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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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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Former mayor Rob Ford, remembered as a man for the people

Ford Nation showed its support for the man who put them first

IMG_0431.jpgRob Ford supporters march through the streets alongside Toronto Police to pay tribute to their former mayor. Photographer Credit: Alexis Perikleous

Rob Ford supporters say he will be remembered as a man who took action and inspired people to care about their city.

During both procession and funeral which moved from Toronto City Hall to St. James Cathedral on Wednesday, hundreds of people lined the streets to pay tribute to their former mayor.

“Rob had inspired them by his words, by his actions and to care about their city,” said former Ontario premier, Mike Harris in his opening remarks at the funeral.

Ford’s supporters felt he set himself apart from other politicians because of the personal connections he made with his constituents.

Katalin Toth, who helped campaign for Ford during his mayoral run said, “I love John Tory. I think he’s a great mayor, but I would rather have Rob…When there was a problem he went out personally and helped”.

“I found him very nice, very simple, unpretentious. To me that was the appeal, and also putting tax payers first,” said the former teacher. “I just retired two years ago, I have to watch where my dollars are going, so yes he appealed to me very much, as he did to other retirees I suppose”.

“He was a man of the people”

—Donna Fowles

Donna Fowles, a Ford constitute from Etobicoke agrees, “He was not selfish, he was tenacious and he was full of love,” she said.

Ford was respected for being driven by his love for Toronto and it’s people.

“If you are a politician, you have to volunteer. He had a passion. He didn’t work for his salary. His salary was nothing to him because he had a big fortune to begin with,” said stock trader, Balan Alagaratham.

Ford impacted adults and children alike. Among procession attendees was 10-year-old Evan Roy, “I was going to meet him one time but he was too sick so he gave me a picture of him… I prayed for him every night,” he said.

Ford Nation seemed to have gained new members Wednesday, members who discarded their former mayor’s controversial past and focused on his achievements.

“People who were criticizing him are now here to support. So I guess they all put aside their differences, because they knew behind the persona was a great guy,” said Fowles.

Eulett Cox, a city volunteer and proud supporter of Ford said, “He acknowledged you as a human being, wether you were of high or low status. He didn’t care how you looked or how you spoke, he was always there”.

People sang and waved banners and signs in the air to display their love for the city councillor, as his casket was transported to St. James Cathedral from Toronto City Hall.

“It’s like the passing of any dignitary or public figure in society. In the immediate period following the death there is always that outpouring of support,” said Deputy Commander Paramedic, Leo Leach.

“I would wish to thank him for his service and the dedication that he did have to the people and the city of Toronto. He was a great guy…Toronto’s going to really miss him,” said Leach.

Lorna Rodrigues, a former broadcaster thinks highly of the Ford family and said, “For a white prevailed anglo-saxon family they really catapulted us into the twenty-first century”.

“Rob had the courage to be 100 per cent authentic at all times. I don’t think Rob has a secret that the world doesn’t know about,” she said.

“To be courageous is to be honest, and he was a man of courage”.

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