Spreading the BJJ Community: Vector Jiu Jitsu

Spreading the BJJ Community: Vector Jiu Jitsu

by Beth Thrasher

Last month, a 15 year old girl was shot dead hundreds of yards away from a Vector Jiu-Jitsu practice.  The non-profit youth development program was holding class on one side of the Wingfield High School campus, and the freshman was gunned down as bystander to an escalated gang fight on the other.  Wingfield High School (WHS) has a 50% graduation rate, is currently experiencing a critical teacher shortage, and some of the lowest test scores in the state of Mississippi, but Chris & Beth Thrasher think Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can change a lot of that.

The couple (who met training in BJJ) launched the Vector Jiu-Jitsu Program at WHS, where Beth teaches math, in January of 2013.  They were fed up with the continued failure of heavily funded after school programs to gain ground in the war against the achievement gap.  The Thrashers felt the martial art that so positively changed their lives could do the same for the “at-risk” children of Jackson, MS.

Vector Jiu-Jitsu teaches three core values to participants:  KNOW YOURSELF, BETTER YOUSELF & HELP OTHERS.  Through training in BJJ, the kids learn to control their emotions and gain calm confidence under stress.  The Thrashers offer this training free to participants but it is “paid for” by their improvement or maintenance of academics and behaviors as well as community service.  In addition to neighborhood beautification and mentoring, Vector Jiu-Jitsu students maintain a zero-waste organic garden on school grounds, from which produce is donated.  Management training also takes place in the form of Student Committee work.  Students are responsible for day-to-day operations of the program, from “Event Planning” to “Facilities” or even “Public Relations.”

The VJJ program has experienced amazing results in its first year of existence.  At least 2 boys have verified that they were going to drop out of high school had it not been for jiu-jitsu.  A young lady who had been suspended for a fight mere days prior to joining went from a 6th grade level in math to a 12th grade level in only 6 months and now comes to school every day dressed in business attire, her “fighting days” a shadow in the past.  This same young lady has also shown so much gift and talent on the mats that the Thrashers felt it prudent to enter her in the “Expert” Division at NAGA where she took home a belt!  At least 2 participants lost 50 lbs, one parent testifies that VJJ pulled her child out of an 8 year depression.  The list of successes could fill pages.

Despite these triumphs, Vector Jiu-Jitsu struggles to reach its full potential because it’s fueled by only the Thrasher couple’s passionate volunteerism and a handful of generous donations by individuals who’ve been moved by these kids’ metamorphosis through social media.  The vision for Vector is far greater than 600 ft2 of mats in an old weight-room at Wingfield High School.

The long-term plan is to open an independent facility in the city, where kids of all ages can get bussed after school, train BJJ, receive academic enrichment and work in the garden or other community service projects.  Vector Jiu-Jitsu sees a future where student apprentices become instructors for expansion locations all over the state and perhaps the nation as an entire job field is created based on the novel premise that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu might just save public education!

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Are you (or someone you know) proficient in writing grant proposals?

Contact us ASAP!

Chris Thrasher (769) 798-5065     d2inc@bellsouth.net

Beth Thrasher (601) 941-5153     bethklice@yahoo.com

Donatewww.vectorjiujitsu.com (Paypal Link)


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  1. Christy Smith
    January 31, 2014 at 12:55 am

    Great, so you are teaching kids who are most at risk of getting violent with other people and teaching them how to be better fighters?

    I like bjj, but teaching kids who statistically will be involved in fights and assaults how to be better fighters is not the way to go.

    • Derek Langston
      January 31, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      That is such an ignorant and terribly unfair statement C. Smith. They are taking at risk children and teaching them a way to focus their energy and yes sometimes aggression into something positive. Jiu-jitsu doesn’t just teach you to be more dangerous, it teaches you to be more calm, cautious of engaging in violent behavior, more patient, and much slower to anger. You really think the Thrashers would let a child stay in the program if they acted out violently using the skills taught to them? Staying in the program is a powerful incentive NOT to engage in aggressive behavior off the mat. You see those two young men standing shoulder to shoulder with someone they just fought at a tournament? Do they look angry? Do they look like they have any desire to hurt that guy? Not at all. Jiu-jitsu means, “The Gentle Way” for a reason. Good luck to the Thrashers and all their students.

  2. Beth Thrasher
    January 31, 2014 at 8:04 am

    I reviewed almost 20 peer-reviewed research papers on the effect of martial arts on the adolescent before embarking upon this journey. The research elucidated almost 100% positive outcomes. In fact, I had to search very hard to find just one negative outcome paper (which was heavily disputed in the research community).

    What the research clearly indicated, was that the single strongest variable in the outcomes for adolescents in martial arts training is the instructor. My husband and I provide a loving, mentoring relationship for these kids while teaching the single best martial art for obtaining self-control and self-understanding. We do not tolerate misconduct in our program. It is dealt with swiftly, and if it continues, the child is not allowed to continue with Vector Jiu-Jitsu.

    Our program is so much more than jiu-jitsu. Our kids do community service, gardening and live by our motto: Know yourself, Better yourself & Help others. But, even if it WERE just about the jiu-jitsu…it would still be a positive influence in their lives. I find it strange that as a practitioner of this uniquely beautiful art (I assumed your comment “I like BJJ” translates to “I train BJJ) that you would make this assumption that we are making them “better fighters”. I don’t know what’s more horrifying: your blanket assumption that ALL kids in this demographic are prone to violence, or that properly taught jiu-jitsu somehow MAKES them more violent. Who is your BJJ instructor? They have truly failed you.

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