Oct 03, 2017 01:21PM
By Steven Hoffman
There was a time in his younger life when Greg Pritchett was troubled.
His mother believed in tough love at the same time the teenager seemed to reject all notions of love. He was cursed with an inability to translate rage into a plea for help.
He saw too much fighting. He heard too many loud voices. He loved his stepfather but saw him tumble down into a world of addiction and bad habits.
A family fight and being reprimanded by his stepfather left him feeling marginalized from his siblings. He began to suffer from depression, coupled with his invented belief that he would not live to see his 21st birthday.
When he turned 21, he broke down in tears, more out of shock than relief.
During these years, Pritchett was taken in for a short time by a man named Wardell Harmon in New Castle, who became the start of Pritchett's journey through a quagmire of predicaments and incidents. Harmon, whom Pritchett called Pop, helped guide the young man, and when Pritchett eventually landed on his feet with a new job and a place to raise his young family, he asked Harmon, “How can I possibly repay you for what you have done for me?”
“Do what I have done for you for someone else,” Harmon told Pritchett.
Pritchett, sitting in the waiting room of MVJ Athletics Training Center, which he has owned and operated for the past 15 years, and where he has helped train and guide hundreds of young athletes to gain discipline and direction, said, “So that's what I do now.”
The doors of MVJ Athletics Training Center, tucked deep within the Delaware Industrial Park, welcome children and adults six days a week for a full plate of instruction in Modern Vee-Jitsu Athletics, an integrated training system designed for athletes. The system, which includes instruction in boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts, combines the discipline of the martial arts and the explosive methods of plyometrics training, which develops focus, coordination, power, speed and agility.
Its intentions are to develop both the internal and external components of the athlete: The external component conditions the body, develops physical power and takes the outward manifestations of strength, while also developing inward body functions (such as breathing), intuitive response, concentration and strength of will.
Children's classes at MVJ Athletics Training Center are intended to help kids develop self-confidence, discipline, and greater self-esteem, which translates into the classroom and the home. The MVJ Athletics summer camps teach a variety of skills.
The road that led Pritchett to becoming the owner of MVJ Athletics Training Center was a winding one, and not without roadblocks. When he was growing up in Wilmington, his Uncle Bayard “Skeeter” Christie, a fourth-degree blackbelt fighter, introduced him to martial arts; in particular, Shotokan Karate.
“I was an angry person when I was growing up, and martial arts gave me the balance that I desperately needed,” he said. “I see that same anger, that same lack of balance, in a lot of students, and it's my role to address that. Someone once told me, 'If you train in a violent activity, you will learn to become less violent, because you will develop more confidence and willingness to control yourself, than to see where that violence can lead to.'”
After the birth of his second child, Pritchett was desperate to find a way to balance family, work, and martial arts training and education. Living in North Philadelphia, he took a job as a groundskeeper at a Pep Boys in the city, was eventually transferred to the store's Prices Corner location, and moved his family to Delaware.
After being laid off from work later as an electrician’s apprentice, Pritchett began teaching at a martial arts studio in Peddler's Village, first as an instructor and later as head instructor. After a disagreement with the head of the studio, he gave his two-week notice and opened his first school -- The Chinese Kickboxing Kung Fu Academy.
“I wanted to teach reach martial arts, so I decided to branch out on my own as an instructor,” he said. “I wanted to teach martial arts as a means of protecting one's self, not only inside the ring, but more importantly, outside of it, and went full-throttle into being a full-time instructor and full-time fighter.”
After meeting Grand Master Evans of Modern Vee-Jitsu and being accepted as a student, Pritchett was given permission to teach Modern Vee-Jitsu (MVJ). After getting his blackbelt in Vee-Jitsu, “I noticed how much it changed me, my teachings and my fighters,” he said. “After speaking more in depth with Grand Master Evans, it was equally decided that with the athletic approach and the explosive methods of training that were included in the MVJ system, it would only be right to re-name our facility Modern Vee-Jitsu Athletics Training Center, Inc.”
During his time in the ring as a competitor in boxing, Muay Thai, freestyle wrestling, karate, sanshou (Chinese kickboxing) and kung fu, Pritchett earned several accomplishments, including a perfect 15-0 record as an amateur boxer. In 1997, he was named the 1997 IKF Kickboxing gold medalist, the Delaware Kickboxing Champion in 1999, and in 2000, he earned a bronze medal at the Maryland Open Kickboxing Championship. During that time, Pritchett was ranked second in the United States and seventh in the world in sanshou, and was undefeated as a sanda/sanshou professional fighter.
Yet, when Pritchett was asked to share the forever moments of his time as a competitive fighter, he spun the question in another direction, choosing instead to answer it by highlighting the accomplishments of his students. He pointed to photographs of fighters on the wall who have come through MVJ Athletics Training Center and are now rising through the ranks of the local professional mixed martial arts circuit.
He points into the gym, where one of those fighters -- David “One-Two” Murray -- is helping youngsters to work punching bags.
“David came to me in his mid-twenties,” Pritchett said. “He was recently divorced and was living with relatives, and he told me that he wanted to learn how to box, in order to relieve some stress in his life. Fast-forward to now, and Dave was a Philadelphia Golden Gloves boxing runner-up, and is now a professional boxer with a record of seven wins and six knockouts.
“How MVJ and I helped Dave get to where he is today is incredible. He was God-sent to me.”
Pritchett talked about the time he encountered a group of teenage thugs spray painting his first studio. He cornered them, but instead of taking their names and turning them in to the police, he invited them to join him at the studio. He trained Michael and Richard Legg to become fighters and then instructors, but what Pritchett is most proud of is that Michael and Richard now own homes and are raising families of their own.
Perhaps his greatest students are Master David Bonilla, a modern vee-jitsu athletics Master Instructor who is now employed by the State of Delaware (whom Pritchett taught since the age of 11) and Pritchett's son, Sensei Greg Pritchett III, who is the youngest black belt in the modern vee-jitsu system and a four-time kickboxing champion. He's following in his father's footsteps; sensei Greg runs and operates MVJ Athletics Training Center II in Camden, Del.
Joining Pritchett, Jr. and Bonilla are the countess other fighters who have come through MVJ, such as Schmelle Baldwin, Eddie Fuentes, Michael Hampton, Enrique Hernandez, Luis Hernandez, Zak Kelly, Brandon Mullins, Derrick Potter, Ornella Sathoud, Adonis Wilkins, and many others.
Today, Pritchett understands the struggles his mother had to endure, and as a parent himself, he has a better understanding of what she went through in attempting to raise a young man who needed guidance from a strong figure. The love and admiration he has for his mother is profound, and he passes it along to his students.
“Fighting and modern vee jitsu saved my life and gave me the opportunities that I have, but it's the teachable moments that are most rewarding for me,” he said. “They let me know that I am doing the right thing with my life.”
There are several prizefighting and MMA belts on the walls of the entrance to MVJ Athletic Training, and an equal number of over-sized trophies as well, some of which tower over the youngsters who hurry past Pritchett and into the gym, where they await their teacher. There are posters that promote upcoming fights, featuring current and former MVJ students.
The irony in all the sparkling trinkets is this: There is a strong likelihood that none of the kids now waiting for Pritchett to team them will ever compete in a ring, and rarer still is the chance that even one of them will grow up to collect such accolades.
At MVJ Athletic Training Center, not all champions win trophies.
“In the end, we're all on this mat and we're all pushing to get through,” Pritchett said. “A mentor once told me that a good fighter keeps pushing until he can't push any more. The great fighter keeps pushing until he feels like he's going to pass out. And the champion? The champion keeps pushing until all seemingly unobtainable options are attained.”
Pritchett changed into his practice uniform, entered the gym, and became a teacher.
Key benefits of martial arts training:
Increased amount of agility
Improved balance and coordination
Increased flexibility and mobility
Improved muscle strength
Better cardiovascular fitness, which helps overall health and well-being
Increased self-confidence, self-esteem and assertiveness
Sharpened ability to communicate clearly and directly
More focus and effectiveness at work/in daily life