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Neighborhood News: East Side Jiu Jitsu

Two years ago, at the height of the pandemic we nearly lost one of our key community programs: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We had been using jiu jitsu as means of teaching responsible, effective self-defense, building confidence and teamwork skills, and improving kids' physical health starting in January of 2009. It has been a staple program wherever we have gone. Our students just in East St. Louis heave won over 40 medals across 10 states. We have trained hundreds of kids here. Some of those kids then traveled the world helping organize tournaments and teaching seminars to thousands of people across 15 countries. It was difficult especially as the pandemic continued, we watched our kids struggling with obesity and depression in their time of isolation.

We found a solution though as we always do. In April, a very small group our agricultural and entrepreneurial students, about 5 total planted 40 trees to add to their urban farm. They were spaced fifteen feet apart, forming eight rows. Each row became a lane for them to practice wrestling and movement drills. As long as it was light out and not too cold, our kids could at least work on some of their skills while staying in shape. They did sprints, rolls, shots, sprawls, handsprings, cartwheels, and siblings would pair with siblings to drill technique while staying far from the others. We still made it work while keeping kids and their families safe. Two years later, we finally have our own space for not only the kids to train, but also to have separate class for their parents! I personally grew up doing tae kwon do with my dad, and I know how impactful it was for our relationship. Now we can offer classes that do the same for our families here in East St. Louis. It also opens up a space for people from outside of the community to come train alongside them with their monthly fees funding our other programs in the city. This helps rebuild broken bridges between our communities as people from the outside see that there is business worth spending their dollars on here in the city. In addition, they are training side by side with our families, dispelling the myths and negative stereotypes that all people in East St. Louis are violent. We hope that this program, like all of the others, will continue to improve the image of our community.

After two years, those trees they planted in April of 2020 are taller. They are bearing more fruit. The same goes for our kids. They are growing and bearing fruit of their own inside and outside of the city, planting seeds and cultivating a culture of excellence and compassion. Sometimes you have to plant in the worst circumstances, but by faith miraculous abundance awaits in the harvest. We are excited to return to building champions on the mats and in life! If you want to come train with us, classes are Monday and Friday, 6-7 pm for kids, 7-8 pm for adults. We are located at 4700 State St., East St. Louis, IL. Kids classes start at age 8. Classes a FREE for East St. Louis residents. Non-residents pay $50 a month per person for one night a week and $75 a month for two nights a week. 100% of the money goes towards funding our programs here in the city.

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