Skip to main content

Jiu-jitsu black belt subdues madman punching passers by in NYC

Jiu-jitsu black belt Ro Malabanan was walking to work in New York when he saw a man punch a construction worker unprovoked.

This story is part of a major effort by to understand what works in martial arts by studying what happens on the street, rather than what happens in the arena. If you enjoyed it, check out the library on:
Martial Arts on The Street
Stop Bullying

Filipino-American boxing coach, jiu-jitsu black belt and aspiring actor Ro Malabanan was walking to work on Wednesday, 27 July, 2022, when he saw a construction worker get sucker punched. Malabanan, 44, checked on the victim, and then chased down the suspect, took him down right in front of the Converse flagship store on Broadway, and pinned him until police arrived.

Other alleged victims of surprise attacks gathered around. Some assisted Malabanan in pinning the suspect, but others tried to attack the suspect. Malabanan dissuaded them, and got them to call the police instead. 

Two officers arrived and handcuffed the suspect, who was later identified as a homeless man, Samuel Frazier, 28. An initial police investigation determined that the man delivered unprovoked attacks to the heads of two males, one 50 years old, and one just 17. Frazier has been charged with two counts of assault.

Malaban, a New York City resident since immigrating from the Philippines at the age of 9, said he has frequently been harassed over his Asian heritage. but has always been able to de-escalate the situation without resorting to violence.

“My jiu-jitsu instincts just kicked in. I jumped on his back,” said Malabanan. “He tried to swing me off then, but for those of you in the know, a seatbelt position dragged him down to the floor, and I immediately took his back and pinned him to the ground.”

“Out of nowhere people were like ‘Yeah this guy punched me in the face,’ ‘Yeah this guy hit me,’ ‘This guy hit an old guy.’"

Malabanan said that Frazier was blaming the victims, who the black belt later told the New York Post he believes numbered at least six. 

“They were walking into me,” Frazier can heard saying, but the martial artist wasn't having it.

“That’s bulls***, bro, you still don’t punch people in the face for no f***ing reason,” the fighter replied, correctly. He also offered some general advice.

“Just another day,” summed up Malabanan. “A lot of crazies out there in the streets right now, so just please be careful. They will sucker-punch you. They will take out their frustrations.”

You can watch what happened here:

The incident was a powerful reminder of the power of jiu-jitsu, as Malabanan made clear on his social network.

And as a boxer and jiu-jitsu practitioner, Malabanan offered a bridge between the remarkably differing arts.

And lastly, he would be very happy to teach you how to do what he did.

Share your thoughts on The StreetGround.