SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The first half of May has come and gone, but each week NewsChannel 9 will continue to introduce you to members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
The goal of our series, “Asian Americans Standing Strong,” is to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and recognize individuals for making a difference in Central New York.
This week, NewsChannel 9 is featuring Gee Vien. Born and raised in Syracuse, Vien is now an instructor at Anacaonda Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Jiu-Jitsu, a specific kind of martial art, originating in Japan around 1460. From there, it migrated to Brazil where it received its name today, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Then, it caught attention in America in the early 1990s.
For Gee Vien, the start of his career was certainly untraditional, but it’s a huge result of the fighter and person he is today.
It’s been a 15-year journey for Vien to perfect his craft, but his hard work throughout the years is shown in the confident instructor he is today.
I don’t really know what other American kids grew up watching, but in my house, it was Bruce Lee. I was very timid and shy and he was so charismatic and very physical. He was very Hollywood, out there, confident and well-spoken. He was everything I wasn’t. So growing up, I was like, ‘I wanna be like that guy.’Gee Vien, Jiu-Jitsu Instructor
However, his young dream of becoming the next Bruce Lee seemed out of reach.
Vien’s parents didn’t have the money to send him to lessons, but as soon as he got older and scored his first job, he signed up right away.
“I went through and did some research, watched some fights,” Vien explained. “I watched old UFC fights. I watched some street fights and I decided that Jiu-Jitsu was the best out there.”
For him, it’s all about technique, something he teaches all of his students but especially his 10-year-old son, Kai, who’s been training since he could walk.
“He inspires me because he never gives up when he does this and he works really hard,” — Kai Vien, Son
Gee says he owes much of his determination to his parents, Helen and Bahai, the perfect examples of never giving up.
My parents are of Chinese ethnicity and Vietnamese nationality. They were born and raised in Vietnam. After the war ended, they fled Vietnam and they’re what you consider, ‘boat people.’Gee Vien, Jiu-Jitsu Instructor
“Because of them, I understand that life is uncertain and pretty fragile, and tomorrow is not promised,” — Gee Vien
With that in mind, Vien is now sharing his skills with those of A.A.P.I decent, especially with the recent rise in anti-Asian attacks seen across the country.
In April, Vien held a free self-defense seminar to introduce people in his community to the positive effect Jiu-Jitsu can have in one’s life.
“The people that showed up did need it,” Vien explained. “They were awesome and I felt so protective of them. To be honest, you can’t get much out of an hour and a half seminar, but even if you’re just 1% more aware, it’s better than you were the day before.”
The concept of getting better every day and striving to be your best, Vien is setting a powerful example of that success to everyone he meets.
“I will carry myself today, every day this month, just like 365 days of the year. I’m going to try to be something my people can be proud of,” — Gee Vien
I try to never complain about anything. I do work really hard and because I work hard, that enables me to do things that I love with people that I care about.Gee Vien, Jiu-Jitsu Instructor