Niagara Gazette

Features

September 2, 2012

Worth fighting for: Teaching kids character and courage with sumo wrestling

Former pro football player teaches kids character and courage with sumo wrestling

Niagara Gazette — A former pro football player from Niagara Falls is devoting his life to teaching local children about courage, honor, and respect. He’s teaching them the same way that he learned it, almost by accident.

Charles Bray, once an offensive guard for the Toronto Argonauts, is a giant of a man, towering over his students while he teaches them how to win and how to lose so that at the end of a match, you can’t tell one from the other as both look each other in the eyes and shake hands. The point, Bray says, is to win with dignity and lose with grace, a lesson he admits, might be of benefit to more than just sumo students. 

He teaches them for free. This summer he touched the lives of 150 kids who attended his camp at the Belle Center in Buffalo. Just a couple of weeks ago he debuted the World’s Biggest Children’s Sumo Festival on the lacrosse field at Smokin’ Joe’s on First Street in downtown Niagara Falls. 

Bray said that after his nine year pro career,  his life was transformed by sumo.  As he practiced the deliberate squatting and stretching moves which are much like yoga, he found himself changing inside.  He was becoming calmer, more respectful, more compassionate, and more peaceful.  He first thought it was old age. Then he realized it was the sumo. He thought to himself, “man, this is what I needed when I was in high school.” And then he realized, “this is what kids need today.”

So, he is now a one-man army, fighting to win the hearts of the young. He is teaching them an ancient Japanese sport involving a circle that only one of two opponents can occupy. Keeping low and agile, they attempt to push each other out of the circle. It is a sport, he says, that will strengthen them for — and make them better at –  every other sport. It will also make them better at facing all the challenges of life. 

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