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From self-defense to success: Cave of Adullam in Detroit teaches more than martial arts for young men

Program also focuses on how to express emotion

DETROIT – For Black History Month, we are shining a spotlight on change makers in our community, including a local man combining martial arts and life experiences to help young Black men succeed.

The Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy on Detroit’s west side is a place where young African American men are taught self-defense skills, but it’s a lot more than that.

“They love martial arts. Every boy wants to defend himself, but I tell them you can’t defend what hasn’t been disciplined,” said Jason Wilson with The Yunion Inc. “They’re able to navigate through the pressures of this world without succumbing to their negative emotions.”

Wilson said this is where young Black men ages 6-14 are able to be themselves inside the Cave of Adullam -- a name that represents a biblical meaning, when David fought the giant Goliath and won.

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“The Cave of Adullam historically is where we all heard of David and Goliath, where David slain the big giant. Well, after that David had to run from King Saul who he was protecting, and he went to this cave in Adullam where 400 men came onto him, and he became their captain,” Wilson said.

It’s in the room where Wilson said generations of negative emotions, family curses and grudges are broken.

“We walk around with a lot of father wounds and trauma that need to be fleshed out, so we can be the men that we know we are,” he said. “So often as men, we’re impassably dismissed when we’re vulnerable. We start suppressing our emotions and that suppression typically leads to depression, and the first time in history, African American boys -- I believe 11 years of age and under -- are leading in suicide.”

It’s a lesson many of the young men, like 15-year-old Yoshua Jones, are learning.

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“I learned how to master my emotions. Sometimes, I would break out in anger or any other emotions, or I’m sad. I learned how to control my emotions,” Jones said.

Jones started the program when he was 6 years old. He said things were tough at first, but now he’s able to think before he acts.

“Usually, I would pray about it or I would take a breather and think about what I’m trying to say and try to get it out there without hurting someone else’s feelings,” he said. “I never really got into a fist fight before, but even if somebody comes up on me, I know how to defend myself.”

Wilson said Black men are taught to be strong and that men don’t cry, but he said that’s just not true. He uses martial arts to show men that they can be tough and emotional at the same time -- a concept that was showcased on the NBC show, This is Us.

“We use martial arts, a combination of Aikido, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, some boxing stick fighting, but more so, we deal with the spiritual side of what’s going on and the mental side of what’s going on in a man,” he said.

Jones said he would recommend the program to other young men.

“We don’t know how to control our emotions and we might get out of control,” he said.

Wilson’s work includes a book called, Cry Like a Man. He is writing another book and working on a documentary that has been picked up by actor Laurence Fishburne’s film company.


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