Kickstart Kids helps youngsters learn martial arts
By Stafford MSD Communications
Rommel Gargoles is a 33-time world karate champion and a member of the United States Karate Team.
He may have a chance to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. His students at Stafford Intermediate and Stafford Middle schools know him as “Master G,” the instructor for the Kickstart Kids program.
“Martial arts is a way of life for me,” said Gargoles, a sixth degree black belt.
So how did Gargoles, who was born in Philippines and grew up in New Jersey, decide to come to Stafford, Texas? The short answer is martial arts legend and 10th degree black belt Chuck Norris.
Norris, and his wife, Gena, started the nonprofit Kickstart Kids in the early 1990s to help “students develop the mental and physical strength to deal with the challenges they will face in the future,” according to the Kickstart Kids website. Stafford MSD has had the program for nearly 20 years, and it’s now grown to more than 50 middle schools in Texas.
In Stafford MSD, approximately 100 sixth through eighth graders participate in the program, which teaches “character through karate.”
Gargoles has spent most of the past two decades competing in, and teaching martial arts in clinics and private classes. Although he still travels around the world for martial arts, he wanted to have a regular full-time position. Thus, his involvement with Kickstart Kids began in Houston, Sugar Land and Bryan over the past 7.5 years.
At Bryan, Gargoles led the program to the No. 13 ranking in the world for the National Black Belt League. He was happy in the Bryan-College Station area, but one day, Gena and Chuck Norris called Gargoles to see if he would accept the vacant position in Stafford.
“You don’t say no to Chuck Norris,” Gargoles said.
Gargoles has grown the program at Stafford in a short period of time, and he has big plans for its future. Stafford has a competition team and a demo team. So far, 11 of his students have won state championships.
“We want to put Stafford on the map,” Gargoles said.
The students are taught the respect that accompanies martial arts, including discipline, honor, courage and loyalty. Students spent their first year learning the basics and expectations of martial arts and do not begin sparring until their second year in the program.
Gargoles has seen students from all walks of life through his program, and he’s watched as Kickstart has changed their lives. Students pay $35 per year for the program, which includes their uniform. The program lets students who may have otherwise not been able to participate the chance to learn martial arts.
“Chuck Norris is very involved in the program – he genuinely cares about all of the instructors and kids,” Gargoles said.