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Podium guru attracts students to Tai Chi therapy

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A dark basement, the site of many hours of martial arts training, has never been needed so desperately. A young high schooler in Monticello, NY—beat up and exposed at his school and gym—finds himself down there, where light’s no guest. Self-doubt creeps in on the boy’s mind. He’s only in 10th grade, yet he’s come home with questions of his identity and purpose. His life was all fake.

But suddenly, something clicked.

“This moment changed my life forever,” said Jovon Mitchell, now a master’s student at the University at Albany, studying mental health therapy. “It changed the whole course of how I view life.”

He began to visualize the event that brought him to the edge—all the hits he took and the fears of meeting high expectations. Punches kept landing in his mind until he took control and slowed the approaching fists down. Now he was dodging everything, even anticipating what was coming.

His following visit to the gym drew feelings of awe and amazement. “No one recognized me at all.”

But now Mitchell is hard not to recognize, as he practices tai chi chuan, or tai chi fist, on the academic podium, wearing a scarf over his eyes to help him with his “bodily awareness,” as well as motor skills, balance and central nervous system.

It’s been a routine of his for four years, practicing at 7:30 pm almost every day.

But why the podium?

“I want to transform the energy here a little bit more. I see a lot of people that are afraid of their own shadow. I see a lot of people that went through the same stuff that I went through at one time, and they don’t have much purpose and don’t know why they’re here. They’re just here living, existing.”

Rakwon Brady, a freshman at The College of Saint Rose, traveled to the podium just to see Mitchell. He has eight years of experience in taekwondo, but deals with anxiety and stress—something he hoped Mitchell could help remedy.

“I feel less stressed and less anxiety,” said Brady, who just finished practicing tai chi for the first time. “[Jovon] can teach me some more moves and accomplish more in life.” They exchanged contact information to ensure this can happen.

“[Rakwon] needs to take something that seems large, and make it small, said Mitchell. “And what that thing is—it’s the world. He has some more control than he did an hour ago.”

Mitchell’s work with Brady is not only relevant with tai chi, but it’s also what he likes to do for work. As a family support liaison, he develops programs for families with children both in prison or at risk of going. He wants to help these children understand themselves and the introverted feelings they hold, as a means of preventing violent acts from occurring.

“My goal is to create a way to where families and their children can actually adapt to these certain circumstances—and helping them get back in the population.”

To Mitchell, learning from him—whether it’s through tai chi or in a time of need—is not so much about viewing him as a role model.

“I don’t really want people to remember me. I just hope people take something away from me. If they take something away from [me], my job is done.”

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