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Jason “The Dragon” Lee: South Boston Native Ready to Combat Bullying Lee, who trains out of Grudge Training Center in Colorado, took a few moments to talk to us about his history, and the passion he has regarding the elimination of bullying. It may be funny for people to think of a professional fighter as being so against violence, but in his eyes, the two are worlds apart. Lee”s people came from all over the world, with his grandfather”s side of the family coming straight to Boston from Ireland, and as he puts it, “I”m an Irish kid from New England. My life, is a good Irish story. Both sides of my family have ties to drunken street scrappers and small time criminals. First one to do something big was my grandfather. He grew up in a horrible household, but managed to get himself into the Navy at a young age and finished out his life as a hero.” Maybe it is this deliverance in his history, this idea that a person can change their world around them that pushes Lee to do what he does. His professional MMA record stands at 1-0, having just finished his amateur career and debuted in November at “The Professionals” in Denver, and he is surrounded constantly by some of the biggest names in the sport all motivating him to do more. His life could have taken a very different path though, growing up in the projects of South Boston and being bullied on a daily basis. “The first memory that comes to mind involves a kid that lived in the projects next to the ones I grew up in. We used to take the same bus home and that was my dreaded time. I used to wait until the last stop hoping all the other kids would get off. Unfortunately my front seat sanctuary wasn”t safe after the last stop,” Lee said. The bully and his gang would punch him as they got off, and then wait for him to depart the safety of the bus. The driver, doing nothing, would ignore young Lee”s tears and begging and force him into the street and drive away either oblivious to what was going to happen, or too cowardly to step in. Every day Lee would get off the bus, and the gang would pull down branches from a nearby tree. They would beat him with those, their fists, their feet and anything else within arm”s reach. Lee wasn”t sure if the physical blows were worse than the mental anguish of knowing what was coming each day, but in hearing him talk about the subject, it is clear that both left scars. While the bullies were bad enough, there is something about the woeful indifference that the adults, including the driver, exhibited to him that has motivated Lee to not cast the same blind eye to the problem he sees in the world currently. Maybe it was that image, of a boy pleading with an adult to listen, to save him, that lead to what happened on that night in November. On November 12, 2010, Lee dispatched Ed Banks in a quick victory in his professional debut. Normally when a fighter wins they do a post fight interview that is easily ignored. The traditional chorus and rhythm of “thank you to my sponsors, thank you to my friends and family, wow he was a tough opponent”, is what fans are used to hearing, and Lee”s started out in that exact way. Then it suddenly changed. His voice got louder, his presence in the ring suddenly larger, and everyone in the arena slowed down and dropped their own conversations as the man began to plead for a stop to bullying and for everyone to unite on the topic. This figure, whose broad shoulders had just a moment ago put a stop to a larger fighter and displayed athleticism that few in the crowd could mirror, appeared to be close to tears in the ring. They weren”t tears of sadness or weakness. They were tears of complete frustration and the words that came spilling out were that of a man tired of reliving the same painful childhood through the headlines of today. “I had been researching this bullying topic going around, and figured that with that moment when I know people are listening I”m going to say something to make a difference. I said that I was a victim of bullying and that I alone cannot change things so we need to make a collective effort to stop bullying of these kids,” Lee said. His shoulders are broad, but not broad enough to do this alone. It was a moment that froze the crowd and the galvanized many of them. While those that are on the outside of the sport looking in may not be able to see how a combat sport so focused on “fighting” and an anti-bullying campaign could work together, those close to the fighters understand completely. Within moments social networking sites were buzzing with the need of fans, coaches, gyms and everyone to unite to combat this massive problem. For Lee, it goes beyond just the bullying he himself was a victim of. “I”m a dad too and I don”t want my son or anyone else”s son or daughter to have to feel that pain,” Lee said. So why did Lee choose now, or rather, his victory speech to begin the discussion? “It”s important because this is the first time in my life that I have been in a position where people listen to me. So now I will use every ear available to push my beliefs and give back where I can.” When asked what people can do to combat the problem, Lee said, “That”s a great question because I feel like once I said something, people were happy someone had spoken up but also it left everyone wondering what programs are available and where they too can join the cause.” Lee didn”t have to look far, finding willing ears and a dedication to action right in his own gym, the world famous Grudge Training Center, and its coach Trevor Wittman. “Grudge Training Center is starting, December 10, a free class every Saturday at 2pm for kids ages 10-16 to come down and learn some free self defense and life skills. That”s a huge start and I am still looking for more,” Lee said. However it was Lee himself that had the first impact in this new war of his, almost immediately after he made the comments. Less than forty-eight hours after the event, a mother in Colorado emailed him. She had been at the show with her son, a teenager who had recently confided that he was being bullied and had been having suicidal thoughts. “She told me that her son has a new hero. I am so blessed and touched by this that now, I”m motivated to help one hundred kids and I won”t stop until I find every single one,” he said. Every journey starts with a step, and the first step for Lee”s was helping this teenager know he wasn”t alone. The teenager was surprised with tickets to an event, a closed door session with Lee where he got to watch him spar and some personally autographed equipment. In a world filled with stories of bullying that lead to horrendous tragedy, Lee is fighting back. In a society now filled with lackluster sports heroes, Lee is giving us all someone to cheer for. He is not a product of his history, he is not a victim of his past, he is a fighter that now fights inside the ring for his future, and outside for our children. To learn more about Jason “The Dragon” Lee, find him on Facebook. He will be fighting again January 29th at the Paramount Theater in downtown Denver. You can learn more about the Grudge Training Center by calling 303-432-8858.

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