Monthly Archives

October 2013

Syosset Martial Arts Instructor Instills Discipline of Karate in Generation of Students

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Discipline Key To Teaching For Syosset Instructor

by: Sensei Thad Campbell

Teach someone to how to succeed at one thing and you teach them to succeed at anything! That’s the driving force behind Mixed Martial Arts Instructor Nick Gravina’s teaching philosophy. First and foremost he teaches his students the foundation of success. Secondary to that is the individual techniques of Self-Defense.

So what is the foundation of success. It’s a formula Gravina first learned himself as a student at Tiger Schulmann’s Karate in the 1980’s. While the techniques Gravina is teaching have improved over the last 30 years, the formula is still the same!

Syosset MMA Instructor Draws Discipline From Karate Upbringing

Karate Taught Him Self-Discipline

For Gravina, his start in traditional Kyokushin Karate taught him more than Self-Defense. It was the theme of focus, perseverance and a positive attitude he heard in every class that resonated. It resonated so much that he quickly found himself on the path to teaching himself.

He has been Head Instructor of Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts in Syosset for more than 20 years. During that time his incredible passion has been passed on to thousands of young students who have learned his secret to success. By showing them how focus and a “non-quitting spirit” lead to success at anything he has inspired a generation of local kids to push themselves to be great at everything they do.

His enthusiasm and skill at his chosen profession are so great that he has inspired more than a dozen of his students to go on to successfully teach Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts themselves.

Belt System Passed Down From Karate

In traditional Karate students had very defined goals to achieve a promotion to their next level. As schools have cropped up throughout the United States students are routinely passed to a new belt simply for showing up for class a number of times.

Sensei Gravina has never lost track of the importance of Achievement in building a students confidence. If he simply allows a student to proceed to a new belt without achieving something of value the belt has no meaning and instead of building a students confidence, can take confidence away!

Traditional Karate Belt System Gives Students Defined Goals

Gravina interacts closely with each student to make sure they have clearly defined goals in each and every class. His rules do not vary and it makes for a sense of comfort for his students. At the same time those goals are challenging enough to push a student to their limits. By helping his students achieve things they might have thought impossible, he teaches that Self-Discipline will help them achieve anything.

Transition to MMA Doesn’t Leave Karate Spirit Behind

Over the last twenty years Gravina has not lost his own passion for training in the Martial Arts. Routinely traveling to Elmwood Park, New Jersey to train with the 70 other instructors throughout the Tiger Schulmann’s organization, Gravina has sharpened his own skills.

His constant training has helped him better serve his own students. By constantly improving his own technique and learning the most effective techniques of a Mixed Martial Art, Gravina is able to prepare his students more quickly to face any real world Self-Defense situation.

TSMMA Syosset Creates Family Atmosphere

His training partners include some of the most successful Martial Artists in the world. He frequently trains with former World Champion Lyman Good and current and former UFC competitors like Louis Gaudinot and Nick Pace.

While honing his own skill at Mixed Martial Arts to a high level and passing it on to his students, Sensei Gravina has not left behind the roots of his Karate training. The Personal Values and Self-Discipline of Karate will always be at the heart of his teaching.

His mastery of this process is what has made him a staple of Martial Arts in Long Island for two decades and what keeps students coming back to his school for years!


7 Year old TSMMA Paramus Student Serves as Inspiration to his Peers & Family

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By:TSMMA Paramus

A Martial Arts Mom’s Story of Success

I first brought my son, Sal, in to Tiger Schulmann’s so he would learn self defense and have more confidence. Never did I imagine that the discipline and self defense training that he would achieve from martial arts would become such an integral part of his life!

Sal began training with Tiger Schulmann’s when he was 3 years old, and he is proud to be what his instructor calls a “lifetime student”. He has now been training for over 4 years and shows no signs of stopping! Sal kick-boxes, grapples, and has competed in 3 tournaments so far in his young martial arts life! Although he prefers grappling, he is an avid kickboxer and fought for 3rd place in both divisions at the last Tiger Schulmann’s biannual tournament. He did a great job and made us all so proud — then, afterwards he was able to snap a proud photo of himself with tournament attendees Masters Tiger Schulmann and Ron Schulmann! Now a yellow belt, he has gotten better and better with each class, and is currently training for his fourth tournament in December.



Self Defense

Since Kindergarten, he was being bullied by the same boy in his grade. We have tried many avenues to come to a resolution

Sal just started second grade in September, and only a few weeks into the school year he had an incident on the playground where he had to defend himself. Since Kindergarten, he was being bullied by the same boy in his grade. We have tried many avenues to come to a resolution – I spoke to his teachers, his principal, even met with the boy’s mother – all to no avail. While at the playground during recess this afternoon, Sal once again found himself face to face with the bully — but this time, he ended things differently. After years of torment from this kid who had bullied and embarrassed him time and again, Sal felt the need to finally defend himself in order to end the bullying once and for all, and knew that now was the time to do it. And, he did! Now, I am no advocate of violence – but I am no advocate of bullying. either. We have become very well educated in the past few years from the instructors at Tiger Schulmann’s about bullying — how to recognize the different kinds, how to properly handle them, which actions will call for which consequences, etc. So although I was concerned Sal would be expelled from school for physically defending himself, I realize the importance of him standing up for himself, and I stand behind my son’s actions. I am so proud of him for putting an end to this bullying, and Joshu was as proud as a teacher can be. Standing up for himself only took a moment but will positively impact the rest of Sal’s life.

We have become very well educated in the past few years from the instructors at Tiger Schulmann’s about bullying. I realize the importance of him standing up for himself, Standing up for himself only took a moment but will positively impact the rest of Sal’s life.


Confidence: Not Just on the Mat!

Sal not only excels in his self defense training, but he shines both in school and at home.

Sal not only excels in his self defense training, but he shines both in school and at home. He gets good grades, stands up for other students when he’s witnessed any kind of unfairness, and earned Student of the Month last school year for helping others with their class work and cleaning up their stations! He serves his local church and plays baseball, although he made the executive decision to train for the Tiger Schulmanns’ Challenge of Champions tournament this December instead of joining this season’s traveling baseball team. His coach, who happens to be a local police officer, commented to me on how admirable Sal’s discipline is. He is impressed by the perseverance and listening skills you so rarely see in a 7-year old, and which help lead the team to success. Sal is truly a leader, and his energy is contagious among his peers. The discipline and self- confidence that he has taken from his training at Tiger Schulmann’s has helped him in every area of his life, and I am so proud of him.

Sal is truly a leader, and his energy is contagious among his peers. The discipline and self- confidence that he has taken from his training at Tiger Schulmann’s has helped him in every area of his life, and I am so proud of him.


After my divorce, I learned that his father would be relocating to a distance of over 3,000 miles. I wanted a strong, positive and disciplined male influence for Sal. Sal’s relationship with his instructor, Joshu Murray, is one I never imagined possible. Sal has so much fun in Joshu’s class while maintaining the highest level of respect for him. Sal fears disappointing Joshu, which helps keep Sal on the right path. He truly feels how much Joshu cares for him and as a result wants him to always be proud of his choices. There was a time in the past when Sal had reached a plateau in his training and felt like he wanted to quit. I told him if that’s how he felt, this was a conversation he would need to have with Joshu. In fear of having that conversation (which surely would have ended with Sal increasing his training!), Sal decided to stick it out. Boy, is he glad he did! Now his non-quitting spirit has helped him reach a higher level of training and competing. Both he and I are so glad he didn’t quit – his hard work is paying off, on and off the mat!


A Family Who Trains Together Stays Together…

On Mother’s Day of this year, Sal encouraged me to try a class and become part of the Tiger Schulmann’s family. I gave it a shot and became hooked on training right away! In less than a year of training, I have not only lost weight, but I have more energy to keep up with my son, I feel healthier than ever before and am sleeping better than I have in years. And, I am already approaching the Intermediate kickboxing class! Sal chooses to stay during most of my classes to “support” me as I support him during his. He even sits and completes his school work in the lobby of Tiger Schulmann’s some nights while I take my one-hour class. This is the one thing he and I can do together and it is has brought us even closer as a family. Plus, I have the ability to lead by healthy example and it feels wonderful to do so.

I gave it a shot and became hooked on training right away! In less than a year of training, I have not only lost weight, but I have more energy to keep up with my son


Finally, the training and support we receive from Joshu and our Tiger Schulmann’s family is like no other. My fellow students and I are there for each other – in and out of training – and I know they would also be there for Sal in the same way. In my classmates I know I have a whole team of support behind me. To me, this supportive family network is priceless and will keep us as loyal students ‘til the end!

Abington MMA Instructor Instills Self-Discipline He Learned From Martial Arts

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Joining Karate Changed His Life

At the age of 13 a young kids life can go in many directions. For Abington TSMMA Instructor James Garzillo that direction was going the wrong way until he joined Tiger Schulmann’s. At the time Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts was actually Tiger Schlumann’s Karate, still teaching the Kyokushin Karate that Shihan Tiger Schulmann learned as a young boy.

Garzillo walked into the school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with his brother Andy and his life slowly began to turn in a new direction.

At the time Garzillo joined the school he was actually not attending regular school. His parents had pulled him out of public school in the fourth grade after a number of moves the family made to follow his fathers work. Registering him for new schools had simply become overwhelming and his mom began to home school him. It slowly turned into a young boy who had for all intents and purposes dropped out.

Sensei Garzillo Instills Karate Discipline in His Students

Sensei Garzillo Instills Karate Discipline in His Students

Things changed when at thirteen he began filling his free time with Martial Arts. A prodigy from the time he entered the Tiger Schulmann’s in Bethlehem, the future Sensei excelled at all areas. Showing championship caliber form in the “Kata” that traditional karate was known for, it was actually the other areas of Tiger Schulmann’s, sparring and the newly introduced grappling that truly sparked Garzillo’s interest.

Self-Disicpline of Karate Leads to Graduation

More importantly than the techniques he was learning in class, were the lessons he was learning from his Sensei, Robert Villafane. Villafane’s constant message of improving your life through hard work and perseverance made Garzillo begin to take stock of his life.

At fifteen he began studying diligently for his GED. At sixteen he took the test. After completing the exam, Garzillo waited for his test to be graded. Among a group of more than a dozen testers, the administrator singled out Garzillo to speak with him afterwards. He had scored a perfect 100% on his test, something the administrator had never before seen on a GED.

He left Garzillo with the message that he should make something of his life and that’s exactly what he has done.

He began assisting his Sensei at TSMMA Bethlehem at the age of 15 and moved to a full time position at TSMMA Allentown shortly after his GED.

His Self-Discipline in Martial Arts soon led him to stand out among his fellow students and he was invited to take his training to the next level. He started travelling to Paramus, New Jersey three or four days a week to train directly under Shihan Tiger Schulmann.

Just as in his own school, Garzillo stood out. Shihan (Japanese for Master) began booking kickboxing matches for Garzillo where he again excelled.

After three years of training with the TSMMA fight team, Garzillo received the highest praise from Tiger Schulmann. He was invited to become the Head Instructor of TSMMA Abington at the tender age of 22.

Tiger Schulmann's Abington a Bright Light in the Community

Tiger Schulmann’s Abington a Bright Light in the Community

Life Change For Abington Martial Arts Instructor

Garzillo immediately took over the school and used his Self-Discipline to turn it into one of the most successful of the nearly 50 Tiger Schulmann locations. In fact it’s one of the most successful Martial Arts Schools in the whole country.

He teaches every class with the same focus and positive attitude he asks of his students and his constant presence is reassuring to both young and old as they attempt to achieve their own goals.

Now ten years into his tenure as Head Instructor of TSMMA Abington, Garzillo has helped over a thousand students reach their own goals while continuing to pursue his own.

Abington Instructor Rode Discipline to Multiple Championships

Abington Instructor Rode Discipline to Multiple Championships

His competitive career has been marked by multiple kickboxing championships as well as a Mixed Martial Arts title. He is currently a professional MMA competitor, on sabbatical since the birth of his daughter. His skills in competition are translated into his students among whom he has also taught multiple champions in all aspects of Mixed Martial Arts.

Garzillo’s leadership is unparallelled in the local Martial Arts scene. The importance of Self-Discipline in his own life has led him to be uniquely qualified to help impart it in his students!


by: Sensei Thad Campbell

Team Tiger Schulmann Pulls Together to Accomplish Tough Mudder Challenge

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Team Tiger Schulmann Accomplishes Mud Obstacle Run.

By: TSMMA Wayne

Sunday October 13, students, instructors and family members got together and ran a 10.5 mile obstacle course in the mud! About 60 people registered for this 4-5 hour journey through slippery muddy trails, barbed wire laden mud trenches, huge muddy hills, underground tunnels, 12 foot walls, a 20 foot high platform above a cold pool of water, a dumpster full of ice water, a fifteen foot high quarter pipe, and to top it all off, a 50 foot sprint through dangling electric wires that provided more than a gentle shock.

About three months ago, the instructor of the Wayne Tiger Schulmann’s School, realizing his usual 5k fund raising race in town was no longer being held starting looking for an alternative. Something challenging, requiring fitness and accessible to fellow students. The internet, as it so often does, provided the answer. Tough Mudder.

Word spread and students started training even harder in their regular classes, not to mention putting in extra work trying to bring their fitness to all new level; running, strength training, plyometrics and kettlebells. People got into great shape and last weekend had the chance to prove it. Not only did the whole crew have a great time and face challenges they never thought they would overcome, but the extra time training in class and preparations got everyone fit and into amazing shape!

The huge crew split up into about 4 smaller groups and everyone pushed, pulled, lifted, swam and even carried each other through all the challenging obstacles.

Camaraderie is the theme for this event, not to mention fitness and not only did the Tiger Schulmann’s family stick together, but I’m sure they got a little closer! Looking forward to next year’s event!

Tiger Schulmann's Martial Arts | Woman Declared as Winner


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New Jersey’s Munah “The Perfect Storm” Holland will fight Nina “The Strina” Ansaroff when Invicta Fighting Championships returns to the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City on Dec. 7.

The hard-punching Holland, 38, fights for Team Tiger Schulmann and signed with Invicta after Bellator dropped women’s MMA earlier this year. The North Plainfield resident lost her last fight, a decision to Michelle Ould on Sept. 28. That loss snapped a four-fight win streak, which included three KO/TKOs. Holland’s first four fights were with the New Jersey-based Ring of Combat fight promotion.

Ansaroff (5-3) fights out of Florida and is on a four-fight win streak. This fight will also mark her debut under the Invicta FC banner.

Tiger Schulmann's Martial Arts | 1375233_549777708434388_1177308063_n

Althouse Fight Night Muay Thai Results – 10/12/13

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10/12/13 – Hamburg PA

Eric Rodriquez (TSMMA Manhattan) Vs Sean Keys (Jack’s Gym)
110lbs Leg kick match

Keys wins via spilt decision

Brandon Cuttino (TSMMA Abington) (Abington) Vs. Eric Spring (Washington Martial Arts) 160lbs. Thai

Spring wins via decision

Will Brown (TSMMA Cherry Hill) Vs. Johnny Morgan (High Voltage Gym)
155lbs Leg Kick

Morgan wins via unanimous decision

Matt Rutherford (TSMMA Old Bridge) Vs. Seth W. (Althouse Karate and Kickboxing)
160lbs Leg Kick

Rutherford wins via unanimous decision

Brihaim Felipe (TSMMA Allentown) Vs. C.J Althouse (Greg Mancuso Gym)
135lbs Leg Kick.

Althouse wins via unanimous decision

Erin Blanchfield (TSMMA Elmwood Park) vs Madison Huie – 130lb Leg Kick

Blanchfield wins via unanimous decision

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Old Bridge TSMMA Gets Their Wheels in Motion to Support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

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On Saturday, October 5th, Joshu Rutherford and his students from Old Bridge TSMMA joined together to form a team named “Soldiers for CF” and rode 30 miles to raise money to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF). The annual bike event, Aptalis Cycle for Life, began in Long Branch and spanned over three counties in NJ.

“Soldiers for CF” raised over $1200 to help the CFF achieve their mission—curing and controlling cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide).

Since 1955, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has been the driving force behind the pursuit of a cure.

Feasterville Instructor Personifies Self-Discipline of Traditional Karate

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Self-Discipline Leads To Feasterville Instructor’s Success

By: Thad Campbell TSMMA Feasterville

For Joshu Craig Alexander the talks he gives to his young students at Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts in Feasterville come from the heart. That’s because Martial Arts has truly been life changing for him.

The title Joshu is bestowed by Tiger Schulmann on those members of the organization he feels capable of instructing other students. It is a coveted title going back to the traditional Karate roots of Shihan (Japanese for Master) Tiger Schulmann. There are less than 200 people who carry the title, in an organization with close to 10,000 students.

Feasterville Instructor Uses Traditional Karate Values in Teaching MMA to Kids!

Alexander earned the title by spending six days a week for three years assisting his instructor, Sensei Thad Campbell, at Tiger Schulmann’s in Feasterville. He would be on the mat for four hours of classes for kids and children helping his instructor teach the importance of traditional values and Self-Discipline they had learned from the early days when Tiger Schulmann’s was still teaching Karate.

Structure Leads to Change

For Alexander his days helping at the MMA School would start at four o’clock, fresh out of Conwell-Egan High School. They would end shortly after ten o’clock with him dripping sweat from his own two hours of training. By the time he graduated High School and became a full time instructor the Discipline of a traditional Karate student was part of who he was.

His Self-Discipline in class stood out. Training for two hours six days a week is hard enough, but to be the hardest working student in each and every class makes it even more incredible.

His incredible hard worked turned him into one of the most successful competitors in all of Tiger Schulmann’s. He boasts championships in all competitive aspects of our discipline; Grappling, Kickboxing and MMA.

Self-Discipline Leads to Championship Belt for Feasterville Instructor

More importantly it has turned him in to a phenomenal instructor. Students from the age of three to 70 come to train with him every single day and are motivated by his classes as well as his journey. While he teaches them the styles of kickboxing and submission grappling, he imparts the values that have existed in Karate for 500 years.

Setting Correct Example

Alexanders own competitive career is a great example for his students. For his adult students looking to get in shape or lose weight, Joshu’s fight career serves as a testament to the hard work and Self-Discipline required to succeed.

When he competes, Alexander must make a specific weight, yet still have the strength and endurance to perform at a very high level. This takes a combination of nutrition and training that has become a lifestyle for him.

Thus when he asks his adult students at TSMMA Feasterville to make healthy changes to their workout and nutritional routines, they know he is not selling a bill of goods! He has done it himself for years.

Joshu Celebrates Victory With TSMMA Feasterville Students!

Likewise, when he asks his younger Feasterville students to focus for 3 or 4 hours during their weekly lessons, they know he is doing the same during the 12 to 15 hours a week he is training himself. When he asks them to be tough and train even on the days they aren’t feeling their best, they know he has the same Self-Discipline to do it.

At 25 years old, Joshu Alexander has a very promising career in front of him. He will make his professional Mixed Martial Arts debut this winter and at the same time is a full time instructor at Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts in Feasterville. He attributes his success to the Self-Discipline passed down from his instructor, who in turn learned it under Tiger Schulmann, himself a student of Kyokushin Karate since the age of 8!

Could Have Been Different

Alexander is extremely thankful his life has gone in the direction it has. Many of the kids he grew up with are struggling to find their way at 25. Some have fallen victim to drugs and alcohol while a few never made it to their 25th birthday. The negative influences that existed in his hometown of Croydon are a constant reminder that his journey into Martial Arts has been a life changer.

Joshu teaches lessons passed down for 500 years of Karate

Now it’s his passion to help others find that same strength in themselves to make positive changes in their own lives. While he teaches a more contemporary style of Self-Defense, Mixed Martial Arts, Alexander never forgets to impart on his students the traditional values and Self-Discipline that have been passed down from Karate.



A Life Changed Through Martial Arts! “Connor Overcomes ADHD and Asperger’s”

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A Life Changed Through Martial Arts

By Michele Peterson – Mother of TSMMA Hoboken Student

Born at a healthy 8 lbs 9 oz, he was a perfect baby and the light of my life. With bright eyes and a winning, dimpled smile, he paved his way into the heart of everyone he met. I had never known a baby or toddler to be so easy going and intelligent. He was reading and writing well before his second birthday, but upon entering preschool, I began to notice little things that weren’t quite right. He lacked any desire to play with other children, refused to make eye contact with anyone other than immediate family, and developed, what I used to stubbornly call, quirks. He needed to eat certain foods in a certain order, had the uncanny ability to recall complex information verbatim, and could not sleep for longer than an hour or two at a time. His moods progressed to become very unstable, with tantrums that terrified and mortified me in equal measure. His counselors at school suggested I have him assessed by a developmental psychologist who specialized in autistic disorders. Autism? Not my son. Oh, no. I spent years working with a wide range of special needs children, so surely I would see if he was special too. I had him tested and the diagnosis was quick, definitive, and brutal. Asperger’s Syndrome with extreme ADHD, a combination I knew from experience would not be easy to live with. I began to withdraw and lost hope more and more as each tantrum filled day slipped by

I had him tested and the diagnosis was quick, definitive, and brutal. Asperger’s Syndrome with extreme ADHD, a combination I knew from experience would not be easy to live with. I began to withdraw and lost hope more and more as each tantrum filled day slipped by


By my son’s 6th birthday, he was getting help from counselors at school and a pediatric psychiatrist, but his aggression grew to where he no longer had any control over his actions.He physically attacked me on a daily basis, biting and punching me, screaming how he hated me, only to break down in tears moments later because he couldn’t understand why he did what he did. He loved me. We both knew that very well, but he was filled with so much frustration and excess energy, that it seemed to burst from him at the oddest of times. I was as terrified of him as he was of himself. We tried all different therapies, but nothing worked. He couldn’t contain the rage or hyperactivity long enough to accomplish anything, making him even more frustrated and angry with himself. Every day, the fights got worse. We fought over sleeping, eating, getting dressed, even which side of the street to walk on. He would fly at me and I would whimper and cringe as I gave in because I just didn’t have any fight left in me. My beautiful child had become a living land mine and I always got the brunt of the blast.

In February 2013, I walked passed Tiger Schulmann’s MMA studio in Hoboken, just as I had for at least a decade prior, but something made me stop and wonder if I should give it a try. I did a little online research and found they were open to children with ADHD. I inquired via email about their free class and made an appointment for Connor. Poor, sweet Miss Angie. I was not in any way ready for this step, so I must have rescheduled four or five times before actually going in. She was very nice about it though and just kept reassuring me that I could bring him in when we were ready. My mother was excited and said the instructor’s name was Louis Gaudinot and he was a UFC fighter that she really admired. She waxed poetic about how he moved during fights and how happy he was whenever she saw him on the street outside her job. That’s all she told me though. The day we went in, I was met with this bouncing ball of energy with green hair and an infectious grin. It only made me more nervous, because I had a feeling I was going to disappoint this man (that my mother raved about) with my lack of hope and stubborn disbelief. Connor instantly loved him though. He was super excited and it showed. My poor baby couldn’t sit still to save himself. He wiggled and shuffled and wiggled some more. But oh how he smiled.

When class ended, he was beaming from ear to ear and vibrating with this enthusiasm I had never seen in him before.

When class ended, he was beaming from ear to ear and vibrating with this enthusiasm I had never seen in him before. I, on the other hand, was a shaking, defensive mess. I was sure it would end badly. Sensei invited me into his office to talk about Connor and I assumed he would deliver some cheesy sales pitch, but it never happened. He simply sat me down and asked me what was going on in Connor’s life and what we needed. Not what we wanted, but what we needed. No one else had ever asked me that in regards to Connor. I thought I was purposely seeing what I wanted to see, but, no. He truly wanted to help. Not just Connor, but me as well. He told me it wouldn’t be easy, but he promised it would get better. I looked in this man’s eyes and saw how deeply he believed in what he was saying. I decided to trust in that feeling of hope swelling in my chest as I placed my son’s well-being in his hands. It was the best decision I ever made.

Now I would love to say the change was instantaneous, but it wasn’t. Nothing good comes easily. His first few months were draining as we adapted to a new schedule and he slowly learned how to control some of his impulses. The turning point for him was in May when Sensei had to take his belt away during class because he would not stop fooling around. It devastated us both and I rushed him out before he could explode and attack me in front of everyone. I didn’t even give Sensei a chance to explain before we left. Connor was confused and hurt and thought Sensei would never want him to return, because, in his very literal mind, once the belt was gone, it was gone forever. My poor boy was inconsolable and I didn’t know how to fix it. I wrote to Sensei and received a reply right away telling me how sorry he was that it had happened, but to please come in to talk it out. He believed this was just a small hurdle and could be overcome. We went in the next day and everything was explained to Connor in a way he could understand. Sensei also readdressed Connor’s tendency to hurt me when he became upset, this time telling him in no uncertain terms that it was unacceptable and he was not allowed to behave that way or there would be consequences. There was no negotiation or discussion about it. Connor recognized Sensei’s authority and respected him to such a degree that now this was law. When Connor feels like he’s slipping a bit, he stops and calms himself, proud that he obeyed the rules and used self-discipline. He hasn’t had an aggressive outburst or tantrum since that day.

Connor recognized Sensei’s authority and respected him to such a degree that now this was law. When Connor feels like he’s slipping a bit, he stops and calms himself, proud that he obeyed the rules and used self-discipline.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying he doesn’t get angry or wiggle and fool around, because he’s still a kid. Tiger Schulmann’s didn’t turn my son into a paragon of stoicism and rigid self-control. No. They turned him back into my son. My bright, beautiful, affectionate chatterbox, who loves to make people laugh. Sensei gives him direction, approval, and consistency, while Joshu introduces concepts in a way that Connor completely understands and remembers. They have become an instrumental part of his life and have begun the arduous task of helping me to shape him into a man he can proud of. We go to TSMMA Hoboken almost every day, where Connor enjoys taking his core, grappling and kickboxing classes. Connor gets gently redirected often and I doubt there is a parent or nanny there who doesn’t know his name for the sheer amount of times it is said. However, there is a shift as to why it is said so much. In the beginning, it was “Stop wiggling/giggling/frolicking”. Now he gets called up to the front of the class to demonstrate moves or is used as an example to the newer kids who are wiggling too much. The first time Sensei said, “You should be sitting strong like Connor”, we all kind of froze in disbelief that those words would come out of his mouth. Connor…sitting strong? It was like a dream come true.

Now he gets called up to the front of the class to demonstrate moves or is used as an example to the newer kids who are wiggling too much.

From the start, his doctors told me he would never be able to participate in this type of program because he lacked the ability to focus or maintain self-control and his lack of social skills would keep him from fitting in. Well, he sure showed them.

Recently, Connor received his low blue belt, an achievement he worked, as he would say, “super hard” for. He was presented with his belt by his beloved Sensei, Louis Gaudinot, surrounded by children who respect him for how hard he worked to earn it, while being cheered on by all the other parents, myself, and his favorite Joshu, Jared Salzman. It is this amazing community of people who helped bring my son back to who he always had the potential to be, simply by being there for him and believing in him. He loves them very much and considers them his family, as do I. As my son grows, he will continue to face challenges and obstacles, but he has a place to go where he is accepted as he is. His journey is filled with hope because he found a place where he can thrive. He found a support system that does not waver when he needs it. No one labels him or puts limitations on him. He is encouraged and pushed to be the best Connor he can be. By some remarkable twist of fate, we found a second home at TSMMA Hoboken, and a family we can be proud of, for life.