You might not be familiar with Chris Pollak, but if you live in New York City, there’s a fair chance you’ve seen his alter-ego in newspapers or on the streets. That’s because during the day Pollak is a martial arts instructor, but by night he’s Dark Guardian, a vigilante do-gooder who patrols crime-ridden neighborhoods with the New York Initiative, a crime-fighting group of security experts and highly trained volunteers.
The last time I spoke to Pollak, he was patrolling the West Village after a spate of anti-gay hate crimes. He also spoke of opening up a martial arts or “hero” school for underprivileged kids. As of this week’s Indiegogo campaign, he’s one small step closer to making that a reality.
“Kids need to understand how to translate heroism into reality,” Pollak says. “We’re also going to be doing a lot of character development. We’ll talk about generosity, we’ll talk about how to deal with bullying, what to do in a dangerous situation.”
Pollak envisions the Hero school as a place where kids go to learn martial arts, self-defense, parkour, and the virtues of getting involved in your local community. He’s not necessarily trying to turn these kids into vigilantes, but instead will be imparting methods the New York Initiative uses in confrontations: De-escalation, for example, a calming technique often taught in the Peace Corps.
But Hero school wouldn’t be complete without the superhero element. “We’re also going to talk about different superheroes and how to translate that into a different skill or trait,” Pollak says. “Take the Hulk. We’ll talk about anger, and how to control your anger. If you see yourself angry, how to tone that down, how to channel that and use it in a positive way.”
So far, Pollak’s looking at spaces in Bushwick, East Williamsburg, and Ridgewood, and classes will be open to all ages, from 4-year-olds to adults. He’s also taken a vigilante approach to financing, hoping the Indiegogo campaign can supplement his own funds. “I’m kind of just raising money on my own, and I’ve taken out a big line of credit from the bank,” Pollak said.