Would You Teach Gang Members MA?

Hawke

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Greetings All,

If you had the chance to teach kids in known gangs will you?

I have the opportunity to help a man teach MA to people in South Central Los Angeles. He used to be in a gang, but martial arts opened a new door way for him to get out of that life. He believes that MA can improve the quality of life and will eventually improve the neighborhood.

Raul Ries had a violent youth. But in the dojo he was very disciplined and had much respect for Grandmaster Jimmy Woo. Outside of the dojo he was a very angry kid. He became so violent that a judge gave him a choice between Vietnam or prison. After the war he saw Jimmy Woo to continue his training. Mr. Ries has grown much since then and is now a pastor of a growing church and is known as an experienced san soo fighter and teacher. Grandmaster Jimmy Woo must have seen something in him back when Raul Ries was 16 to teach a violent youth.

Michael Robert Pick also had a troubled childhood. Grandmaster Ed Parker taught him American Kenpo. Outside the studio he was a very angry boy and then became a very angry man. He also went to Vietnam. Coming back from the war some hippies threw stuff at him and calling him horrible names and he gave them some serious bruises. Mike went back to his training with Grandmaster Ed Parker. Over time Mr. Pick has been able to tame the beast within. Mr. Pick is known as an extremely excellent Kenpoist and teacher. He thanks Kenpo in helping his spiritual journey in life.

Mr. X (name intentionally hidden) studies various martial arts, Aikido being one of them. To this day he seems to have a lot of anger.

Going back to the original question....would you teach any kid involved in a gang? Maybe they will turn out like Pastor Raul Ries or Mike Pick. But what if they turn out like Mr. X?

I would want to help the community in South Central Los Angeles. My concern lies with teaching kids martial arts. Will they respect the art and be able to control their anger? I am also the only Asian in the group (haven't seen any Asians in that neighborhood). If things get crazy in that neighborhood we have sticks and knives, but the gangs in the area probably have guns. I agree with the instructor that MA can improve these kid's lives and open a whole new world for them.

Contemplating and Confused.
 

IcemanSK

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Greetings All,

If you had the chance to teach kids in known gangs will you?

I have the opportunity to help a man teach MA to people in South Central Los Angeles. He used to be in a gang, but martial arts opened a new door way for him to get out of that life. He believes that MA can improve the quality of life and will eventually improve the neighborhood.

Raul Ries had a violent youth. But in the dojo he was very disciplined and had much respect for Grandmaster Jimmy Woo. Outside of the dojo he was a very angry kid. He became so violent that a judge gave him a choice between Vietnam or prison. After the war he saw Jimmy Woo to continue his training. Mr. Ries has grown much since then and is now a pastor of a growing church and is known as an experienced san soo fighter and teacher. Grandmaster Jimmy Woo must have seen something in him back when Raul Ries was 16 to teach a violent youth.

Michael Robert Pick also had a troubled childhood. Grandmaster Ed Parker taught him American Kenpo. Outside the studio he was a very angry boy and then became a very angry man. He also went to Vietnam. Coming back from the war some hippies threw stuff at him and calling him horrible names and he gave them some serious bruises. Mike went back to his training with Grandmaster Ed Parker. Over time Mr. Pick has been able to tame the beast within. Mr. Pick is known as an extremely excellent Kenpoist and teacher. He thanks Kenpo in helping his spiritual journey in life.

Mr. X (name intentionally hidden) studies various martial arts, Aikido being one of them. To this day he seems to have a lot of anger.


Going back to the original question....would you teach any kid involved in a gang? Maybe they will turn out like Pastor Raul Ries or Mike Pick. But what if they turn out like Mr. X?

I would want to help the community in South Central Los Angeles. My concern lies with teaching kids martial arts. Will they respect the art and be able to control their anger?

Contemplating and Confused.

I would say it depends on a lot of factors. 1) Your level of patience. 2) The plan that you have to teach them. 3) The individuals themselves.

#'s 1 & 2 are closely linked. In #2 I don't mean a lesson plan but more how intentional are you with the discipline in the training hall? What is your reasoning for teaching this or that student? Personally, I'm not sure my teaching style matches that task.
 

tellner

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It also depends on what you plan to teach them. Military combatives? No way.
Kendo or Olympic TKD? No problem at all.
 

Andrew Green

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All depends on you, and your personality. If you talk down to them, or they even think you are, game over. If they think you are doing it out of pity, or to "smarten then up", you lost them.

Not all gang members are bad people, some just have no where else to go. Gangs provides a family, safety and a sense of belonging. If you want to work with people in that life, you need to see the good in the gang structure, not just the bad.

Be friendly, be open, don't judge, don't lecture and don't try to force any sort of artificial respect where it isn't wanted.
 

Last Fearner

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If you had the chance to teach kids in known gangs will you?

Contemplating and Confused.

Absolutely NOT!

While an instructor's intentions might be good, this is a dangerous path to pursue. This does not mean that I will not accept the individual as a "student," but my purpose would be to get them out of that life-style, and on a more productive path. Gangs might provide a sort of "family" and unity for acceptance, and protection among troubled youth, and those who live in dangerous neighborhoods, but I believe it is unwise to feed into that world knowledge that is designed to protect people from the misdeeds perpetrated by those in gangs.

I have dealt with gangs and youth from them for decades. I have no problem with reaching out to them, and giving them the tools to turn their life around, but it must be done in a no-nonsense, non-negotiating, teacher/student approach. Waiting around for half a life-time to see IF the kid gets the message and cleans up his act is a very dangerous game. I don't play games when it comes to teaching Taekwondo.

I will accept the individual as a student under certain requirements. They will not be taught anything more than basic self defense (necessary survival skills to protect themselves) until they quit all association with gang activities. They will not promote in rank, or learn advanced training until the meet every requirement I give them (eg: get in school/stay in school or work toward GED; keep grades improving and maintain good attendance with minimum GPA; No disrespect to parents/legal guardian, teachers or police; No criminal activity, no wearing gang colors, insignia, or flashing gang signs (I have street contacts who keep me informed who is up to what).

I applaud the efforts of an instructor who desires to make a difference in these kids lives, and help them get out of gangs, and off the streets through Martial Art education. However, it is an advanced skill of a teacher's credentials that should not be taken lightly, or attempted without guidance from a senior instructor (Master or Grandmaster) who has done this successfully for many years. Accepting students of questionable character for the purpose of helping them change is a noble thing to do. Maintaining and promoting students who remain in gangs can hurt your reputation as an Instructor in the community. Teaching known gang members how to fight without requiring their dis-association from gang life is foolish, and goes against what I believe is a necessary, unwritten code of conduct for Martial Art instructors.

In many organizations, there are unwritten codes that are just as valuable, and just as true to the core beliefs and purpose of those organizations. If ever there was an unwritten code for the Martial Art, it would be the responsibility of any instructor to pass on the knowledge accurately, completely, and with the philosophy that those who learn it will not misuse the knowledge, or teach it to others without proper training as an instructor, and not without following the same code. Any break-down in this unwritten code, is a break-down in the Martial Art.

This is my perspective, personal and professional opinion. God Bless those ethical Martial Artists who follow the code! In my opinion, they are the only true Martial Artists!

CM D.J. Eisenhart
 

MJS

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Greetings All,

If you had the chance to teach kids in known gangs will you?

I have the opportunity to help a man teach MA to people in South Central Los Angeles. He used to be in a gang, but martial arts opened a new door way for him to get out of that life. He believes that MA can improve the quality of life and will eventually improve the neighborhood.

Raul Ries had a violent youth. But in the dojo he was very disciplined and had much respect for Grandmaster Jimmy Woo. Outside of the dojo he was a very angry kid. He became so violent that a judge gave him a choice between Vietnam or prison. After the war he saw Jimmy Woo to continue his training. Mr. Ries has grown much since then and is now a pastor of a growing church and is known as an experienced san soo fighter and teacher. Grandmaster Jimmy Woo must have seen something in him back when Raul Ries was 16 to teach a violent youth.

Michael Robert Pick also had a troubled childhood. Grandmaster Ed Parker taught him American Kenpo. Outside the studio he was a very angry boy and then became a very angry man. He also went to Vietnam. Coming back from the war some hippies threw stuff at him and calling him horrible names and he gave them some serious bruises. Mike went back to his training with Grandmaster Ed Parker. Over time Mr. Pick has been able to tame the beast within. Mr. Pick is known as an extremely excellent Kenpoist and teacher. He thanks Kenpo in helping his spiritual journey in life.

Mr. X (name intentionally hidden) studies various martial arts, Aikido being one of them. To this day he seems to have a lot of anger.

Going back to the original question....would you teach any kid involved in a gang? Maybe they will turn out like Pastor Raul Ries or Mike Pick. But what if they turn out like Mr. X?

I would want to help the community in South Central Los Angeles. My concern lies with teaching kids martial arts. Will they respect the art and be able to control their anger? I am also the only Asian in the group (haven't seen any Asians in that neighborhood). If things get crazy in that neighborhood we have sticks and knives, but the gangs in the area probably have guns. I agree with the instructor that MA can improve these kid's lives and open a whole new world for them.

Contemplating and Confused.

Yes, gangs do give kids that 'family' feel, often because its lacking in their own household. If they had sincere intentions of giving up that lifestyle, I think that the Martial Arts could give them that 'family feel' as well. However, if they're going to still be an active part of the gang, use what they're being taught for illegal activity, then absolutely not! I think it is possible. Chuck Norris has a program that he runs and it seems pretty successful.
 

kidswarrior

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All depends on you, and your personality. If you talk down to them, or they even think you are, game over. If they think you are doing it out of pity, or to "smarten then up", you lost them.

Not all gang members are bad people, some just have no where else to go. Gangs provides a family, safety and a sense of belonging. If you want to work with people in that life, you need to see the good in the gang structure, not just the bad.

Be friendly, be open, don't judge, don't lecture and don't try to force any sort of artificial respect where it isn't wanted.

I'm going to start with Andrew's post, because it basically says what I believe.

I should also say up front, I've taught gang members in public school, in a county program--because they must by law be given an education, but no district will touch them; so, we're the end of the line. And I've learned that gang 'members' are very different from 'gangs'. This is because, and I believe it was Vigil (Barrio Gangs) who first opened my eyes to this fact, there are three concentric circles of increasing gang involvement: the wannabe (often younger, and looking to be cool); the pal-around, often just living in the same neighborhood, and so for him or her, ignoring the gang's wishes can be a death sentence, or at least a daily beating (very often why people join a gang); the hard-core minority, the guys who will maim, kill, and who have little compunction in spending life behind bars--because 'that's where the homies are', and who are often your garden variety sociopaths. These are the ones the media often play up--fear and outrage makes for great ratings.

Now, would I teach a hard-core gangster martial arts? Hah! No way. But they're too cool to step foot in my class, anyway. Their thinking is 'That karate stuff doesn't work' (chances are, they're just going to use a weapon, anyway). Would I teach a Pal-around? Absolutely. Would, have, and am now, and as a result have seen lives transformed. Yeah, sounds all mushy and touchy-feely, but it's my experience and I'd be remiss in not stating it. These are kids we can 'steal away' from the hard-core, prison-as-career-choice group who just wants to use them, anyway (the hard-core will drop the evidence into a pal-around's bag to set him up for the fall--this is how many get 'caught'). Would I teach the little men, the hangers-on, the wannabes? Of course. They haven't yet decided on their future path. I can very possibly guide them into making choices that will help them and society through teaching them martial arts in their critical years of development. Again, have seen this happen over and over.

So I guess for me, it's not an always/never question--or answer. But how often is life ever black and white? :asian:
 

Grenadier

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Gangs as a whole? No. I wouldn't want my dojo being thought of as "Gang X's Hideout," true or not, unless all of the gang decided to repent and give up their ways (not likely). The last thing I want is some other "Gang Y's Hideout" dojo sending over their challengers ala John Keehan (Count Dante).

Individuals? Quite possibly. The prospective student would be treated as any other student, and must adhere to a code of conduct. Such a student would also be honestly trying to leave gang life behind him. If he's honestly trying to better his life, then I will be more than happy to help, and even cut him some slack, if he stumbles.

However, if all I get is a thug who simply wants to learn how to beat up people, I'll tell him to look elsewhere.

Some folks do deserve an honest chance at redemption, and if they give it a good try, then they should be supported.

I will tell you, though, that such folks are going to be in the minority (amongst other gang members). However, if they can be helped, maybe others can see the example that they set, and perhaps other members seeing "one of their own" making his life better, can be more effective than any number of demonstrations / exhibitions that we put on.
 

Makalakumu

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No.

Gangs are not psuedofamilies for these kids, they are criminal organizations. They regularly assault people, rob the neighborhoods of their youth, and act as distribution centers for all sorts of illegal drugs. Being a gang member is not about being a troubled or angry youth, its about engaging in criminal activity in your neighborhood.

IMHO, even teaching someone who is on the periphery of involvement in gangs is very dangerous. I wouldn't do it unless I had a relationship with the kid that I felt was powerful enough to draw him or her out of involvement with that sort of element.

For the past six years, at my previous job, I've had the opportunity to work really closely with lots and lots of tried and true gang members. We mostly have the Chicago gangs in my area. Folk and People nations. My dojang is downtown, right in the middle of GD land and I am not keen on having it turned into a recruitment center.

My advice is to be very selective in who you teach in your neighborhood. Try and get people while they are young, before they are totally immersed in the criminal mindset. And if you ever see a student "represent" in any way, KICK THEM OUT! They are doing it to advertise to others, to show that their affiliation is cool.

All of this means that you are going to have to learn as much as you can about the gangs in your area. Try finding some stuff on the internet. It exists, but also go right to the police for the straight skinny on what is happening. They'll be more then happy to share that information because they want people to know what these organizations are REALLY about.

Here's a partial list of some California Street Gangs. We have some of these up in my neck of the woods. They are involved in running meth up from mexico to get little kids hooked.

****ing bastards.
 

Andrew Green

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Yes, gangs do give kids that 'family' feel, often because its lacking in their own household. If they had sincere intentions of giving up that lifestyle, I think that the Martial Arts could give them that 'family feel' as well. However, if they're going to still be an active part of the gang, use what they're being taught for illegal activity, then absolutely not! I think it is possible. Chuck Norris has a program that he runs and it seems pretty successful.


That's it right there. They are there because people need to belong to something, and to feel safe. Gangs provide that.

The more people push them away and reject them because they are in a gang, the more they will feel that need can't be filled by anything but the gang, and the more they will take a us vs them attitude to anyone no in the gang.

Treat people with respect, be open, just watch your back. Give people another choice and they might take it, refuse them other choices becasue of the one they made to survive and they are stuck forever.
 

terryl965

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Active gand members no way, but a individual that has been taken out of the gand enviroment and is trying to get themself together maybe. It would depend on the talk and how it went if I would or not.
 

IcemanSK

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I watched a news report with a police officer friend a few weeks ago. It was about gang members who went into the military, served in Iraq/Afganistan & were coming home & teaching their buddies how to shoot better. My friend has been an LA County Sheriff for many years. He said he knew this would happen & be a problem. If a person has a mindset not to change, they won't. Even the military won't change that.
 

Mark L

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Active gang members,no way. Would you give them a knife, club, or gun? Teaching them martial arts is no different than providing any other form of weapon, though it might take a bit longer to learn to use.
 

Makalakumu

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That's it right there. They are there because people need to belong to something, and to feel safe. Gangs provide that.

Andrew - this is actually a minor reason people join gangs. Even in the worst neighborhoods, there are lots of opportunities to connect with other people and form positive relationships. The schools and churches have great programs that can offer kids an alternative to gang life. An alternative that can keep them safe and give them the familial relationships they may be lacking.

The unfortunate reality is that kids are joining gangs because its cool to be a criminal. These organizations make no attempt to hide what they are really about. They sell drugs, they rob steal and murder, and they fight with other gangs over who gets the rights to do that in a particular part of town. Kids who join gangs think that stuff is cool! And you do not want kids like that in your dojang.

Theres no reason to be sympathetic to the criminal mindset here. The kids who join gangs think its cool to be a thug, they want to ride that power trip, and they don't care who gets hurt. We need to stop making excuses for these kids and hold them accountable for their actions.

They chose to be bad, so they don't get to walk through the door of my dojang. Plain and simple.
 

zDom

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Active member? Hell no.

Someone who has turned their back on gangs is looking for a new, improved family and way of life? Absolutely.

The ability to tell the difference between the two? Priceless.
 

Kacey

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Gangs as a whole? No. I wouldn't want my dojo being thought of as "Gang X's Hideout," true or not, unless all of the gang decided to repent and give up their ways (not likely). The last thing I want is some other "Gang Y's Hideout" dojo sending over their challengers ala John Keehan (Count Dante).

Individuals? Quite possibly. The prospective student would be treated as any other student, and must adhere to a code of conduct. Such a student would also be honestly trying to leave gang life behind him. If he's honestly trying to better his life, then I will be more than happy to help, and even cut him some slack, if he stumbles.

However, if all I get is a thug who simply wants to learn how to beat up people, I'll tell him to look elsewhere.

Some folks do deserve an honest chance at redemption, and if they give it a good try, then they should be supported.

I will tell you, though, that such folks are going to be in the minority (amongst other gang members). However, if they can be helped, maybe others can see the example that they set, and perhaps other members seeing "one of their own" making his life better, can be more effective than any number of demonstrations / exhibitions that we put on.

Grenadier covered most of what I was going to say, although several others also addressed points of my opinion. There is no way to give a simple, absolute answer to this question. Would I go out of my way to look for a gang to teach TKD to, in the hopes it would change their ways? No. Would I teach individual members? It depends on their circumstances. I've had students with a wide range of backgrounds and issues, and I've never turned one down - but neither have I had a gang member come to my class, openly identify him/herself as such, and ask to be admitted. I would have to take such things on a case-by-case basis.
 

kidswarrior

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Andrew - this is actually a minor reason people join gangs. Even in the worst neighborhoods, there are lots of opportunities to connect with other people and form positive relationships. The schools and churches have great programs that can offer kids an alternative to gang life. An alternative that can keep them safe and give them the familial relationships they may be lacking.
I have to respectfully disagree. Some churches may have programs, but there may be strings attached that are unpalatable to the kids or their families (may be a different religion, and have strong beliefs). Or, there may just not be any church programs in some neighborhoods. Gangs can change from block to block. As for schools, having worked in schools embedded in gang territory for 18 years, I must say that the programs are very sparse, and not very effective. Lots of talking at kids, not much real help.

The unfortunate reality is that kids are joining gangs because its cool to be a criminal... Kids who join gangs think that stuff is cool! And you do not want kids like that in your dojang.
Theres no reason to be sympathetic to the criminal mindset here. The kids who join gangs think its cool to be a thug, they want to ride that power trip, and they don't care who gets hurt. We need to stop making excuses for these kids and hold them accountable for their actions.
This is true of some, but definitely not all. Just have to use your best judgment. I would say, if a MA instructor is unsure, then by all means take a pass.

They chose to be bad, so they don't get to walk through the door of my dojang. Plain and simple.
As I said, I respect your decision. But can't agree with some of the sweeping generalizations made of all kids affiliated with gangs.
 

Andrew Green

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Andrew - this is actually a minor reason people join gangs. Even in the worst neighborhoods, there are lots of opportunities to connect with other people and form positive relationships. The schools and churches have great programs that can offer kids an alternative to gang life. An alternative that can keep them safe and give them the familial relationships they may be lacking.

Church programs as an example, are not a option for all. Not everyone is religious, and often people in bad places have had bad experiences with churches.

Consider Native Americans that went through residential schools, there could be some serious distrust for the church there.

It is also not a "independent" environment. They become dependent on a system, a system that is often, in there eyes at least, responsible for there situation.

Sorry, but just because someone sets up a group doesn't make it a "real" alternative. The wrong strings being attached, or even the wrong face in the background can very easily make those "options" into non-options.

So yes, they "could" perhaps go to the soup kitchen and hope some smiling volunteer has food for them that day, or they could join a gang, made up of there peers, not a bunch of middle class white folk helping the poor one day a week to feel good about themselves. The gang will provide real community, protection, support and belonging. It is run by people like them and sticks its finger up at the folks they feel put them in the gutter in the first place.

Things are not that black and white to be able to say people choose gangs only because they are criminal. To me that sounds like saying the Americans wouldn't have kicked the British out if the British had built some community centers. Or the French revolution wouldn't have happened if the aristocrats had put up a few baseball diamonds.

The difference is scale and perspective. People that join gangs feel society has turned them away, and they have no place else to go. Many of those programs put in will seem more like insults then alternatives.

Are they right? I don't think so, but I'm not from that background.

A lot of gangs also tend to get there starts in prisons. It is a matter of protection, "We're all similar in X way, so we protect each other rather then standing individually" No church program is going to fill that need.
 
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