By Shama Ko (website)
Angie Maxey Gonzales was a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a teacher at Galaviz Charter High School when she introduced in 2009 a little unknown martial art to the Texas public school system. Her passion and desire to share the martial art led Maxey to establish the first public school Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club in the state of Texas. The club was small, but the kids were eager to learn.
Her efforts at Galaviz High School, however, were limited. But in 2011 when Maxey began teaching at a larger school the situation was much different.
Although typically difficult for teachers to establish new clubs, she says, she too encountered obstacles in establishing a martial art program because it is not an approved University Interscholastic League (UIL) sport or a booster club. Despite meeting challenges, Maxey was able to work with the Boy Scouts of America and 4oz MMA to legitimize the Jiu-Jitsu club at Reagan High. Her request to start the club was later approved by the principal, she says, with the terms that the club would not compete during the wrestling season.
Much to Maxey’s surprise, thirty-five students showed up on the first day. Among those initial students, twenty-five students stuck around and twenty-two actively competed. Four of which were girls.
Not only was Maxey surprised by the overwhelming interest, but the fact that only eight students on the wrestling team actively participated in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club. Maxey attributes the rising interest and mainstream recognition in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the popularity of MMA and UFC.
“MMA is not about being brutal or being a bully getting in fights. It’s about being an athlete. Lots of kids join because of MMA. Kids just see fighting,” she said with a laugh. “And then they show up and this ‘old’ lady beats them up and doesn’t break a sweat. It’s all about technique. I have a responsibility to teach them that.”
Reagan High has a high percentage of at risk students. Some members of the club were previously considered at risk students, but the BJJ club has since helped to change their lives around.
Through Maxey’s efforts, she has provided these kids with a healthy alternative to running the streets after school. She describes Jiu-Jitsu as a problem-solving sport that keeps one’s mind sharp. The Reagan High Jiu-Jitsu club has provided an opportunity for kids to develop sportsmanship, respect, discipline and teaches problem solving skills.
“Jiu-Jitsu reaches and attracts a different kid. Not the athletic kids that are used to the discipline of organized sports,” Maxey says.
The club met and trained four times a week last year and competed in four tournaments. Thanks to fundraising efforts by the members, working-trade (score keeping) and fundraising events all tournament fees were paid.
Although Maxey has since left Reagan High as a teacher and the club is not running this year, she continues to work with the Harris County Juvenile probations office and the Mayor’s office to plan Jiu-Jitsu seminars for the kids. She says it wasn’t ever about the money, because it was 100 percent volunteer work she put into establishing the club.
“I got a bunch of kids that wouldn’t have normally been involved in sports to be able to share something beyond the classroom. It was nice to see them participate and rewarding as a teacher to see an impact. This is the type of thing that keeps you going as a high school teacher.”
Maxey is among the many “all-star” women in the martial arts community. She is now a purple belt under Travis Tooke and currently the owner of New World Wine. Her innovative concept to bring Jiu-Jitsu to the schools has since sparked similar programs at two other Texas schools: Hamilton Middle School and Sam Houston High School.
And we haven’t heard the last of Maxey. Although she may not be teaching high school, her work isn’t finished. She’s got a few more tricks up her sleeves that we’ll be hearing about soon.
About the Author
Shama Ko has actively been a part of and contributed to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community in Texas for close to a decade. She is a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu purple belt at Gracie Humaitá Austin, a champion competitor, a photographer/owner of Mean Streak Photography, a community/event organizer for Girls in Gis and Austin Women’s Open Mat, and most recently a contributing writer to TXMMA. Follow Shama’s endeavors online through any of the links above or through any of these sites: Twitter, Facebook, The Adventures of Shama Ko, ShamaKo.com, and SKOphoto.com.