journalism

A Closer Look at The Bazooka

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Joseph Valtellini stands in the middle of his gym, Bazooka Kickboxing, explaining how to properly throw a cross punch. His video man Danny Lau, records him. The multitude of shots he takes will be complied into Valtellini’s next YouTube video for his online series. He goes through the movements with ease and confidence, getting through each shot in only one take. He knows what he’s doing and he knows what he wants to teach his viewers. “They call me one take Joe,” he says laughing. Lau was a former student of Valtellini’s, but quickly assumed the role of videographer once Valtellini gained a large internet following, especially after his appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience. It’s an average day at the gym, recording for his YouTube series and teaching some kickboxing classes.

He greets everyone as they walk into the gym, standing at the front door with a smile, “Hey buddy, how are you?”. A young boy walks in, shy and distracted, his eyes wander around the gym when Valtellini shakes his hand. He grabs his hand again, slightly more serious this time, “Look at me in the eyes when you shake my hand”. The little boy does as he’s told and a smile spreads across Valtellini’s face. He pats him on the back and the boy smiles. Later on, once class begins the same little boy stands at the front beside him, yelling out counts as the class skips rope to his orders.IMG_7264.jpg

As a physical education teacher for children with disabilities, it comes to no surprise that Valtellini is comfortable with kids and assuming the teaching role of kickboxing coach. The gym is filled with the sounds of skin hitting leather pads and hissing noises as the class dispels hard breaths with each punch and kick. The chains on the punching bags clank around with each hit and the gym is packed with students. Valtellini’s voice echoes through the gym as he yells out instructions. The windows drip with condensation mimicking the foreheads of his students. The louder Valtellini yells, the harder they hit the pads. As the class takes breaks between combinations to receive their next set of instructions, they circle around him, holding on to every word. He goes over combinations in detail and the confidence that is only gained through years of experience.

From a young age, Valtellini used to watch martial arts movies with his dad, he was obsessed with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Rocky. His obsession soon turned into passion and his father was there with him each step of the way. “My father, one of the biggest influences in my life, really brought that passion out in me. From the young age of four we would recreate the Rocky scenes, and I’d come out and knock out my dad and my family would cheer,” he says. Not known to Valtellini or his family at the time, but his knockouts would become famous in the years to come, earning the name “Bazooka Joe”. At the age of four Valtellini wanted to join taekwondo but was told he had to wait until he was seven. For those three years, his life revolved around training. His father built him punching bags in the basement and everything they did together had to do with him becoming a martial artist. His mother, however was not as enthusiastic about his fighting career. His first amateur fight, Valtellini and his father lied to her and told her it was only a demonstration, but when he came home with a black eye their story was not as believable. She was angry, but soon realized that this was her son’s calling. Although she never attended a fight, she supported him in other ways; such as making his meals when he was trying to cut weight or doing his laundry, chores he had little time for while working and training full-time.

Kickboxing training is rigorous and exhausting and Valtellini holds his students to the same standards he holds himself to, professionals and beginners alike. He circles around the gym, watching each sparring pair, giving them tips and corrections. His head tilts down and his eyes lock in on his professional fighters as he examines each hit they make. “I’m not particularly impressed,” he says to the class. They can do better. The atmosphere in the gym remains lighthearted, they know what kind of coach he is and his criticism is not to be taken personally. However, the tone soon changes, sparring is important but it can also be dangerous, no one is to come to class without protective head gear again. No one is smiling now, he means business. Injury is something Valtellini has dealt with many times, the most serious, his concussion after winning his Glory Welterweight World Champion title in 2014. The concussion that would force him to give up fighting professionally for good. Valtellini describes his life prior to his injury as “perfectly scripted,” his concussion brought him to the realization that not everything in life goes as planned. “It was a big change for me, there was a little bit of depression there because I wasn’t doing what I genuinely loved, but then I found love doing other things,” he says. Remaining in the realm of martial arts, Valtellini decided to open his own gym and become a commentator for Glory Kickboxing. Now that he is no longer fighting, the goal is to improve his skills on camera and become the best kickboxing broadcaster the world has ever seen. He believes sometimes fighters stay in the sport a little too long, where they face more permanent injury, he never wanted to end up that way. It was an easy decision to stop fighting he says, at the end of the day he did accomplish his ultimate goal of becoming a world champion.

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Valtellini changed over from taekwondo to kickboxing when he was 19-years-old. His coach was the first person to tell him he would become a world champion. He didn’t believe him at first but after winning fights against fighters who had much more experience than himself, Valtellini began to believe it too.  “I knew I had a good professional career ahead of me,” he says. He played a variety of sports growing up including soccer and football, in University he was a kicker for the Toronto Varsity Blues Canadian Football team. With every sport he played, Valtellini never felt that he really excelled at anything, he was good but not great, that is until he tried kickboxing. Instantaneously he knew it was the sport for him, he loved the idea of training hard for a fight and being rewarded with a win. The success only fed his addiction, it made him want to keep training and win again.

With plans of visiting 18 countries this year to commentate for fights, Valtellini’s newest adventure is just beginning. He explains that being a martial artist is a lifestyle, it’s not something that you can just turn off, it determines the way he lives his life each day. Although he’s no longer fighting, there is no doubt that he will remain an active member of the kickboxing community for the rest of his life.

As the class comes to an end and the students begin to pack up their things, another young boy runs up to Valtellini and asks him a question. He gives him an answer and then places his hand on his small shoulder, “you have to work hard” he tells the young boy. His eyes locked into Valtellini’s he nods and smiles, promising he will. His large gloves overpower his slim arms as he raises his hand to shake Valtellini’s. He walks off with a smile and a look of concentration as he mulls over his coach’s instructions in his head.

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Ryerson: An activist community

Ryerson’s equity and inclusion based campus is all thanks to students, says Will Fraser, a third year professional communication student.

“I think the students are the ones that really lead the change, because as much resources and power as the administration has, they don’t have a direction to steer them in without the students leading,” said Fraser.

Ryerson has many student lead clubs and services that work towards equity, diversity and inclusion on campus. RyePRIDE, The Trans Collective and The Centre for Women and Trans People are only a few of the equity services offered on campus.

The Trans Collective recently spearheaded “The Bathroom Campaign”, in which gender-neutral washrooms were implemented on campus this year.

Evan Roy, a Trans Collective co-ordinator said the campaign “was created out of need within the community and we advocated out of that very obvious lack of access that was missing at Ryerson”.

While The Bathroom Campaign has been met with a lot of positive feedback, Roy also said signs have been torn down and defaced.

“We’re continuing to work on the campaign, because obviously some good work has been done, but not enough.”

Ryerson has a long history of battling homophobia and transphobia on campus. In 1981, a help hotline was set up due to the high number of homophobic assaults on campus. Through the years, LGBTQ student groups have had their posters torn down, their offices vandalized and banners stolen.

Similar to Fraser, Roy agrees that a lot is being done to “tear down things that are problematic and harmful,” however these things are happening because of Ryerson’s large activist community.

“A lot is being done at Ryerson but lets also realize that that work is on the backs of students,” said Roy.

Ryerson also has queer and transgender courses to ensure their students are educated on LGBTQ issues and feel properly represented. Ryerson’s newest course called queer media, taught by Andrea Houston from the school of journalism, examines how sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity are portrayed in the media.

“I’m sure Ryerson has made mistakes in regards to it’s trans and non-binary students. I know the papers had their own growing pains in regards to sources, but you know that’s normal, as long as you learn from your mistakes and you try to do better,” said Houston.

Al Donato, a Ryerson journalism graduate expressed the importance of teaching proper terms to ensure LGBTQ students are being respected both in and outside the classroom.

“A lot of these terms aren’t normalized yet. If you don’t see these terms constantly like we do in our community, you’re just sort of like okay, I don’t know how to treat people with respect. So you just sort of wing it and you inevitably mess up,” Donato said.

RyePRIDE co-ordinator Megan Lewis acknowledges the progress Ryerson has made. “Initiatives are put forth by students and they are what drive increasing equity and inclusion on campus,” she said.

“However we have so much more work to be done until we actually reach equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Ryerson’s equity and inclusion based campus is all thanks to students, says Will Fraser, a third year professional communication student.

“I think the students are the ones that really lead the change, because as much resources and power as the administration has, they don’t have a direction to steer them in without the students leading,” said Fraser.

Ryerson has many student lead clubs and services that work towards equity, diversity and inclusion on campus. RyePRIDE, The Trans Collective and The Centre for Women and Trans People are only a few of the equity services offered on campus.

The Trans Collective recently spearheaded “The Bathroom Campaign”, in which gender-neutral washrooms were implemented on campus this year.

Evan Roy, a Trans Collective co-ordinator said the campaign “was created out of need within the community and we advocated out of that very obvious lack of access that was missing at Ryerson”.

While The Bathroom Campaign has been met with a lot of positive feedback, Roy also said signs have been torn down and defaced.

“We’re continuing to work on the campaign, because obviously some good work has been done, but not enough.”

Ryerson has a long history of battling homophobia and transphobia on campus. In 1981, a help hotline was set up due to the high number of homophobic assaults on campus. Through the years, LGBTQ student groups have had their posters torn down, their offices vandalized and banners stolen.

Similar to Fraser, Roy agrees that a lot is being done to “tear down things that are problematic and harmful,” however these things are happening because of Ryerson’s large activist community.

“A lot is being done at Ryerson but lets also realize that that work is on the backs of students,” said Roy.

Ryerson also has queer and transgender courses to ensure their students are educated on LGBTQ issues and feel properly represented. Ryerson’s newest course called queer media, taught by Andrea Houston from the school of journalism, examines how sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity are portrayed in the media.

“I’m sure Ryerson has made mistakes in regards to it’s trans and non-binary students. I know the papers had their own growing pains in regards to sources, but you know that’s normal, as long as you learn from your mistakes and you try to do better,” said Houston.

Al Donato, a Ryerson journalism graduate expressed the importance of teaching proper terms to ensure LGBTQ students are being respected both in and outside the classroom.

“A lot of these terms aren’t normalized yet. If you don’t see these terms constantly like we do in our community, you’re just sort of like okay, I don’t know how to treat people with respect. So you just sort of wing it and you inevitably mess up,” Donato said.

RyePRIDE co-ordinator Megan Lewis acknowledges the progress Ryerson has made. “Initiatives are put forth by students and they are what drive increasing equity and inclusion on campus,” she said.

“However we have so much more work to be done until we actually reach equity, diversity and inclusion.”

A visual representation of the facts:

https://magic.piktochart.com/embed/18835723-lgbtq

A brief timeline of Ryerson’s LGBTQ pride history:

https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1CoSm4N7ZKaCRkKVKxTaEqARBlAJDytjVU9pEqdIBPzA&font=UnicaOne-Vollkorn&lang=en&initial_zoom=2&height=800

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Black Lives Matter

I am absolutely enraged as i write this post. Enraged because I have seen two lives taken in a matter of 48 hours. More specifically black lives. I am tired, as I’m sure many of us are of constantly seeing tragedy and seeing people’s lives being taken by those who vowed to serve and protect them. Is this protection? Firing four bullets into a man who was reaching for his wallet?

I am a white person, and as such I realize that I will never face the discrimination that people of colour are faced with each and every day. However I can empathize with them, as a human being I can recognize their struggles, their trials and tribulations. This empathy however is not as common as one would hope. The hash tag “Black Lives Matter” is continually met with retaliation hash tags such as “All Lives Matter” and “White Lives Matter”. This is not a time to tear down those who are in need of help, it is a time to liberate them. They are angry, and can you blame them? They continue to watch their people get murdered and for no good reason. This is a time to say BLACK LIVES MATTER, not all lives matter, not white lives matter, but BLACK LIVES MATTER. This does not mean that black lives are more important than the lives of others, it simply means their lives are in danger right now, and their lives are the ones we need to focus on saving. When Paris was attacked and the world banned together with the Message #PrayforParis, is was not countered by other hash tags. People realized there were other human beings in need and felt it was their job to help empower them. This is no different.  

To say race doesn’t play a role in these events is ignorant. When a black man is being detained  by two white officers, is shot multiple times and killed for no particular reason. While a white man rapes an unconscious woman and is sentenced to 3 months in prison, for fear that a longer sentence might have “serious effects on him”. Whites are getting slaps on the wrist and a stern warning and blacks are getting murdered. 

I began writing this post two days ago, after watching the video of Philando Castile’s death. Clearly I was very angry, I woke up in shock and disbelief that yet another life had been taken, only a day after we lost Alton Sterling. Yesterday I woke up angry once again, to the news that five white police officers were shot and killed and seven were wounded in Dallas, by a sniper. As I understand the anger many have towards the police force in the United States, murdering innocent officers is in no way just. Trying to stop blood shed with more blood shed is not the answer. These officers were innocent and un related to the deaths in the days prior, taken from their loved ones by a senseless act of violence, out of “revenge”. We need to aim for justice by ensuring officers who are killing people get the proper sentencing they deserve and are not left to walk free without facing the repercussions of their actions. This is justice. Killing innocent people to send a message is not. It is just as horrific as what we are speaking out against.

Rest in peace #PhilandoCastile #AltonSterling #BrentThompson  #PatrickZamarripa #MichaelKrol #MichaelSmith #LorneAhrens

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A desensitized world

In our day to day lives we are constantly faced with stories of tragedy and devastation from all around the world. We hear about them on the radio, we watch them on the news and we read them on the internet and in newspapers. We are incessantly bombarded by story after story and tragedy after tragedy, so much so that we as a society have become utterly desensitized. We forget that the “man caught in crossfire” is someone’s son and father and brother. We forget that the “woman stabbed to death in parking garage” is someone’s wife and mother and daughter. We forget that these stories and articles are about real people, people who have friends and family who love and care about them, loved ones that are shattered by despair in losing them. It becomes so easy to forget, to become numb to the continuous devastation we are faced with. However sometimes we need to put a face to the name, in order to remind people. We owe our fellow human beings that much don’t we? Not to let them die as the “man fatally shot”, but to give them an identity.

As journalists we are constantly criticized for our choices when it comes to the stories we publish, the quotes we use and the photos we release. Many think of us as insensitive and heartless, that we’ll stop at nothing to get a story. And for some that may be true, however as journalists it is our job to bring people the news both truthfully and promptly and also give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. Many of our decisions are based on these principles. With that being said, what may seem to some as inconsiderate, to us it is simply what needs to be seen or heard. We owe it both to the public and the victims of tragedy.

Take for instance the Alan Kurdi photograph, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who was found by a soldier, dead, face down washed up on the shore. This little boy became the face of the Syrian refugee crisis. This photograph resinated with people in a way that other articles and photos had not. The heart-shattering catastrophe captured in this photograph is both disturbing and astounding. This young boy inspired people to do their best to help refugees, to educate themselves on what is going on in other parts of the world and most importantly, this boy gave an identity to the Syrian refugees. They were no longer mere news articles, but real people. People with lives and families, who had feelings and emotions, people in dire need of help. This photo was published on the front cover of newspapers all over the country, and all though many criticized this decision, saying it was done in bad taste, the fact of the matter is, our society needed to be faced with something that real and that devastating. They needed to be faced with this photograph to truly comprehend that these horrific events are happening to real people around the world. 

When faced with tragedy we owe it to the victims and our society as a whole to empathize and ensure we are all informed and aware. This is how we will put an end to these events, by putting an end to ignorance. 

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Who do we idolize?

Take a moment and think about the people that you strive to be like. I’m willing to bet that at least one of these people is a celebrity. Now ask yourself why you look up to this person? Why do we idolize singers and actors and models? What positive contributions are they making to our society and what kind of examples are they setting for our youth? I’m guilty, as we all are, of following celebrities on social media and keeping up to date on certain people’s lives. But it occurred to me as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, why do I want to be like people that I don’t know? Why am I so concerned with their lives?  The fact of the matter is, that most (not all) of the people we idolize are not doing anything to make positive changes in the world, or help others, or even set good examples for young kids.

Take the Kardashians for example, why are they famous? Yes their father was the lawyer that defended O.J. Simpson, but how did they get on a reality television show? Because Kim Kardashian made a sex tape. What talents do any of these girls have? They publicly exploit themselves and their families for a living, and we as a society pay to watch them. In an interview with Barbra Walters, she asked the Kardashian girls, or rather told them, that none of them really had any talent, and the saddest part was, none of them were able to defend themselves. They simply sat there, with the inability to reject this statement admitting “none of us think we have talents”.

Only one of the Kardashian/Jenner girls attended university (Kourtney). Now this isn’t to say that those who haven’t attained higher education aren’t as smart as those who have. However, as people who grew up with money, with every possible opportunity handed to them, it’s sad that only one of these women wanted to attain a degree and attempt to educate and better themselves. It’s sad that they are content with being famous for all the wrong reasons. And it’s even more sad that we as a society consider these people icons.

In an interview with People Magazine, when asked about her plans for the future, Kylie Jenner said “I’m not going to college”, “I just really want to be a businesswoman”. When first reading this interview I laughed, because of the sheer contradiction of her words. Clearly Kylie has no true understanding of what it means to be a business woman, or how hard normal people have to work to reach even a fragment of the success she was simply handed.

At age 17 Kylie Jenner got her first round of lip fillers and since then her appearance has continued to change drastically.

 

kylie-jenner-before-and-after-lips-2013-2014Photo credit: The Daily 411

Not only did Kylie’s personal appearance change drastically, her personal life did as well, as she started dating 24 year old rapper Tyga when she was only 17 years old.

So what have the Kardashian’s taught us? Selling your body for fame is okay. Exposing your personal life to the world is encouraged. Education is unimportant. Young girls shouldn’t aim to love their imperfections but instead alter themselves to meet ideals. And barely legal relationships between young girls and grown men are socially acceptable.

I hope this has made you take a second look at the people you both consciously and unconsciously look up to and try to find role models that are doing positive things for our world. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be famous, it simply means we should look up to people based on what they value, who they are and what they represent. We should not only look up to these people, we should aim to be these people. This is how we will make the change from idolizing the Kardashian’s of the world to idolizing the Mala Yousafzai’s. If you don’t know who that is, look her up. You might just discover your new role model.

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