Being the target of bullying and rarely being able to defend himself as a child encouraged Sergio Camacho to enroll in a karate school in his hometown of Aguascalientes, Mexico.

And what was initially born out of necessity turned into the beginning of a long career in martial arts – his way of life.

“After (learning karate), no one bothered me anymore, they respected me, and martial arts became my lifelong passion,” Camacho told La Voz/The Arizona Republic.

As a teenager, Camacho emigrated to the United States and his love for discipline only grew, motivating him to pursue the highest possible rank in different martial arts.

“I came to the United States with nothing. Everything I did was thanks to God and my efforts. I arrived alone like any immigrant looking for a better life and thanks to the amnesty I was able to fix my papers,” Camacho said. “In 2000, I became an American citizen.”

Today Camacho has attained ninth dan in tae kwon do – the highest honor in the discipline – sixth dan in tang soo do, sixth dan in hapkido and a black belt in judo with the US Judo Association.

At 60, Camacho is now a karate master himself and the owner of a martial arts school in Phoenix. Over the past 22 years, his passion for martial arts has allowed him to help shape the lives of thousands of students at Maryvale.

From Aguascalientes to Phoenix

When Camacho was 15, he crossed the US-Mexico border through Tijuana to Redondo Beach, California, where he lived for a short time before settling in Huntington Beach, California.

There he resumed his martial arts training under master Ruben Gonzalez, an instructor whose martial arts career included work in the film industry as an actor and producer. Gonzalez has trained with Chuck Norris, co-produced and starred in Spanish-language action films, and had a small role in Jack Nicholson’s film “Prizzi’s Honor.”

According to a Daily Press articleGonzalez began teaching martial arts in 1976 and ran various schools in the Los Angeles area – around the time Camacho traveled to the United States.

Camacho moved to Phoenix in 1995, settling in the Maryvale neighborhood – one of the most Latino populated areas in Phoenix.

There he began working as a tae kwon do instructor at the now closed YMCA location of the Desert Sky Mall and Fitness West gymnasium. He also taught at a venue in a strip mall at 67th Avenue and Indian School Road.

In 2000, the same year he became a naturalized American citizen, he established his school, Master Camacho Martial Artsat 75th Avenue and Indian School Road in Maryvale, where to this day he continues to train children in the discipline of tae kwon do.

It offers tae kwon do classes for all ages as well as judo, jiu-jitsu and self-defense training.

His skills also led him to be invited to teach self-defense classes at police academies in Mexico, which he continues to do to this day.

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Get children off the streets

Living in Maryvale, a Phoenix neighborhood with a high crime rate, isn’t something that bothers him. On the contrary, he sees his work in the region as an opportunity to help improve the lives of many.

Instilling in his students the techniques of tae kwon do, but above all values ​​and respect, is one of Camacho’s objectives. In the 22 years he has run his school, Camacho estimates that around 40,000 children have gone through it.

“I am proud to see parents who were my students as children bring their children to school so that I can teach them too,” he said.

Camacho mentioned that he tries to make his classes as inclusive as possible, saying he accepts students who live with varying neurological conditions. “I treat them like the rest of my students. I correct them when I have to and they learn fast,” he said.

Sergio Camacho works with children at his martial arts institute, Master Camacho Martial Arts.  The Mexican immigrant has been teaching children how to defend themselves at his school in Maryvale for more than 20 years.

Edgardo García, 57, who was a student of Camacho and worked with him as an instructor in his school, applauded the passion with which he teaches the different disciplines.

“I’ve met quite a few tae kwon do masters in the state and abroad, and I can tell you that no one is as professional as Master Camacho,” Garcia said. “He is a teacher who imposes a lot of discipline and respect. With him, you have to work hard to win the belts, and that makes his school one of the most prestigious.”

Garcia is a third Dan in the black belt. His daughter, Priscila Garcia, soon to graduate from medical school at the University of Arizona, was a student of Camacho from the age of 7, earning her black belt and winning several competitions.

The lessons don’t stop there, he says. Master Camacho Martial Arts is a school that has won multiple state championships. His students have participated in international tournaments in Ireland and Costa Rica, among other countries, obtaining several first places.

“We are raising respectful children, students, who are not delinquents, who are not gang members. … That’s the satisfaction I get. Each child in my class who graduates from high school or university is a satisfaction for me. We’re getting them all off the streets,” Camacho said.

Parents see positive changes in children

Judith N. enrolled her child Alejandro in Master Camacho Martial Arts on the recommendation of a professor. Her intention was to distract him since he is a hyperactive child.

“He has a better demeanor since he started training with Master Camacho. I’ve noticed quite a remarkable change in his discipline and focus. Above all, he can focus on things better than before, and he has more patience,” she added. said. “I live in this area of ​​Maryvale so it’s important to get kids involved in sports or other activities so they don’t take the wrong path.”

Helped Pedroza and Roberto Flores are parents who drive from Avondale so their children can train at the Master Camacho martial arts school.

“It’s a sacrifice I make three days a week, but I’ve seen great progress in my son,” Pedroza said. “Gasoline is expensive but money comes and goes, the most important thing is to support our children.”

Flores, who drives from the Dysart Road area to Maryvale, says the bullying children experience in elementary school is what encouraged him to enroll his 7-year-old son, Roberto Jr., in the school. .

“The main objective of bringing him in is that he learns to defend himself and he has done very well in a year and a half. Master Sergio Camacho is very good, my son liked him a lot and I support him,” he said. Flores said.

Contact Javier Arce, editor-in-chief of La Voz, at [email protected] or on Twitter @javiarce33.

Communicate with the journalist of La Voz Javier Arce by correo electrónico [email protected] or by Twitter @JavierArce33.

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