April 6, 2012 – There’s a secret to incorporating martial arts in the school system that high school teacher Angie Maxey Gonzales and Joseph Cantu, of Cantu Martial Arts, know well.
The secret, they say, to incorporating Jiu-Jitsu and/or mixed martial arts (MMA) in the school system is to give back and put in the time to make a real impact.
Maxey Gonzales says her first step to establishing a MMA and Jiu-Jitsu program at the high school level was to bring legitimacy to the program.
“The liability and safety of the students was never an issue. I pitched the idea for this to my principal as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Club. I focused on martial arts and self-defense and I emphasized discipline,” said Gonzales. “I was sure to mention that the kids would all have parental permission and signed waivers as well as insurance through the boy scouts.”
Maxey also says it helped her request that she was the head wrestling coach, knew first aid and had up-to-date CPR certifications.
She was the first teacher to bring Jiu-Jitsu to the Texas public school system and she hopes not to be the last.
Following her lead, Joseph Cantu has been working with the Texas public school systems since 2002, teaching anti-bully seminars at elementary schools and most recently teaching MMA during physical education at the Pasadena ISD high schools. He is a black belt in multiple forms of martial arts and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under Travis Tooke.
Maxey Gonzales and Cantu also offer advice on how others can work in their communities to establish a MMA or Jiu-Jitsu programs in their school systems, as well.
Maxey Gonzales was successful with the help of the Boy Scouts of America and 4oz to win over school administrators and make that dream a reality.
She learned that through the “Learning for Life” program and with the sponsorship from a local business like 4oz MMA, she could work with Reagan High to establish the school as an official Boy Scouts post. For an annual cost of $10 per child the kids would be insured during training, competition and even on the car rides to and from tournaments. And although affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, students were not considered Boy Scouts. They were called Explorers.
Maxey Gonzales donated a tremendous amount of time and energy out of the goodness of her heart to the Reagan High School Jiu-Jitsu club. She taught the kids Jiu-Jitsu four times a week from March through May. She also convinced promoters to let the kids keep score in exchange for their entry fees and organize fundraising tournaments at Reagan High and benefit seminars.
All of these fundraising efforts were successful in covering most tournament fees and travel expenses for the kids during the season. The students competed in four tournaments in 2011. Maxey Gonzales says that her and parents would drive the kids to and from events in their own cars to places like Dallas, San Antonio and all over Houston.
“Parents were great! They volunteered to carpool and supported the fundraising events that helped pay for competition fees,” said Maxey Gonzales.
Sara Gomes, a Reagan High junior at the time, admits to having disciplinary issues and being defiant before joining the Jiu-Jitsu club at Reagan High. Gomez says she joined the club because she always liked to fight and be the strong girl, and thought she would be good at it. According to Gomez the Jiu-Jitsu club kept her on the right track and provided her with support she needed.
“Our group wasn’t just a whole bunch of kids fighting from the same school, we were like family and we always had the best of time training together,” said Gomez. “We always encouraged each other and helped each other out, all the tournaments we went to always taught me how to be social and meet a lot of very nice people.”
After suffering a personal heartache as a father, instead of getting revenge, Cantu chose to channel his energy into something positive and was inspired to teach “How to Deal with Bullying” seminars in the Baytown ISD elementary schools (sixteen) in 2002-2007 and the Pasadena ISD from 2011-present. His bully seminars are designed to give a demonstration of Jiu-Jitsu moves, have the kids drill the moves, conduct role-playing games and provide a workout for the kids.
In order to further motivate the kids, coaches and teachers to get involved without ever spending a penny, Cantu also runs a yearly contest for schools (visited four times or more) giving away XBOX 360’s and Schlitterbahn Water Park tickets, to the kids at the school that get the most web hits on his academy website.
Cantu says that a lot of other martial arts academies conduct seminars and expect immediate results in admissions. However, Cantu says that you have to invest in your community and give back continually to make a lasting impact. He also says that by working with PE teachers, coaches and counselors he was able to get his foot in the door and build a lasting relationship.
Recently Joseph Cantu of Cantu Martial Arts was approached by those with Fly Wellness and Movement to incorporate a MMA program to the PE program for the Pasadena ISD at the request of the male students. Cantu says the program will be funded by Carole White Grant and is set to start April 16th. The program is designed to work with the Pasadena ISD to teach MMA-primarily Jiu-Jitsu to the students five times a week on a full-time basis during their PE period.
The MMA program will alternate each week between five schools throughout the school year for the next four years. This includes program will be implemented at Pasadena Memorial High School, South Houston High, Dobie High School, Sam Rayburn and Pasadena High School.
“Most Texas schools have a ZERO tolerance for fighting, which means whether you start the fight or not, you’re getting in trouble. Combine that with shorter and in some cases no P.E. classes and you have kids with no way to channel their energy or a means to deal with each other,” said Cantu. “Our program (anti-bully) raises the awareness level on an issue (bullying) that has spread across the nation.”
The rising popularity of MMA and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has led to a new generation of kids aspiring to be a MMA fighter like their heroes. Thanks to the efforts by people like Maxey Gonzales and Cantu these kids’ dreams can become a reality and our kids can learn to protect themselves.
You too can get involved and make a difference in your school district. Other teachers can get started in their area, Maxey Gonzales says, by contacting the Boy Scouts of America and finding support from a local business. Martial arts instructors or concerned parents can contact the schools PEP coordinator, coaches, PE teachers, counselors and research grants for funding to get a program started.
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.