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Fight Back Mixed Martial Arts

Mahaliel Bethea, aka Sensei Mo, teaches kids to defend themselves against bullies who attack with fists, knives or guns.  For 25 years, he has taught classes in karate, Thai kickboxing and the martial arts form vee jujitsu, also known as street MMA. 

But Sensei Mo also teaches his students how to pick their battles, and, sometimes, just bolt.

“We got kids come in here that can’t even run,” says Bethea, who moonlights as a film director, stuntman and bodyguard for celebrities like Wesley Snipes. Bullies are used to being hit, he says, and in Harlem, kids may be even more eager to fight if they discover that someone practices martial arts. At Fight Back MMA, students learn how to carry themselves and avoid conflict.


Nancercize: Morning Fitness in Fort Tryon Park

Even on a chilly winter morning, you can find Nancy Bruning leading her outdoor fitness class in Fort Tryon Park. The class, which meets three times a week, allows participants to move at their own paces as the group spends an hour walking and stretching. “For one class I had a 10-year-old and an 85-year-old and everything in between,” said Bruning, who has led the program since 2003. She’s now preparing for the cold months ahead. “Even if it snows, it’s beautiful. We love the snow,” she said. “It’s a totally different experience.”



Founded in 1999, StreetSquash combines squash instruction with academic enrichment for 180 Harlem kids every year. The SL Green StreetSquash Center, on 115th Street between Malcolm X Boulevard and Fifth Avenue, boasts eight squash courts, four classrooms and a library. The program recruits middle school students from Frederick Douglass Academy, Harlem Success Academy Charter School and Thurgood Marshall Academy, and expects them to commit to StreetSquash through college graduation. While enrolled, they attend four weekly sessions combining of squash practice, academic tutoring and college prep.

CrossFit Harlem

CrossFit is not your typical fitness center. Head trainer Syn Martinez offers classes designed to maximize physical endurance and strength to people from a range of backgrounds, including the military and the police academy. However, you don’t have to be an athlete to train with the group. With intense, all-around workout sessions, CrossFit’s daily training regimen aims to teach students how to overcome pain to achieve their fitness goals.

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