners know, training in the martial arts requires a very high level of personal hygiene. Finger and toenails must remain short as to not accidentally scratch our training partners or ourselves. So as I sat with the nail clipper recently preparing myself for training, I took a good look at my own feet. It was in this otherwise mundane moment that I came to a stunning realization about my own experience as a student.

I realized that the bottoms of my feet have never touched a Jiu-Jitsu mat other then the one on which I took my first class. This is the same mat which my instructor, Professor Glick, put down with his own 2 hands. I will have trained from white belt to Black Belt at one school, on one mat, with one instructor.

This exercise in loyalty has been nothing short of amazing, and not very common in today’s Martial Arts climate. It’s as if the old cliché about how “the grass is always greener” has taken over the mind of the modern martial artist.

It is commonplace in Jiu-Jitsu schools to have an open mat, on which students from all over town can “pay to play”, training without feeling like they are violating the code of the Samurai spirit. In other words, they seem to never worry that they might be “cheating” on their own Professors and fellow training partners. This was something to which we never subscribed at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and for which I thank God. What is has given me is an immense sense of loyalty and depth of feeling inside the dojo I train in.

In a lot of ways the popularity of mixed martial arts – and the too-relaxed, laissez-faire, anything goes, revolving-door dojo – has turned today’s martial artist into a consumer. Traditionally, as the quote above would have it, the martial artist’s role in the world was not as a consumer, but rather as a producer. But a brief glance around the world of martial arts today finds the consumer everywhere: consuming classes, and training partners, all over town, as opposed to producing self-change, a stronger and more vibrant community and an overall sense of loyalty both to the dojo and to all those they encounter.

Not us. Again – the bottom of my feet have never touched the mat of another dojo. And I am happy to say it. On the day I’m able to have Professor Glick place a black belt around my waist, I will know that that decision will have been, for me, the glue that binds me to the martial arts forever. OSS!

Support Team for Kids

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Brenda Ferrara, who many may know as the Executive Program Director at Gene Dunn’s Shotokan Karate Dojo, is running the New York City Marathon to support Team for Kids. Read her letter below and consider donating. Professor Lynch is also running the marathon to support Team for Kids, so look out for more info about his race.

Dear family and friends,

Have you ever wondered what you can do to make a difference?

I did, and I found a way: I’m running the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon as a member of Team for Kids.

In the past twelve years, Team for Kids members have raised more than $35 million to support running-based health and fitness programs for more than 200,000 schoolchildren each year throughout New York City, around the country, and in Africa. These programs target at-risk kids, most of whom don’t have physical education in their schools.

You can ensure that more kids benefit from NYRR’s youth programs by sponsoring my run. Any amount will be a huge help! All contributions are tax-deductible and will be acknowledged as such in an e-mail to you from Team for Kids.

Most importantly, all contributions will go toward helping kids lead healthier, more productive lives. The New York Road Runners youth programs teach goal-setting, nutrition, fitness and running skills. Knowing how to make physical fitness a habit can reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and the risks they pose to children, families, and communities.

Thanks in advance for helping me and thousands of schoolchildren. You can make an easy and secure online donation toward my efforts here:

Brenda Ferrara.

Raising a Black Belt Family

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

I can remember the day like it was yesterday, in January 1997, when I went into Elegante Pastry Shop and there was Daniel DeClet as a small boy (4 years old) in his karate uniform. Well, my son Salvatore (who was also 4 years old and a very good friend of Daniel’s) saw him and they hugged each other. They were nursery school classmates and they had this common love of doing Ninja Turtle moves with each other. The encounter that day was a big wake up call for me because Daniel and his family had been telling us about this great karate school across the street for a while and I had been procrastinating bringing him just because. Seeing Daniel so confident and proud to be in his uniform made me feel guilty. I felt like a bad mom because I had neglected to listen and see what karate could do for my son. Right after that meeting, both Salvatore and I went into the karate school and scheduled a lesson for him.

Brenda with her two boys.

I watched Salvatore take his introductory lesson with Sensei Gene Dunn, who to me seemed like a gentle giant. Sensei was warm with Salvatore, caring, and he expressed how much he truly loved teaching and seeing children flourish in the Martial Arts. I knew right then and there I was in a good place. During that lesson, Salvatore showed qualities that I had never seen in him before. He was listening well, following directions, showing confidence right away. Seeing him so happy just made it so worth it. I knew that training in the martial arts would be a way to raise not only Salvatore, but also my younger son (who at that time was in a carriage just dying to be on the mat with his older brother, but was only 3).

Looking back through the years now I can see that raising both Salvatore and Matteo in the Martial Arts has impacted there lives tremendously. Both my sons trained through their elementary, junior high school and high school years. The Martial Arts has taught them so many valuable lessons, like keeping away from the weak and troubled but still having compassion for those who tried to steer them in the wrong direction. It’s taught them to be the leaders and not the followers in life. I’ve watched as it has instilled in them an inner confidence. This is something which cannot be expressly taught, but can be learned – I watched it as they saw themselves achieving goals and realizing their true capacities.

The Martial Arts has taught them to be active, and it has taught them to find focus and stillness. Both Salvatore and Matteo are musicians and the discipline and focus instilled through the years of training has allowed them to be successful in that field as well: Salvatore was accepted to a prestigious high school for music, and Matteo was in a marching band in High School. The Martial Arts helped them to take hits as well, and it prepared them for anything that may come, whether it be good or bad.

The greatest gift that the Martial Arts has given them is this self-confidence and self-respect. With this inner confidence, they’ve understood with reassurance that life can have obstacles, but it is how we handle these obstacles that make the difference. We can learn from mistakes, and our role as students in life is to just keep learning from those mistakes.

Not only have my sons benefited from the program at Gene Dunn’s Karate, but as a parent, I have also learned so much through the years. I have learned to be a better parent by accepting each one of my sons for their individual accomplishments. I have learned not to be so critical of each and every move. I have learned not to use the Martial Arts as a way to withhold or punish my children (for example, I held my son back from a promotion due to his behavior at home and at school and until this day – 14 years later – he still brings it up to me).

Salvatore and Matteo training karate as juniors.

As a parent, I have loved the Martial Arts and, thanks to my sons, was able to experience some of it myself. While I saw how much my sons enjoyed it and supported their progress through the years, I didn’t have the confidence to get on the mat to train. Finally, after three years of bringing my sons to the program and wondering what it would be like to actually do it myself, Sensei Gene Dunn approached me. He reassured me that I wouldn’t be embarrassed by anyone and that I would be taken care of. After that, my relationship with my kids took a huge step forward. Our connection to one another grew so much stronger. My sons, who were under the age of ten, both coached me and helped me in any way they could to make sure I felt confident with my karate. The roles were reversed – my sons were teaching me and I needed them and they loved to help me. That was priceless! The common bond we all shared had made our relationship stronger. And as they moved into their teenage years, we learned to communicate even better. Both Sal and Matt were assisting in the children’s classes at the karate school, and they both had this inner confidence that allowed other students to look up to them. They also assisted in the special needs class that were held at the school.

As the boys grew older, they graduated from the Juniors classes into the Adult program. We now had the privilege of training together in the same class. Could you imagine, mom and sons training together, side by side, supporting one another? Where else could we have found something like that? Soon after that, my husband realized he was missing out on a lot, so he also began training as well. Today, we have all earned black belts, and we’ve done it together. I am very proud to say that
we are a black belt family.

By Brenda Ferrara

Anton’s Purple Belt Essay

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
Before Anton earned his purple belt, we asked him: How has this training impacted your life? What does committment mean to you in training? In your life? How are you preparing to be a black belt right now?

I have said many times that starting to train with BBJJ is one of the best decisions I have ever made. It is a decision that has and continues to inspire the direction of my life in a positive manner. From training I have lost weight, gained confidence, gained focus and found a deeper well of compassion than I ever knew I had. Yet all of this is really the icing on the cake. 

I’ve always felt a little separated from the crowd and as a result have looked many places to find where my puzzle piece fits. Because of this my life has been one of many interests and experiences that have taken me around the world and through many crazy situations. Throughout all of my experiences though I can definitively say: Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is where I have found a community that I am proud to be a part of. 

These students are some of the kindest and most interesting people I have ever met. Here we can go from working with a three year old taking their first few steps in a gi to working with a 65 year old veteran that is pursuing a new kind of health in their retirement. And there is a lesson in each of these experiences. Some of these lessons teach you how gentle interaction can be. Some teach you that power and strength don’t come from muscles, but from your observation and focused effort. Some just teach you how to give and receive. Sometimes it’s just learning how to let go.

When I think about all of this in terms of commitment and black belt I associate it to marriage. Last summer I was lucky enough to be married to someone that shares, and in many ways drives my passion for physical learning. Sharing the training as we do has brought us closer and provided us with physical and mental tools to de-stress and positively approach most things. In marriage, you can’t just give up because you have a bad day, a fight, or a misunderstanding. A commitment was made to see it through to the end, so the obligation of the committed is to manage that possibility and make it so. The same can be said of training. When we first sat down to talk about the programs at BBJJ I was told “everyone’s minimum goal in the martial arts is Black Belt”. This makes complete sense to me. The black belt is like the wedding band that you wear for life as a symbol of the dedication to who and what you love. But I think of all the belts leading up to it as a courtship. As learning how to be the person that deserves to put a black belt on. 

If I want to be a good partner, both in my marriage and in my training I have to keep one essential idea in mind: I have to listen. BBJJ is beautifully constructed to aid with this as everything we do is focused around how to listen: to the instructor, to the partner, to your own body. We learn better how to mold ourselves to the situation or person that we are dealing with. This ultimately comes from Shihan and all the Professors working so hard to be ambassadors of a cultural shift towards the positive. We are fortunate that this ideology is imbued into the training every day as it reinforces positivity within ourselves and our lives. It is very hard to stay positive in the face of all the criticism, cynicism and doubt cast by much of society, so this community in response becomes all the more precious. 

But I digress. What I wanted to talk about here is commitment and why that is so important within the martial arts setting. There is something lost in the world when learning a trade is no longer valued. When the process of apprenticeship is cast to the wayside in favor of a quick fix or easy dollar. Martial arts training does not let one hide from being an apprentice, an uke, a kohai. Having a Shihan, Professor, or Sensei is far more than having a teacher. It is having a mentor that helps you to become a better you. This process to me is one of the central aims of my life, and thus one of the most important processes to approach intelligently. The commitment to black belt is the commitment to these mentors, to your process of self actualization. I would no more give up on this training than I would give up on being married. You have to be committed to see the real value to what we are doing. You have to be willing to face hardships, doubt and challenges…because on the other side is triumph and understanding. Real value that is immeasurable and immaterial.

So how am I preparing to be a black belt right now? I am taking small measured steps, trying to see where I can give more, how I can better be of help, what I can do to better understand technique and its application, and where it is that I am still blind. I’ve heard it said that “you don’t really deserve your next belt until you have helped someone receive theirs”, and I think that there is some real truth to this. What kind of black belt would I be if all of my effort was just focused inwards? If I never took the time or consideration to work with someone rather than against them? I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out either. Thus far the gains made by learning how to give far outweigh any “gains” I have ever seen by being selfish. Black belt is, to me, about learning how to better be selfless. Every day it is my hope to have given something more than the day before. To have inspired someone just a little bit more on their path to black belt in the hopes that one day I can live up to the responsibility of wearing one around my own waist. 

I thank all of my fellow students and staff members. I thank the Professors. I thank Shihan. I thank this community for inspiring the best version of me to come into existence…and I will see you all at black belt.



Andre’s Blue Belt Essay

Friday, February 14th, 2014

When moving on to a new belt level, we often ask students to submit an essay that answers questions about their belt journey. For example, “What is the most significant change you’ve experienced since beginning at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Why is it important to you? How has it affected you?”

A fantastic graduation essay to share comes from Andre, who recently earned his blue belt in Jiu-Jitsu.

The most significant change I experience since beginning at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BBJJ) is my blood pressure. My Blood pressure was on the border line of me taking medication for the rest of my life. Two years prior of joining BBJJ I was going to medical for my pressure every six months. More Importantly, after training since April. 2013, my pressure is good. My doctor was very impressed with the weight loss and my blood pressure being normal…it feel really good.

Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has affected my life style tremendously for the better (without question). In August. of 2005 I injured my lower back (three herniated disc) Rating the pain from( 1) to (10) the pain is a (10) I’m always in a lot of pain. Since training at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the pain still exist, but a little more bearable from (1) to (10) it’s about a (7) thanks (BBJJ). Physically I’m feeling better, lost over 20lbs since I started training in April. 2013. Making a commitment to Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the best decision I made for myself…You can’t put a price on your life.

Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is very important to me because I always wanted to commit to a school for the discipline, exercise and techniques. Not knowing about BBJJ until I was invited to the school by a friend (Ambrocio) that train at BBJJ…Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a beautiful thing. Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu feeds my soul: physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. It feels really good to be doing something for my well being. Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is what I need today in my life…Ambrocio I like to give you a special thanks for introducing me to Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Yours truly,

Thai Boxing Graduation – Anna’s Essay

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

As I have been nearing my next belt blue purple stripe, I have seen many ups and downs in my journey to black belt.  I have felt more energetic than I have when I first started. I feel like I can go longer and not get tired as easily. I remember a time when I ran two blocks to catch up to a bus that was coming up to the stop. I made it and wasn’t as breathless as I could have been. My endurance is up. I have felt less anxious in others and more confident in myself. I feel less angry when I go to work and come from work. It is always good to look forward to the class when it’s time to go.

Whenever I go to work, I am always approached by my female coworkers that ask me about my thai boxing bag when I bring it to work. They ask me where I go, and why, and of course if I have seen any results with my training. I tell them that muay thai boxing is so much fun, and I try to go consistently so that I can become a black belt. The girls are interested and I end up giving them the friends and family program cards, so when they are ready the girls can come to class and have a blast with me or like me.

The most important part of my training would probably be the fact that, by training and focusing on my sucess I feel less angry. I feel less afraid to go ahead and do what I want, or to fight for what I want and or need to do. I have seen my organization go up and down in my life, but since I have a schedule that I must keep, it is easier to fall into a rythm than be miserable. Going to Thai boxing makes me happy, and I am happy to make friends. To train with them and have fun with the girls, and my husband is a big treat for me. To be happy with my family inside and outside the dojo is the most important change that I am working on right now.

The Influence of Martial Arts

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

By Professor Jason Lynch

Professor Lynch earning his brown belt

The other week we presented to our students a message about the new year – about getting fit physically, mentally, and emotionally. I told the class about a physical fight I saw between a man and a woman while their 4- or 5-year-old kid (presumably both of theirs) was watching. The kid was taunting them, saying, “the cops is gonna get you.”

What I shared with the class was this: it is easy to point out how mentally unfit these people are, but we also have to remember that they’re our neighbors.

So what does that mean for you and me? And what’s it got to do with your fitness?

Let’s start by understanding that these two people are influencing other people – maybe even our children, who could be watching this kind of thing.  So part of getting fit is creating a change in the world around us. Maybe we bring our co-worker in to train and they turn out to be this 4-year-old’s teacher one day and they can have a big impact on him. Maybe your sister comes into our VIP program and it turns out she’s the barista where this woman gets her cup of coffee and just because she’s nice to her, the woman is a little less stressed and takes her anger out on her family a little less. Or maybe your own child starts training and because of that he won’t fall prey to the influence of the other kids at his or her school who are growing up in a similar-type situation.

Our method of Jiu-Jitsu and Thai Boxing is based around exactly this type of thing – awareness and responsibility in daily practice.

Many of you know that we encourage friends and family to be a part of the work here. Our VIP program is not a guest pass at New York Sports Club. It’s about creating a change for yourself and for your environment. It’s about surrounding yourself with people who are working on these three types of fitness. We can’t isolate ourselves from the world but we can insulate ourselves to make sure we’re protected. You owe it to yourself and to the people you care about to take this responsibility seriously.

The woman that was smacking her husband while her kid stood in the street taunting them – she may not know there’s a better way. But you can’t plead ignorance because you know. As a martial arts practitioner, you carry that responsibility, and it’s something you’re expected to be working on daily.

So practice assiduously. And tell somebody about the training. The world – your neighborhood – needs more martial artists.

All About Uniforms

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Save yourself challenges in the classroom..make sure that you’re wearing approved school uniforms. Here’s what to look for (and what to avoid!)

Happy New Year! We want to help you prepare to make 2014 your best year ever. Below please find some important reminders about the protocols for safe training and a healthy martial arts environment.

• All attire must be purchased through the dojo.
Everything from gis to rashguards are subject to rigid safety and quality guidelines…and we’ve seen enough to know what works and what doesn’t! Save yourself challenges (and embarrassment!) in the classroom..make sure that you’re wearing approved school uniforms.

• Only white uniforms for Basic students.
Only blue uniforms for Advanced students. Don’t mix and match tops and bottoms.

• All students must wear school t-shirts or rashguards underneath their gis.
Please make sure that you are only wearing school attire underneath your uniform.

• Know your uniforms.
Gi class = matching school gi top & pants, tshirt underneath, and a belt.
No Gi class = school rashguard or long-sleeved school shirt, pants, and a belt.
Muay Thai Kickboxing = shorts, long-sleeved school shirt, and a belt.

• All uniforms MUST be washed after EVERY class.
Although you don’t have to wash your belt, make sure that you wash your whole uniform every time you wear it. Don’t leave it in your bag over the weekend!

• Jewelry (of any kind) should not be worn on the dojo floor.
It can easily cause an injury. Please leave it in your bag.

• Always make a conscious effort to be on time for class.
If you are taking two classes back-to-back, you are expected to be on time for both.

• Due to insurance regulations, we are no longer able to provide “loaner” uniforms. 
Please make sure that you have everything you need for class (uniform, gloves, belt, etc.). If you need a new piece of equipment or a new gi, please speak to one of us before class begins and we’d be happy to help you.

• Please remember that personal hygiene is critical. If you sweat a lot, bring a small towel to class with you.
Be considerate of your classmates and bring a second uniform or rashguard if you are planning to take 2 classes in one night.

• Your uniform should be kept stain-free and rip-free.
If your gi is torn, it can be a hazard to you or your partner, and you will be asked to purchase a new one.

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we strive to keep our school a safe and healthy place for everyone.

College Essay

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

We were immensely impressed by one of our student’s, Isaac, college application essay. A creative and inspiring account of his martial arts experience. Oss Isaac!

“Kankudai!” My arms shoot straight down with palms facing my body, fingers held tightly together. My eyes focus forward while both thumbs and index fingers connect to form a triangle. I am performing my favorite kata, or martial arts form. When I was ten years old I began studying Shotokan Karate. My father had shown my brother and me several martial arts movies, including Kung Fu and Enter the Dragon, that fascinated me. But as is my attitude, I not only wanted to see it, I wanted to do it. Now I am a first-degree black belt training for my second degree.

I slowly raise my arms; as my hands pass my forehead my eyes follow them, glancing at the sun through the triangle of my fingers. Here, I see my future standing in front of me, waiting for me to create it. My hands suddenly snap apart, forming right angles on each side of me. They slowly descend and reconnect waist-high. My feet are planted, a strong base, and my hands are open, inviting the outside in. Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community with nurturing parents and an outstanding education from Yeshivah of Flatbush gave me the strong identity I need. However, my identity is not complete until I open myself up to the world, both gaining and contributing to its diversity. This past summer, I attended a class at the University of Pennsylvania with students from all around the world. One particular friend with whom I bonded was Raqan, a boy from Jordan. His background and beliefs seemed to clash with my own, but as we shared a motivation to learn, we challenged each other in a way that allowed us to grow. I yearn to learn more about other people and their cultures while I share mine with them. My strong foundation will enable me do to so.

Carefully keeping my back-stance, I chop high to the left and high to the right. Then I face forward, knees slightly bent for balance, and fluidly reach my hand out in front of me. I think of the way I reached out when I founded my school’s Martial Arts Therapy commission. One of the greatest accomplishments I had while working for the commission was organizing an event where over 20 autistic children came to the school after hours. They worked with me and 30 student volunteers from the 75-member commission, alongside the Sensei. We helped the children through basic martial arts techniques that assist in pain management while also being recreational. In this way, I used my martial arts as a bridge to overcome the gap between these mentally challenged children and myself. Now, I bend my knees, forcefully blocking towards both sides. I proceed through various chops, kicks, and blocks, reflecting on life, perfectly content in this mental and physical state.

I explosively jump up from a front stance with my right foot and kick in the air with my left, landing in a double block. With my inner strength I yell out a mighty “KIYA” as I stand confidently in a sturdy stance. I flash back to my visit to an anti-terrorism center in Israel when the head instructor, Steve, randomly chose me to face off against the unit’s Krav Maga expert. When he said “go” I sprang into a fighting stance. To my surprise Steve yelled stop—this was a test. He explained that there are two options to assume a fighting stance; ninety-eight percent of the people in this situation step back showing fright. I had stepped up.

A drip of sweat hits the ground below me. As I return from this meditative state, I stand up straight with two fists by my sides, into my Yoi position. “Yoi,” Japanese for, I am ready.


Warm Up on the Mat!

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Despite the frigid temperature over the next couple days, BBJJ will open for regular classes at all schools. Warm up on the mat!