Sunday, October 21, 2007
Martial Street Art - Tai Chi, Bagua, Capoeira: Roberto Sharpe
A capoeira class with Roberto
A lesson in capoeira street tactics
A lecture on Tai Chi push hands
A lesson in Tai Chi push hands combat (see above video first if you don't know what push hands is)
A lesson in Chinese martial art combat and street applications
A Tai Chi Class with Roberto
Interview with Roberto about real fighting and being a black martial aritist
Interview with Roberto about his life
Artist: Roberto Sharpe
Medium: Tai Chi, bagua, Xingyi, capoeira, judo, karate, boxing, jiu-jitsu, xuejiao and others
Location: Thompson Square Park on the Lower East Side
Roberto Sharpe will kick your ass. With Tai Chi. Well, no, he won’t. But he could. “Those of us who have been around a while know that the human life is the most precious thing we have and you don’t just go around challenging people.” That being said, Roberto has been challenged many times in his life, often, he says, because people want test his slow, stately art of Tai Chi. Having suffered no permanent injuries Roberto modestly says that, in terms of showing his martial prowess, he’s done OK and notes “most people walk away from me feeling like…I’m alright.” As in, an alright guy, not merely a decent fighter. “I don’t try to hurt anyone, unless of course it’s really called for.” Of course, you can afford to be modest if you’ve been as successful in competition as Roberto has, you trophies will speak for you.
Roberto has been studying the martial arts since he was a young boy. Coming from a martial arts oriented family, he started with Judo when he was very young and continued learning throughout his life studying, most notably, karate as a teenager, Jiu-Jitsu and Tiger Claw later on and, in the latest stage capoeria, boxing and Tai Chi and its sister arts Bagua and Xingyi. But Roberto isn’t limited to just these styles, of course not, these are just the ones he comments on most readily.
Now Roberto is most committed to Tai Chi. He feels that Tai Chi’s slow, methodical style allows a person to study their own nature – the way they move, the way they react, the way they think – and make themselves a better person all around. He notes that great athletes like Tiger Woods, have themselves taped and watch their movement in slow motion to acquire deeper understanding of their action. Roberto personally advises skipping the cash outlay and just taking things slowly. As such, Tai Chi is a philosophy of combat that Roberto incorporates into all his martial arts and, in turn, allows all his martial arts to contribute to.
As a true practitioner of Asian martial arts, Roberto does the Asian thing and practices openly in the park. Just like in China, or Chinatown for that matter, where throngs of people gather in public spaces to study their martial arts, so too do Roberto and his students. In fact, it was as a function of practicing outdoors that people started requesting lessons from him. A holder of degrees from both Columbia University and New York Law Roberto never envisioned that he would be making a living teaching martial arts full time. In fact, up until a few years ago he wasn’t. After law school Roberto was a parole defense attorney. When Bloomberg came in to office, however, his hard stance towards crime left little room for Roberto’s job. Thus, Roberto made the switch to full-time instructor, a job he finds equally fulfilling. “To me, they’re all part of a similar mission which is try to help those who need the help…[Such as those] who are in prison who can’t possibly help themselves.”
Although Roberto now teaches in gyms, schools, retirement homes and other institutions, he still loves doing it in the park. “If there’s a lot of people we have a great time…if there’s one person we have a great time and if it’s just me I still have a great time.” And, if you find him in the park, he’ll teach you anything you want to know. I’ve seen him doing Tai Chi, Bagua, Capoeria, Boxing and MMA. Ultimately, though, Roberto teaches people to be comfortable with whoever they are and whichever style becomes them. A practitioner of his own form, Liberation Martial Arts, Roberto seeks generate confidence in physical ability and awareness to free the psyche of needs and insecurities, to make a person free from their troubles and individual shackles. Like many martial artists Roberto does not endorse violent action but like all martial artists, he understands that without investigating your own capacity for violence and for dealing with violent aggression, even in self-defense, you are never free of its threat. Roberto likes to talk about the holy man who, when assaulted by a street tough, loses all comport and risks killing out of confusion and out of lack of preparation for an intensely stressful scenario.
Like what you see? Take a class
Thompson Square Park - Wednesdays and Fridays from 10-12, weather permitting (i.e. rain, he does it in the cold). Only $25 suggested donation for a 2 hour lesson
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