Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Shabaker, the founder (and reformed angry thug) of Redemption Martial Arts. Check out the interview below:
Mark, what is Redemption Martial Arts?
First, I can tell you what RMA is not. We are not a company selling a product or service (ok, maybe a few t-shirts) . We do not pretend to know it all or have all the answers. We are not here to endorse any teaching methods or martial arts styles. What the RMA foundation was formed to do is tackle the global issue of bullying within today’s society. Our intention is to be an engine for change by forming alliances with people passionate about making a difference. We are a movement. Our motto is “Rise Up Against Bullying”
Talk to us about the purpose of RMA?
RMA was founded to help combat and bring awareness to the growing epidemic of bullying. We seek to provide support and resources to those directly impacted by bullying. We also seek to serve as a resource to practitioners, dojos and schools who want to implement anti bullying verbal tactical methodology, but may not know where to start. RMA is an ever growing collective of people who will change lives one person at a time.
What made you want to start an organisation such as this?
It started with a desire to find some personal redemption for a lot of regret in my life. After hitting a wall, I needed to find a reason to rise up from the mat that is life. You see, I was bullied for most of my childhood. You wouldn’t think it to look at me, but it happened, it really devastated my life. I lost confidence in myself and would bottle up the shame, hurt and fear deep inside. As I did, I just became more and more angry and withdrawn from society. Oh, I was good at covering it up with lies, anger and a deep distrust of anyone. My anger sadly led to an unfortunate legal situation that really forced me wakeup to reality. I was in deep. Until that happened, I could never recognize what led me to be such an angry, grumpy and undesirable person. Once I faced the fact that there was still scared and hurt kid deep inside me, I felt liberated and knew this was my calling. I am sure a lot of people who knew me would say “what is that %$# doing trying to help people?”. I don’t blame them! What I do know is that I never want anyone to feel the way I did when I was bullied and never want it to contribute to a life of pain, lies and poor treatment of people. I am not absolving myself of any wrong doing in my life nor am I asking for any sympathy, I simply want people to understand what a horrible effect being bulled can have. I am committed to change, both for myself and for others.
How big a problem is bullying in modern day society?
I think it’s an extremely large issue. While I am sure we could look up some statistics, I don’t think they will tell the true tale. I say that because most people hide that it’s happening to them. We are even seeing it surface in professional sports. To me, the biggest problem is the unseen bullying. You can teach someone to combat physical attacks, but how do you prepare people to confront the emotion and verbal assaults and the damage they cause. We hope to make a positive impact on this problem
So, you have a few fighters starting to come on board – how important is this to the success of RMA?
They are going be pivotal in helping us achieve our goals. Our Ambassadors are the front line and torch bearers for the movement, so we want to assist them in pursuing their dreams and stay in a position to continue their impact. We believe the fighters will reach a wide audience and allow people to see that there is no shame in talking about bullying no matter who you are. Our first Ambassador is a female amateur fighter named Bryanna Fissori AKA the Pink Ranger out of Honolulu, HI. We are pleased to announce our new partnership with undefeated Professional MMA fighter & Cesar Gracie Fight Team member Rick Boomer Reger. We will be adding more fighters to our movement in the coming weeks. To learn more about our fighters and other ambassadors, please visit our “Ambassadors” page on our website.
Which gyms/dojos do you have affiliated with RMA?
We really do not have any affiliations or endorsements. We believe in partners in this fight against bullying. While I have my personal beliefs and passion on martial arts, I will not pretend to be in the same league as most of the amazing martial arts instructors and coaches out there. RMA does not recommend any particular style or form of instruction. We want to provide a directory of instructors and facilities from around the World. All we ask is that they be committed to offering instruction on verbally deescalate bullies and a support environment in which to train. For instructors who need some advice on how to teach and implement an anti-bullying curriculum, we want to offer resources. I get push back from many practitioners who do not feel they need any help. People simply do not like to admit they don’t know what to do or how to teach it. Let me tell you, I have been into many fine dojos and gyms and rarely have I seen any anti-bullying skills being thought. In fact, I have seen some bullying going on within the gym. I am not saying that to insult anyone, it’s just the facts. I was bullied at my karate class as a child and I have seen my daughter bullied in her Judo class. It’s happening. I urge practitioners to reach out if they want to be listed on our website instruction page or want to host an ant—bullying clinic.
If people want to become involved, how so they go about this?
First of all we need your help. We are only able to stay operational and further our cause through the generosity of others. Please, visit our website: redemptionmartialarts.com and make a donation. Believe me when I say every little bit helps.
On our website you can Contact Us about becoming an ambassador, listing your gym or martial arts school, offering a support group, starting a corporate partnership, or seeking help. We always want to hear from people who want to join the movement in any way they can.
On the website, you can also sign up for our newsletter, read our blogs, buy merchandise and read the latest news.
Follow us on twitter @redemption_ma, or like us on Facebook at facebook.com/redemptionmartialarts
Thank you all for the support.