History was made at the Ed Parker International Karate Grand Championship in 1979.
One individual fighter became the youngest, the smallest, and the first African-American to ever win the tournament title. The three milestones were so notable that the Guinness Book of World Records came to give its official recognition for the record-breaking performance.
That young fighter was 19-year-old Abdul-Latif Ferguson.
Now 60, Ferguson is still closely connected to the sport of martial arts. He is the President, CEO and Senior Martial Arts Instructor at the Youth ‘N Motion Academy in Leimert Park. The academy, which was introduced to Leimert Park in 2007, is committed to serving the youth of the area through self-defense.Get an inside look at champion boxer Abdul-Latif Ferguson's martial arts studio here
Ferguson’s inspiration for teaching martial arts in Leimert Park did not come from his love for the sport alone. Instead, it came from his love for how the sport impacted his own life, and knows he can do the same for others.
“I grew up in a pretty rowdy neighborhood, and I used self-defense to help myself feel comfortable and confident,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson knew early on he wanted to give younger people the same instruction and discipline he was given. He feels that the skills and lessons he learned as a child gave him the best path to a brighter future.
There are some adult classes at Ferguson’s academy, but working with younger students was always his main focus. He makes his academy easily accessible as well, providing sponsorships and scholarship programs for children of all ages in the surrounding low-income communities. Ferguson does not measure his success in money. Rather, he measures it by how much he helps his students grow.
“Since we opened our doors, we have been impacting the lives of more and more young people who struggle with real dangers like violence and poverty. That brings me joy more than anything else” Ferguson said.
Youth sports can certainly build and strengthen individuals within the sporting environment, but Ferguson believes that his teaching methods can help support his youth outside the academy as well.
“Self-discipline…respect for others…the strengths my students take away from classes here can be applied to their academic lives outside the studio,” Ferguson said.
He senses a true connection between martial arts and education. However, Ferguson takes it one step further by offering incentives for school teachers to train there themselves. The Youth ‘N Motion Academy has free training sessions for elementary and high school educators to promote healthier relationships between teachers and students.
Ferguson is not alone in his reasoning for teaching younger students. The majority of all sports organizations in Leimert Park are in place to empower the youth in the area and shape them into positive, disciplined and self-aware people.
Other sports groups certainly share the same beliefs as Morgan and Ferguson. From youth martial arts, to youth football and youth dance classes, Leimert Park is filled with sports geared toward younger people. The mission for each of those organizations is to help motivate and inspire their students to be positive contributors to the surrounding community.
The Youth ‘N Motion Academy is specifically designed behind the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, and it can take a child to inspire that village. “If the community supports its youth, then in turn our youth have a reason to respect the community,” Ferguson said.
At Ferguson’s studio, it is obvious that the Leimert Park community wants to support its youth. Youth ‘N Motion is run predominantly by volunteers from the surrounding area. Whether it’s helping teach classes alongside Ferguson, or just helping out in between classes, there are multiple people who regularly offer their assistance to the studio. These special community members include lawyers, behavioral health counselors, accountants, teachers, and even college students.
“It keeps people off the streets instead of having them cause trouble in the streets. It’s better when people have something to do like participate in after school sports,” said Abdul-Razzaaq Abdullah, one of the volunteers at the studio.
Through sports, the youth in Leimert Park are being conditioned to grow into respectful and disciplined human beings. They are learning to love competing and staying in shape, while also working hard to set themselves up for successful futures.
Along with most of the sports groups in the area, Youth ‘N Motion has always been driven by the motivation to develop and empower its youth. “The whole idea of the program is for the students to become better kids, better in academics, and just all around make them feel safe and self-confident,” Ferguson said.
Every child deserves an equal chance at having success in the future. In Leimert Park, sports are in place to ensure that, through fitness and proper guidance, everyone can earn that success.