Jiu-jitsu is the martial law here – Lowell Sun


LOWELL — In his early twenties, Joseph “Joey” Sylvester had a desk job.

Everyday he ate fast food and drank beer. Then, on his friends suggestion, the Lowell-native tried Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or BJJ, a type of martial art.

“I just turned purple. I barely made it through the workout,” he said. “Within 30 days, I had lost 40 pounds.”

Joey stuck with the sport. Today, Joey and his wife Corina Sylvester run The Paradigm Academy. Their students now have similar stories.

Maribel Fuentes, 41, says she joined to lose weight before her wedding. She’s down 42 pounds.

Owner of the Paradigm Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Joseph Sylvester takes a selfie with class before they start. SUN/David H. Brow

Ethan Doss, a 36-year-old adrenaline sport aficionado, said he had a hard time adjusting to an office job after moving to Lowell from New Hampshire. BJJ, he said, gave him an outlet and healthier lifestyle before having a baby with his wife.

Matheus De Souza, 22, said training has has boosted his confidence and discipline.

“My personality, my character, is really being developed here,” De Souza said.

All say they found community.

“For people that spend multiple nights a week learning how to get better at combat, they’re the nicest people I ever met,” Doss said.

The Paradigm Academy opened three-and-a-half years ago, after Joey left a career as a filmmaker and photographer. The job required long hours and traveling, taking him away from Corina and their daughter, Maya, who is now 6-years-old.

“I didn’t want to be away from them,” Joey said. “Especially (Maya) when she was so young.”

The gym at 109 Industrial Avenue is bright with surfboards, paddle boards and longboards hanging on the walls.

“It’s good to work on the balance of those,” Corina said. “And jiu-jitsu is all about balance.”

About a year ago, the couple, with help from the community, renovated the gym on a marathon schedule. The change doubled the size of the space.

There’s some seating and a shop with soap made by Corina and gear designed by Joseph, including gi, the clothing worn by people practicing BJJ. However most of the space is taken up by a large mat where members warm up with rolls and cartwheels before sparring.

Students and instructors at the Paradigm Brazilian Jiu Jitsu warm up before starting class. SUN/David H. Brow

Joey and Corina demonstrated in front of the class one recent weeknight. Joey pulled at the collar of Corina’s gi one, two, three times. Then he lunged, grabbing his wife behind the knee. Corina hopped to keep her balance.

“I think it’s a bit about the mind game,” Corina said. “It’s like human chess.”

Corina started practicing BJJ several years ago, after urging from her husband.

“I told him you should have pushed me more,” she said.

“Although he did.” She laughed.

Corina grew up in Romania, where she ran competitively. Currently she works for Keurig in Burlington and teaches the women’s classes at the gym. About 30 women attend the gym, she said.

“We have more women than anyone. … You don’t see many women doing it,” Joey said. “To have as many as we have is really a testament to how good (Corina) is at what she’s doing, because that doesn’t just happen.”

Ashley Mullin, a 35-year-old Lowell resident, is among the women who regularly attend The Paradigm Academy. Mullin danced ballet for 12 years before starting BJJ and was initially reluctant to try the sport. She said, by nature, she isn’t a confrontational person.

Several women who attended the gym told her to try and after he husband bought her a gi, she signed up.

“And that was it,” she said.

Now Mullin, her husband and their two sons, ages 7 and 11, are part of the community.

“It’s such a family oriented place, where you are doing something quite violent looking, but you’re doing it to have fun — if that’s even like a thing,” Mullin said. “You beat people up for fun, because you love them.”

Fuentes saw the power of that love off the mats, when the community raised $800 for her brother who was affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“Being here, at that time for six months, and for them to do something like that for my family, not even knowing me,” she said. “I felt like — it was, it was good.”



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