WEDU Arts Plus

S10 E5 | CLIP

1005: Midtown Miracles

A couple share the discipline and training of the Martial arts with young pupils at their St. Petersburg dojo.

AIRED: March 04, 2021 | 0:06:11

- Hello, I'm Dalia Colon, and this is WEDU, Arts Plus.

Martial arts have been around for thousands of years,

but they are not just for combat and competition.

Through the tutelage of Bryant and Leotte Harrell,

this art form provides confidence

and and outlet for creative expression.

Join us as we enter the St. Petersburg gojo

of the Midtown Miracles.

(gentle music)

- Fifty years ago, my uncle, who's my hero,

my uncle, Joseph Harrell, he started teaching me Judo,

and then Jiu Jitzu, and then Hapkido,

when he came back from doing a couple tours in Vietnam.

He was basically the springboard

that launched my martial arts journey.

He turned me on to another martial artist,

another dynamic martial artist, by the name

of Soke Li'l John Davis, and Soke Li'l John

is the epitome of what martial art is all about.

(woman yelling)

- I started training when I was a teenager,

I love being physical, actually, Tae Bo (grunts)

got me started. (laughs)

But then I really fell in love with it,

and I really started at about 18 years old.

I took up Tangsudo,

and the rest just kind of took off from there.

I was like, "I love it!"

I love the fact that I don't need a weapon,

I can be the weapon.

(Leotte calling out instructions)

- Always be...

- [Students] Ready!

- I was attacked and raped in college by an ex-boyfriend,

and at that point, my training became serious.

So, then I went on this search for, like,

I need some real life, hard tactical training,

and I found my Sifu, Sifu Karen,

and she's a tenth degree, full contact, no pads,

like, the real deal kind of training.

Her classes were small, because it's intense

and not many could take it,

but that was exactly what I was looking for.

- Safety and security is something that's really dear

and near to my wife and I, to our hearts,

and she studied martial arts before she met me,

and then we come together.

We just got a passion for people.

- So, you know, we're at the community center,

waiting, hoping people come in,

but a lot of time, they just weren't.

We went out and we hit the streets,

and we went to the parks, and, you know,

where they're sitting out in their front yard,

I'm like, "Hey!"

Then that got the ball rolling.

- And just getting the chance to actually be in the center,

and seeing the kids come in,

and just getting inspired by knowing how big it was,

the impact that the kids were gonna have on the community.

- By the end of the first class,

they can come to attention, they're giving courtesy bow,

and they're loud like, (grunts)!

Like, and to see the shock on their parents' faces,

because for a lot of them,

this was the most discipline they've ever seen

in their kids.

(Leotte calling out instructions)

- We was always involved in some kind of community thing,

as far as sports, but we got wind of this,

Eriyana started participating,

and we try to help out as much as we can with the program.

Soke and (indistinct) does an amazing job with these kids.

- Well, I played sports before I started doing karate.

Basketball, flag football, soccer, and I played tee ball.

- Being able to focus and concentrate,

and possibly being able to take their mind off

of some of the other things that they could be getting into,

and putting that energy and focus into martial arts.

So, I thought it was pretty awesome.

- Most people in my school don't do karate.

I'm very proud of myself for starting,

and I'm already a purple belt, and I was in about a year.

- One thing that Soke's always saying and stressing,

"I want you to express yourself." Express yourself.

It is a tremendous way to channel everything.

Every emotion can come out when you're practicing your kata.

- I am!

- I am!

- A martial artist.

- A martial artist!

- Sometimes when they go home, they're like,

"Eli, show me how to do this," and "show me how to do it,"

so he takes a lot of pride in being able

to show them what to do.

A lot of confidence.

- I am!

- A mighty miracle.

- A mighty miracle!

- There's been a name change.

When we first started the program, almost four years ago,

it was the Midtown Miracles, you know?

And now, we changed it due to COVID,

and also due to trans-, you know, transcending is big,

you know, that word, transcend,

means come out of self, come out of something,

be different, be bigger.

You know, I lost my son almost 30-some years ago.

And he was 15 months old, died of a massive heart attack.

And I was overseas at the time.

And so, what I tell the kids, it was my katas,

my routines, you know,

my techniques that got me through that.

So I use that, and I dedicate what I do to him.

- You're not just a mighty miracle.

You're a martial artist, and a mighty miracle.

When we say our mantra at the end, "I AM a mighty miracle,"

we want you to recognize that,

we want you to represent that.

Not just for us, but for you.

You know, take pride in that.

And let people know, not just by what you say,

not just by walking around with your gi,

let them feel it.

- For more info,

visit the Midtown Miracles page on Facebook.