Aug. 15, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed
On July 29, members of the South Jamaica community gathered at the corner of Sutphin Boulevard and Shore Avenue as it was co-named ‘SWAM Way’ in honor of the SWAM House of Discipline, one of the oldest and most popular martial arts dojos led by Sijo Abdul Mutakabbir.
Mutakabbir received a proclamation from Senator Leroy Comrie and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Representatives of local elected officials and Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick were also in attendance for the celebration outside of SWAM at 107-31 Sutphin Blvd.
Mutakabbir, who trains and coaches students in all major arenas of martial arts, said the street co-naming of ‘SWAM Way’ means progress and hope for the community.
“It’s a sign for any individual who can do something positive and productive in their life. It means Strong, Wise and Achievable Minds (SWAM). The whole block is painted with the spirit of SWAM,” Mutakabbir said.
SWAM is a program which is currently changing lives in the inner cities of New York and Atlanta, Georgia, through martial arts, spiritual and psychological training and development. SWAM is family oriented and a drug preventive program. SWAM has documented cases of changing drug dealers into positive community leaders and family supporters. Within the past 25 years, SWAM has been successful in teaching many men, women and children how to build their self esteem, self respect and responsibility towards themselves, their families and the community.
Mutakabbir opened SWAM 40 years ago in South Jamaica.
“When I opened up SWAM, it wasn’t to teach people how to punch and kick, it was to teach people self discipline and respect for themselves and to be able to understand the importance of their life,” Mutakabbir said. “I didn’t want to go to a place where people were very educated and elevated in life. I wanted to go to a place where people didn’t have self esteem and no motivation.”
According to Mutakabbir’s wife, Odette Russell, an investor was interested in supporting him to open a school in Queens. After scouting several locations, Mutakabbir decided to open a dojo in South Jamaica even though the investor tried to warn him against it.
“He told him you want to go where you’ll make some money and nobody here cares about what they do,” Russell said. “These people are just into surviving, and that’s when my husband said ‘No, it’s not about the money. It’s about saving lives.’”
Mutakabbir, who grew up in Harlem, said he always wanted to help people. With the establishment of SWAM, Mutakabbir brought together a mix of martial arts, community activism, healing, and uplifting the spirit of the community members.
The acronym SWAM originates from the first two instructors, Sheldon Wilkins (SW) and Abdul Mutakabbir (AM). Eventually, the acronym took on numerous meanings, Mutakabbir said.
“It became Spiritual Warriors Against Madness, Strong Wise Achieving Minds, Sisters with a Mission and Soldiers With a Mission,” Mutakabbir said. It’s an acronym that keeps going on and on. We use SWAM as a beacon of light to show the people that there is hope and there’s a strong vibration in the area where you can elevate and grow.”