Romulo Teaches SFDSCA How to Champ Up

 Romulo Teaches SFDSCA How to Champ Up

By Katie McFadden

CROM may no longer be in Rockaway, but the inspirational man behind the successful gym, was back in town recently, continuing to inspire some of Rockaway’s youth through some motivational words. On Tuesday, March 7, the students of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy got a lesson on how to champ up from the champ himself, Chris Romulo.

Romulo no longer operates a gym and has since moved to New Jersey, but he continues to referee professional Muay Thai matches, coaches and goes around sharing his inspirational story as a motivational speaker and author of a 2017 memoir, “Champions Uprising.”

On Tuesday, SFDSCA Principal Christopher Scharbach, welcomed Romulo back to Rockaway and into Belle Harbor’s Catholic school to give some inspiration to the school’s fourth through eighth grade students. Having had Romulo give speeches to the school about six years prior, Scharbach knew Romulo would be a great role model to provide tips on how kids can overcome school bullies and inner bullies like self-doubt. “Chris has been with us before and we liked his message. It resonates well with all of our students. He spent time in Rockaway and a couple of students know him from taking classes at the gym. So anytime you can bring someone who resonates with the kids with a nice message, it can really make a difference in even just one child’s life,” Scharbach said.

The afternoon assembly was made possible with the help of PDHP, the Program for the Development of Human Potential, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide drug, alcohol, gambling, bullying and violence prevention services to students, families and faculties in the academies, schools and parishes of Brooklyn and Queens. “We’re lucky enough that the Diocese of Brooklyn and PDHP sponsored Chris in many of our diocese schools,” Scharbach said.

As the kids settled into the school’s gym, they watched a highlight reel of Romulo’s career as a professional Muay Thai boxer, from his successes to his setbacks. Then Romulo himself appeared from behind a curtain, bringing out all the punches and reenacting one of his not-so-fine moments, when he was knocked unconscious with a single punch during a 2006 match, following an undefeated streak. Romulo recapped the incident, and said, “Before that, I learned that life is a fight and sometimes you can feel like you’re on top of the world and sometimes you can feel like you’re face down in the dirt. But the Japanese have a saying—Fall seven times, stand up eight. And that’s what champions do. A champion is someone who gets back up no matter how many times life knocks them down.”

Romulo went on to describe many times when life tried to knock him down, starting with growing up in Queens Village, being the only Filipino American student in his class, and being bullied for it. “I got tripped down the stairs, had food trays knocked out of my hands and in gym class, someone grabbed my throat and said, ‘Go back to China, you ch****.’ Those words cut deep,” Romulo said. And home life wasn’t much better. Romulo described how his father was often distanced, as his gambling addiction became a priority. But as a way to deal with the hardship he faced at school and at home, Romulo found an outlet—martial arts. “My mom had bought a heavy bag, so I would go into the garage and work out. That salvation became my dream and my purpose. I found and fell in love with martial arts and that’s been my guiding force for almost 40 years,” he said.

Romulo spoke more about bullying and how it has changed over the years, with it following kids home through the Internet and cell phones. But he also spoke of the inner bullies kids face, the seven “dictators” of their lives that can control their emotions and actions.  Giving definitions and examples, with participation from the students, Romulo laid out those seven dictators — Self-doubt, fear, disappointment, hardship, confusion, self-talk and ego.

Speaking on self-doubt, Romulo shared a time from his childhood when he dreamed of joining a local breakdancing crew in Queens. A member had spotted him busting out a few moves and invited him to try out. Romulo went to meet up with them, and at the last minute, overcome by self-doubt, turned around and went home. After sharing that story, Romulo got up on stage and broke out a few moves as symbolic way of showing that he now overcomes that self-doubt. He then invited some of the kids to defeat their own self-doubt by showing off a few moves of their own, to which several boys eagerly stepped up to volunteer.

After sharing his personal examples of dealing with each of the seven dictators, and ways to overcome them, Romulo left the kids with a few inspirational thoughts to carry with them before the bell rang for dismissal.

He urged them to find their dream in life and let it be their guide. “If you don’t build your dream, you’re going to spend your life building someone else’s dream. My dream of martial arts got me through those dark times. That dream will be your savior,” he said.

And in following those dreams, he reminded the kids to not let those seven dictators get in the way. “Sometimes those dictators make us forget what we’re worth—champions by nature. ‘Champions Uprising’ is about what all of you can do in your world right now. Embrace all the setbacks in your life and use them as fuel for your own champion’s uprising. The real fight is not against the world around us. It’s against the seven dictators of the mind. The inner fight to guide our thoughts and feelings, which is what leads to our actions,” he said. “We all have a champion’s spirit inside us. So let’s not let self-doubt, fear, disappointment, hardship, confusion, self-talk, ego, cover up our greatness.”

Time ran out for the kids to have a question-and-answer session with Romulo, but overall, he felt the assembly was a success. “It went great. They were engaged and I could sense they were hanging on every word,” Romulo said. He said that for him, if he can make an impact on one child, it’s all worth it. “If you can plant the seed of hope for some kid, it’s amazing. I just want to know that I’ve done my part to help guide these kids in some way.”

That reassurance came when after his session, a young girl came up to him, saying that she too is a Filipino American, and she was truly touched by his speech.

For more information about Chris Romulo or to book an event with him, head to:

Rockaway Stuff

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