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New York City "Thunder Fist" Youth Karate Championship in Harlem

Burroughs Lamar | United States


Wesley Spires is one of the principals of the Simba Dojang, a martial arts organization and created a school in Harlem.

ln the early 1960’s, out of a deep love for their community and a desire to positively change the lives inner-city youth, legendary martial arts pioneers and champions Grand Master Furman L. Marshall and the late Grand Master Phillip Cunningham Jr., began teaching Korean Karate (Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do) in Southeast, Washington, D.C., in one of the District’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Grand Masters Marshall and Cunningham used a very disciplined, intensive, and rigorous training regimen to develop and mentor these boys and girls. This training was a positive alternative to the enticement of the streets, crime, drugs, and victimization.


Burroughs Lamar is a self-taught documentary photographer.His serious photography began in 2008, through his ongoing project documenting African American life in his native born Harlem community in the context of gentrification.His interest in the human condition arises from his career in behavioral health, specifically forensic psychiatry, working with his clients, Psychiatrists, Therapists and Social Workers in the treatment of major psychiatric disorders.

On May 19th, 2019, Mr. Spires facilitated the New York City “Thunder Fist” Youth Karate Championship at his school’s location.In the spirit of the mission of Simba Dojang, I volunteered my photography to this tournament as a means to give back to my community.What I initially thought I would capture was brisk competition from a series bouts that occurring simultaneously, based on age, and gender.But to my surprise, I found something altogether unexpected.I experienced many of the parents bonding with their children, in a supportive nurturing manner.Unlike the parents of little league baseball leagues where the kids are pressured to win, stripping the fun out of sports, these kids, however, were enjoying themselves immensely.

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