Springfield teen uses martial arts training to defend child from bully
SPRINGFIELD – As the son of an instructor, Roman Rodriguez has studied martial arts for many years.
“I don’t teach how to fight, I teach kids how to defend themselves,” said Roman’s father, Ricardo, the founder of a martial arts training program, Holyoke Kenpo and Fitness.
Yet, when walking out of class last Monday, Roman needed to use his skills to protect another.
“There was another teenager picking on a child with mental disabilities,” said Antonio Colón, one of the Holyoke Kenpo and Fitness instructors.
Upon leaving the building and stepping onto Nick Cosmos Way in Holyoke, Rodriguez saw a group of approximately eight teenagers huddled around a younger child. Realizing what was going on, Rodriguez approached the group.
“When I saw the situation, it immediately bothered me. I saw he was crying,” Rodriguez said, during an interview on Thursday. “Everyone should be appreciated for who they are as a person, not made fun of.”
The 16-year-old student at the High School of Commerce added that he has experienced bullying himself.
As he walked towards the group, Rodriguez said he asked the main aggressor to leave the younger child alone, adding that he did not wish to fight. “I told them I didn’t want any trouble, I just wanted to walk him home,” he said. “This, I guess, provoked him.”
Rodriguez said the boy, later identified as only 14 years old, was much larger than himself, at approximately 6-feet, 220 pounds. So, when he attempted to hit Rodriguez, his training helped him remain calm.
“He’s a lot bigger than me, so I only knocked him down and restrained him,” the 16-year-old, who has earned a purple belt, said. “I wanted to avoid things getting worse.”
Rodriguez’s strategy worked. The teen, who Rodriguez could only identify as “Angel” ran home, with his group of friends following. What he wasn’t prepared for was the threat he yelled.
“The kid threatened to stab or shoot Roman,” Colón said.
Rodriguez ran back inside the building to tell his father, who was still packing up after class, what happened.
“My son is a pretty mellow kid and I could tell something was wrong as he was pretty hyped up,” Ricardo said.
As they walked outside together, Ricardo said, the teen had returned brandishing a large kitchen knife with his mother by his side.
“I witnessed this kid’s mother encourage her son to stab mine. She was instigating a fight,” Ricardo said. “My first reaction was to protect my son, but also to avoid any kind of tragedy.”
Within minutes, officers of the Holyoke Police Department were on the scene. The 14-year-old was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. His mother, Jomery Rivera, was charged with disorderly conduct.
Reflecting on the high-intensity situation, Ricardo said he is proud of his son. “Just as I taught him, he defended someone who couldn’t defend himself.”
In addition to studying martial arts, Roman plays football and track at Commerce and is a cadet in the U.S. Army Junior ROTC.
The “best part” came a day later, Ricardo said, when another of his students who witnessed the incident, 11-year-old Timothy Colón, gave Roman a certificate of recognition to thank him.
“It emphases what I already knew; he’s a really good kid,” he added.