Randolph Jacobs was around four years old when it took just one movie—and a legendary icon—to know what he wanted to do with his life. 

“My aunt took me to watch The Last Dragon,” Jacobs explains. “It was my first glimpse of Taimak. That was it for me; I’ve been kicking ever since.”

Jacobs, 41, who hails from the Washington, D.C. area, now resides in Jersey City with his wife, Velma, and their daughter, Lena, 8. 

His early zest for “The Last Dragon” catapulted him into a career as an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified personal trainer, kickboxing instructor, early childhood educator, black belt, and martial arts instructor. 

You can find Jacobs teaching martial arts classes to children and adults twice a week at the Hank Gallo Center in Lincoln Park. He also teaches self-defense at the Grace Van Vorst Church in downtown Jersey City. 

“Self defense is important for all walks of life,” says Jacobs, who’s been teaching martial arts since he was 12. “I will say giving back to the community is a huge aspect of life; 99.9 percent of things that happen, it starts with the community.”

Jacobs says that the key to martial arts is simple.

“First thing I teach in self defense is knowing your surroundings. We live in an age where people look down at their phones, occupied with their AirPods while walking or jogging and not taking into account what’s around them,” he says. To avoid danger, he says people should “just look up .”


This past September, around 3 p.m. on a crisp fall day, Jacobs is walking near Journal Square his simple yet vital philosophy got invoked. 

“I was minding my own business, and I saw out of my peripheral vision a six-foot and 200-plus pound man,” Jacobs recalls. “He screams at everyone, ‘I’m going to mess you and everybody up.’”

 Jacobs minds his business and keeps walking, but as he proceeds he notices an elderly woman maybe six to seven feet from him. 

“I didn’t know the woman but the man approached her,” Jacobs says. “I see the guy and go up to him and tell him pretty much, ‘It’s all good, just move along.’”

Thanks to Jacobs, the woman moves away. Disaster averted. But Jacobs notices the man’s new target: Jacobs himself.

“Everything is happening fast,” Jacobs says. “The guy turns around and out of nowhere, throws his hand up and goes to punch me. I sidestep him, and we went from the sidewalk to the four-way intersection where the Dunkin Donuts is. Next thing we are going at it.”

Jacobs, who’s just 5’7” and weighs 158 pounds, proceeds to dodge his swings and then responds with counter punches and kicks. Then Jacobs realizes something. 

He now figures, “‘Wow, I may know how to fight.’ He assumed since he was bigger he could take me.”

The man, sensing this epiphany, attempts to grab Jacobs and wrestle him. 

Jacobs is an expert grappler. He competes up and down the east coast, winning recently at the prestigious US Capitol Classic in D.C., one of the most acclaimed martial arts tournaments in the country.

Thus, Jacobs is able to use his own weight against the man and shifts him to his left side, redirecting him. Now Jacobs is in control. 

“I swing him over, then he proceeds to bite my left shoulder like a pitbull,” Jacob said “He tries to lock on.”

From his training, Jacobs is able to use what he calls “natural movement” by taking his right hand and going for his groin area, impacting the man’s positioning. Now his legs buckle. 

Jacobs proceeds to put him in a guillotine head lock.  As balance and gravity takes their toll on the man, Jacob’s opponent attempts one last stand. 

“He reaches into his right pocket, and I see the handle of a blade, “ Jacobs said. “I take my right hand, grab his right wrist, and wrap it around his neck, and now I have his wrist, and his hand opens up, and before he falls to the ground I am able to take control of the blade.”

When onlookers take out their smartphones to record, Jacobs pleads to bystanders to call 9-11.

Jacobs then pins the man to the ground face first and eases off of him. 

“I told him if you jump up and try something, it’s going to be a long day for you.” 

 Another 10 seconds pass, and the man puts his hands up to indicate he’s giving up. 

The cops come under a minute later, and Jacobs tells them what happened.

“Cops were ‘Wow’ when I told them what transpired,” Jacobs says. “I heard their call on the radio that this was the same man who argued with cops earlier in the day.” 

The cops apprehend the suspect near the Department of Motor Vehicles building. Jacobs, goes to Jersey City Medical Center for treatment and is released. 

 “Word spread fast and everyone at the hospital knew of the encounter,” Jacobs says with a laugh. “The cops asked me if I wanted to join the force.”

Jacobs says the incident exemplifies the value of his philosophy. 

“Better to have (self-defense training) and not need than need and not have…Tell your family, your daughter, your sister, your  brothers (to) pay attention. Life is not a video game where you can press restart or continue.”

YouTube video
Jacobs (in yellow) competes at US Capitol Classic in D.C.

Ronak Patel has been a freelance journalist covering sports (High School sports and college basketball) for nearly 15 years, Including stints with The Kalamazoo Gazette (Mi), The Decatur Daily (Ala.),...