Coming in at about 4-feet tall, there’s a new group at the A.D. Lewis Community Center called the Bully-Proof Squad.
The Huntington non-profit, Forward Roll, has started teaching martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu to some of the underprivileged kids who go to the community center.
“With kids in low-income housing, they face a lot of bullying, but they also face a lot of temptation to get into bad stuff,” said Kyle Vass, founder and director of Forward Roll. “This gives them something positive to do.”
“I used to box, but I quit, because I didn’t have a ride to get up there,” said Adrian Mobeley, 10, who participates in the class. “Now, I can just walk over here and there’s boxing gloves right there.”
The program aims to be bigger than just a hobby, though. The goal is to teach kids non-violent conflict resolution skills, situational awareness, and self-confidence through self-defense.
“It teaches me how to fight back, if a bully ever wanted to bully me and also not to bully,” said Taylor Noel, 11, a participant.
While it is self-defense, jiu-jitsu is non-violent and can turn the children’s energy into something constructive.
“They already like the idea of fighting, or they see fighting as this cool, interesting thing, but if you can work that into something positive, then I think that’s super important,” said Vass. “It gives them something positive to do, it helps take care of their physical fitness and it also gives them confidence.”
Forward Roll also offers a program called Position Before Submission, which teaches jiu-jitsu to people battling addiction. It aims to give them a hobby, purpose, and way to take control of their life.
The organization is also in the process of working with Marshall University to create a program for veterans and first responders. It will be called Operation Rally-Up and will offer jiu-jitsu as a form of stress-relief and recreational therapy.