‘I keep training. If I stop, it’s like an old car — you put in the garage and forget about it; when you try to start it, it won’t.’
“I grew up in a situation that was kind of abusive. And now something that I’m passionate about is making sure other kids don’t have to go through that, and that women and men don’t stay in unhealthy relationships.
“I was also bullied as a kid, and I’m very passionate about helping stop that. Now with everything going on in the world today, social media has it made it easy to broadcast hurtful things. I’m working on with Sachem North High School right now on an anti-bullying program. We’ll do a free seminar there. We also need to talk to the bullies, to help change their way of thought and understanding why they do this. I take pride in making sure we correct some of those things so they don’t happen to anyone else.
“I’m 63 and I just retired from 20 years as an engineer. I own Lockdown Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and still compete full time. I love it. I keep training. If I stop, it’s like an old car — you put in the garage and forget about it; when you try to start it, it won’t.
I’ve learned that I need to trust that I’m good enough. It’s me who is holding myself back from doing my best.
“Brazilian jujitsu, I think, is huge on working with you to control anxiety. It’s called the gentle art. It’s the basis for the UFC, and it’s made for the smaller opponent to beat the bigger opponent. But aside from all that, it teaches you about yourself and what you can accomplish when pushed. If I can take the pressure of a 300-pound person on top of me and trying to choke me out, I can deal with anything life can throw at me.
“These kids aren’t learning the fight to get into fights. They’re learning the fight to walk away from a fight. They’re learning to defend themselves that way. If anything, God forbid it ever happens to them, they can defend themselves and get away from the situation and go to people that can help de-escalate the situation.
“Right now, we’re working with the Suffolk County PD on our seminar around domestic violence. The moves in that seminar will all be around self-defense and protecting yourself in that kind of a situation.
“I want the kids who come here to all to be teammates, to take care of each other and, when they’re in school, to look out for each other. It’s important they learn to stick up for one another. We’re a family here, and I treat it like we’re a real family.”
Interviewed by Maggie Melito