By Rochelle E. “Little Rocky” Brenner
Read this February 2022 article in the Chestnut Hill Local for the story behind the story: https://chestnuthilllocal.com/stories/authentic-rocky-memorabilia-at-mt-airy-karate-studio,22677
December 3, 2023 is officially Rocky Day in Philadelphia.
I took my son to the Art Museum steps for the celebration – including an in-person appearance from Sylvester Stallone. I even got his attention long enough to thank him for his influence on me and my karate students. Here’s the story.
It was raining. On this day, the stairs were stacked with people with umbrellas and ponchos. We have raced up the steps many times, and it’s been a while since I’ve beat the middle-schooler to the top. As a boxer, I always throw a couple celebratory punches at the top regardless.
We waited by the barricade for over an hour in the rain. At the new Rocky shop, we got two posters, a pillow and a “Sothpaw” license plate – since my son is a lefty and likes the misspelling.
After a series of city officials spoke, Stallone came out to a podium to chants of “Rocky” and Eye of the Tiger on repeat.
“Life is a fight. It’s a tough fight. Get ready. You’re gonna win some and you’re gonna lose a lot, but the real victory is in never giving up and going the distance … Going up these steps you’re reminded that all things are possible. Keep punching,” he told the crowd.
I love that message, it’s the kind of mentality we hope to instill in our karate school. That’s why we have authentic Stallone memorabilia in the building. At an official auction in 2022 I bought several meaningful items. (See link below for descriptions.) I believe seeing the images of Rocky helps boost expectations for the kids practicing their punches for self-defense. The Rocky mindset is similar to the Black Belt mindset.
One of the items at the karate school is an oversized novelty boxing glove signed by Stallone commemorating Stallone’s successful effort to restore Jack Johnson’s legacy. Stallone was integral in seeking and gaining a pardon for the first black heavyweight champion.
When Stallone was in earshot after his speech as he walked past the crowd, I shouted to him.
“Thank you for what you did for Jack Johnson. I have the signed boxing gIove from your auction,” I said. “It means a lot to me and my students. Thank you so much.” Stallone paused from the throngs, held my hand in a light handshake and replied to me: “Get out of here, that’s great. Thanks so much for doing that. That’s sweet. That’s crazy. Thank you.”
He sounded genuinely proud. His kind response reflected a sentiment he had just told the crowd during his speech.
“You live your life on your own terms, try to do the best you can, and keep punching, I appreciate that, the real life rockies. You inspire me. Believe me, it’s the truth,” he said.
I like to think that the 10 Black Belts awarded on Saturday would inspire Stallone. I like to think the hard work, courage, respect, and determination displayed by our martial arts athletes are forged in the same mold as Rocky. Stallone had to dig deep and believe in himself to get to where he is.
During his speech, he pointed out his unlikely success, “Who would’ve believed it, certainly none of the 13 schools I went to. Who ever would’ve thought a 12 year old loner, going up and down these steps, could come back to see this day and be lucky enough to be alive to see it?” he said.
He described the 72 museum steps as making him feel “inspired, special, hopeful and happy.” It’s our goal to create that same energy in the 10 belts and 1 step onto the training mat each day.
Click here for description of Sylvester Stallone items displayed at the karate school: https://www.actionkaratema.com/post/the-provenance-of-legends-is-in-the-building