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Edward Sanchez, founder and trainer of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and fitness academy New Era Sports Training (NEST) in Wailuku, is partnering with Guardian Project to launch Guardian Maui. PC: Courtesy

Martial arts accomplishes more than what children see happening on the mat.

The practice teaches trust, responsibility and positive relationships – with yourself and others, according to Edward Sanchez, founder and trainer of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and fitness academy New Era Sports Training (NEST) in Wailuku.

“Some kids don’t trust anyone,” he says. “That’s where I see a lot of their growth. Once they start trusting the other kids in the gym, they start making friends. And the vine begins to grow. Soon they are trying different clubs, different cuisines, discovering different cultures. That’s what I see in the program.

The ‘life-changing’ benefits of martial arts are why Sanchez teams up with the Project Guardian to provide free Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training and supplies to underserved children in Maui.

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A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the Guardian Project offers children free access to jiu-jitsu training. With academies in California, Maryland, Connecticut, Peru and Mongolia, the program recently launched its first location in Hawai’i – at NEST in Wailuku.

Calder Powers, executive director of the Guardian Project who was on the island this week, said he can’t wait to see Guardian Maui take flight at the NEST.

“I’m very happy to see this program grow and help young people gain access to martial arts, mentors and a team that would otherwise be unaffordable,” he said.

The Guardian Project in Maui aims to expand to 10-20 young people over the next year. Once a child is selected, the association covers a year of free training, a free uniform and free afternoon snacks at NEST.

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This is where the Maui community comes in.

Sanchez said Guardian Maui is looking for nominations for underserved youth ages 4 to 18 who may be suitable for the program. The only requirement is that students must attend class or they will lose their place. For nominations, email Sanchez at [email protected]

The Guardian Project is supported by tax-deductible donations. Already, $12,000 has been raised for the Maui program. Powers said 100% of donations through Guardian Maui Project website go to the Maui program. The more money raised, the more children can get off the waiting list, he added.

Powers met Sanchez during a visit to Maui in 2018. What stands out about Powers is the generosity and care Sanchez has for the community, he said. Sanchez had previously worked on free youth events, gym donations and other social awareness efforts.

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“As we began our expansion by bringing Guardian to reputable BJJ academies, The NEST with Edward immediately came to mind as someone who really had a strong passion for seeing his community thrive,” Powers said. .

The NEST has been open for nearly a decade off Mill Street in Wailuku. It has more than 100 members made up of adults and children.

A native of Arizona, Sanchez has a fourth-degree black belt and is a two-time national Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion. In addition, he participated in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club, the most prestigious tournament in the world, in 2007.

Beyond that, however, Sanchez said he sees the benefits of teaching martial arts to children because it can be life-changing.

“There are a lot of kids out there who need structure and positive role models, and this program could really change their lives,” he said. “I was one of those kids.”

Young people participate in martial arts at New Era Sports Training (NEST) in Wailuku. A nonprofit program is launched there to help Maui’s underserved youth with free training, a free uniform, and free afternoon snacks.
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