Perry Mayorga-Guerrero is passionate about physical fitness, safety, and — most of all — making connections with his students.
Mayorga-Guerrero, a San Jacinto College North Campus instructor, meets with his student for three hours each Tuesday and Thursday evening for karate and kickboxing classes. These students are more to him than a number. They are his family.
“Many of my students have been with me for years. They’ve seen my family grow, and we’ve become close as well,” said Mayorga-Guerrero. “When we have new students come in, we welcome them into that family. The more experienced students help guide the new ones, and we grow together.”
San Jac’s North Campus karate program, a partner of the American Society of Karate, boosts self-confidence and discipline while teaching students karate and other martial arts techniques. The course incorporates high-intensity interval training, kickboxing, karate sparring, karate katas, and self-defense.
“Everyone has their own fitness level. There are things that some students can do that others can’t, and that’s OK,” Mayorga-Guerrero said. “I try to build people up in that way because they can be hesitant and feel uncomfortable. If you are sweating and doing the work, you are already doing great. There’s no showboating in our class, only support.”
The karate program has a core group of students who register each semester, but it is open to all San Jac students. This semester, the students range from 18 to 54. One of Mayorga-Guerrero’s students, 40-year-old Araceli Abrego, has been taking the class for the last 14 years and often serves as a student teacher when she is needed.
“When I first started karate, I was very shy and overweight. I wasn't very ambitious or disciplined,” said Abrego. “Now through karate, I’ve dropped 65 pounds, and my self-confidence and discipline are higher than ever. More than that, I’ve made lifelong friends who have become like family.”
Mayorga-Guerrero encourages this supportive environment because he remembers his first day in a karate course at San Jac 20 years ago.
“If you knew me back then, you wouldn’t believe where I am today,” he said. “I hated sweating, even as a child. I only joined the class because of my required P.E. credit, and I liked that it was indoors.”
His instructor, Diana Gray, started the program at the Central Campus in 1989.
“She was so enthusiastic, and she made me want to go further,” Mayorga-Guerrero said. “I started assistant teaching two years later, and in 2006 I got my black belt.”
In February, Mayorga-Guerrero took five students to an American Society of Karate invitational tournament, and four of them won first place.
“I’m so proud of what my students can accomplish, even in one semester, but it makes me even more proud to see them come back again and again and watch their growth,” he said.