My name is Vinny Scotto. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. In late 2003 I decided to move to Fort Lauderdale, FL. After being there for a few months I started to look for different ways to meet new people and stay in shape. I happened to stumble upon a Kung Fu school that had a program called Sanshou. Sanshou is a form of Chinese kickboxing similar to Muay Thai. When I first started training, I had no intention of sparring, competing, or fighting. It began as just a hobby. After training for a few months, I decided to challenge myself and step into the ring where I won a gold medal in an International Chinese Martial Arts competition.
In 2005 while training Sanshou, I began to learn about Muay Thai. The more I learned about Muay Thai, the more my passion and obsession grew. Over the years I have met and trained with a lot of great people. One of the biggest influences in my Muay Thai career has been my coach Mauricio “Jose” Caal at the Academy of Martial Arts and Self Defense in Pembroke Pines, FL. Another big influence was my training partner Eric Rivera with whom I’ve developed a website dedicated to promoting Muay Thai & Kickboxing in the U.S. called The Striking Corner.
In 2010 I moved back to New York (Staten Island) and had difficulties finding a Muay Thai gym in the area that provided the same level of training and tradition that I was accustomed to. Because of this, it became harder for me to train. In 2013, I was presented with the opportunity to open up a gym of my own. This is something I’ve always wanted to do so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it!
To me, there is no other sport that is as traditional, exciting and intense as Muay Thai. Between training, fighting, teaching and attending events, I’ve invested many years of my life into the sport. One of my personal goals is to continue promoting Muay Thai in the U.S. which is why I decided to start teaching. Whether you’re looking to learn a new sport or you want to live your lifelong dream of fighting in a ring, I can help. Ultimately, I’d like to build a team of Muay Thai obsessed individuals like me here at Staten Island Muay Thai where we can attend events and share the excitement of sitting ringside when a fighter from our gym enters the ring. Maybe a group trip to Thailand? The possibilities are endless!
My name is Emanuel “Manny” Balmes. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and moved to Staten Island about 7 years ago. As a teenager and young adult, I constantly found myself struggling to make the right decisions for myself and my future. I then found myself dealing with depression because I knew I wanted more out of life. I needed to makes changes quickly. In 2011, I watched Shogun Rua vs Lyoto Machida on UFC unleashed and it immediately sparked my interest in martial arts and competing. I was determined to train myself and enter a competition which I did in March of 2012. With 2 months training and no coach in my corner, I lost my first fight by split decision but immediately knew that this was something I needed to pursue with the right coach and training.
In 2014, I came across Staten Island Muay Thai and have been training under Coach Vinny’s guidance ever since. He’s been in my corner for 2 smokers (exhibition fights) and 1 sanctioned fight. Although intense, each time I prepared for a fight, I grew physically and most importantly mentally stronger then before. I grew more focused as I learned different techniques to take down an opponent and found myself analyzing strategies that I’d learned. I believe that teaching these skills to teenagers will translate to them making the best decisions for themselves and their future as young adults. Muay Thai has directly changed my life in many ways. It has exposed me to different career opportunities and allowed me to network with people from all walks of life who help each other grow as individuals and as a team. I hope to do the same for the teenagers in my class and want them to gain what I’ve gained from this sport.
My name is Elisa and I was born and raised in Staten Island. I’m a mother of 2 beautiful boys and we all know with pregnancy, comes weight gain. I gained about 80lbs during both pregnancies. After my youngest was born, I knew I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and was determined to make the changes necessary to do so. I loved martial arts as a teen (although I never really pursued it) so I started doing workout DVD’s that incorporated martial arts moves. After doing DVD’s for a while, I knew I was ready for the next step and started looking for martial arts gyms and ended up finding a martial arts school that offered kickboxing classes. It was then that I lost nearly all my excess weight and wanted to help others do the same so I started teaching kickboxing classes. Teaching is truly my passion and my goal has always been to help people lose weight while having fun!
Shortly after, I decided I was ready for another challenge and joined a self defense based martial arts program. I enjoyed this class so much that I became an assistant teacher for their kids program. I truly enjoyed working with the kids and teaching them how to defend themselves and when and where it was appropriate to utilize the skills they developed in class. After 5 years of teaching kickboxing and the kids program, I decided I wanted to again challenge myself (who doesn’t love a good challenge!) and learn a contact sport where I could potentially compete. I then found Staten Island Muay Thai and fell in love with the sport during my first class. Muay Thai has helped me maintain my weight while I pursue my goals of competing and becoming a fitness instructor.
I look forward to continue finding fun ways to stay fit for adults and kids so it keeps them engaged and more likely to make it a lifestyle as opposed to a temporary fix.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Like a lot of people, the first time I saw Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was when Royce Gracie seemingly came out of nowhere breaking arms and choking people unconscious during the brutal beginnings of the UFC. No one knew what this guy was doing and he seemed to be finishing everyone, including much larger opponents, with ease.
In 2006, I was watching UFC 58. On that card was a welterweight fight between B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre. There was a moment in the fight where Penn was lying on his back with St. Pierre on top of him, then he takes his own leg, wraps it around St. Pierre’s back and puts his foot in front of his face. Joe Rogan was announcing and proceeded to lose his mind over how amazing this was. Meanwhile I’m sitting on my couch thinking “I can do that”.
Later that year I checked out the Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan and signed right up. The Gracie name is what made Brazilian Jiu Jitsu popular, so I figured if I could learn from them, then that’s what I’d do.
The academy had a constant rotation of people of all levels visiting or training full time, and also a deep pool of talented people to train with. Every day there was a fighter you’ve seen on tv on the mats rolling around and I had the opportunities over the years to train with many top level BJJ guys and MMA fighters.
I mainly trained under John Danaher who for a long time was referred to as “the best kept secret in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”. Coincidentally he is also Georges St. Pierre’s grappling coach.
In 2012, I left Renzo’s and began my training under the legendary Marcelo Garcia. He is arguably one of, if not the greatest competitive grappler ever. I have since recieved my brown belt from him and I continue to train at the Marcelo Garcia Academy regularly.
For me Jiu Jitsu isn’t just about doing moves and getting people to submit. It’s a game, a very complex system of movements and infinite possibilities. I only weigh 135 pounds at my max, and while doing BJJ almost all the people I’ve trained with have been, larger, stronger, in better shape, and in the beginning just better at the sport than me. So learning ways to manipulate people without using strength has been paramount. When you spend so much time on the mats you spend just as much time on theory, thinking about and discussing positions that pose a problem, and showing others mistakes and helping to correct them. I look forward to sharing everything I’ve learned and continuing to improve myself and everyone I train with.
Like many kids today, my parents started me in martial arts (Hakko Ryu Jiu-jutsu) at around 8 years old mostly to give me something to do after school. Even as a rambunctious and let’s say “free spirited” kid, marital arts training kept me in line and helped me focus. From then on, my parents saw the benefits of martial arts training at a young age and continued to support and reinforce my love for it.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to train in a variety of different arts and under various instructors. Some of the arts I trained in range from western Boxing, Go-Jiu Karate and Judo under Alberto Gottai, Kickboxing under Adam Shorts, Andrew Littman and others, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Renzo Gracie, Alexander Socca and Carmine Zocchi (also MMA coach). Other arts include Capoeira, Fencing, JDK etc.
After moving to Staten Island in 2012, I started looking for gyms to train Kickboxing in, which lead to me my new home at Staten Island Muay Thai. SIMT has introduced me to the pure art of Muay Thai taught by the gyms owner and head instructor, Vinny Scotto. I continue to train and develop at SIMT, where I also met my present BJJ instructor Alex Condos.
Throughout the years, each art I’ve studied has helped me develop as an individual and has given me the tools needed to pursue my passion in teaching children along with the ability to develop the S.A.S. portion of SIMT kid’s self-defense program. My philosophy on training and teaching martial arts is simple. When training as a team, students develop a responsibility to draw out the best in one another along with desire to give it all they have. After all, as I was once told, good training and sparing partners are built not born.