By Jason Lewis
Michon “Bruiser” Neal had the vision of bringing his passion to the area where he grew up. This Saturday that dream will be complete, as Neal will host the grand opening of Bruiser Grappling Academy on 54th St, just east of Crenshaw.
Neal has been involved with the martial art of Jiu-Jitsu for the past 12 years, and he believes that it will benefit the black community in a number of ways.
“There is a feeling of peace after you finish training,” Neal said. “These guys are putting out a lot of energy, there are a lot of frustrations of life that you have to deal with everyday. You can come here and leave it all on the mat.”
Neal teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which is based on grappling moves, especially ground fighting. One of the main benefits for learning Jiu-Jitsu is for self-defense.
“Most fights start on their feet, but 90% of them end up on the ground,” Neal said. “So we’re working on the ground game.”
Jiu-Jitsu was created so smaller fighters could defeat larger attackers. It teaches that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique, most notably by applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person.
Neal views it as a more civil way of fighting.
“You can get somebody in a choke hold or an arm bar and the pain makes them stop,” Neal said. “When you hit somebody in the face it changes the parameters of things. They feel slighted so they’ll get their friends and come back to beat you up. But you can stop a guy with a submission and his lip won’t be busted or his eye blackened or something like that to where they feel like they have been taken advantage of.”
Many young students take Jiu-Jitsu to fend off bullies.
“A bully just wants to intimidate you, he doesn’t want to fight you.”
Neal believes that one good fight with a bully and he or she will not mess with you anymore, especially when the bully ends up in a submission hold.
Jiu-Jitsu is not practiced much in the black community, which is one reason why Neal is promoting it.
“We’re a little behind in Jiu-Jitsu,” Neal said. “Orange County and all the surrounding areas, they all have Jiu-Jitsu. It’s more of an expensive art, but I wanted to come in and make it economical so that everyone has an opportunity to do it. Not just people who have money, but also working class people.”
Neal is not offering a watered down form of Jiu-Jitsu. In his class, nobody is holding anything back. One of his students got a little cocky, so Neal put him to the test.
“He was running his mouth, so we lined everybody up and did King of the Hill,” Neal said. “That means you stay inside and go against everybody. What they’re going to do is test his fighting spirit. I knew that he wasn’t going to beat everybody, but I wanted him to fight everybody. So afterwards he’s quite, he has more confidence in himself. He doesn’t need to do a lot of talking. A lot of times when you run your mouth and talk a lot of trash it’s because you’re scared. It’s the quite one that has self confidence so he doesn’t have to do that.”
Neal was pleased that his student never showed any signs of quit and he fought hard against each opponent.
“I want guys to keep going,” Neal said. “I don’t expect them to win every fight, but I want them to fight hard every fight. So even if you get into an altercation with someone, and they get the best of you, but you fight for yourself, nine times out of 10 they are not going to mess with you again.”
Some students are perusing a career in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Neal is the perfect instructor for that, because he has won Pan Am championships from blue belt on up. Last year was his first year competing at black belt, and he took second place.
Jiu-Jitsu is also beneficial to other athletes, such as football players. It helps with balance, tackling, one-on-one blocks, shedding blockers, and cardio.
Bruiser Grappling Academy is open in the evenings from 5:30-8, Monday through Friday, and from 10 am until noon on Saturdays. Children’s classes, starting at age five, are from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Adult class, for men and women, goes from 6:30 pm to 8 pm. It is located at 3303 West 54th St, Unit B.