Martial Arts for Education is celebrating its 30th year of operation in 2023. The party kicks off on Feb. 7, when the program returns to school for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March 2020.

Martial Arts for Education, founded by Sensei Robert Mattson in Rio Rancho in 1993 when he returned from living and training in Japan, is a nonprofit organization that teaches Budo Taijitsu – the self-defense skills of ninjas and samurais.

“This martial art is designed to not only be some kind of self-defense, combat oriented, but more to be able to translate so that they can use it no matter what they do,” Mattson said. “So hiking, biking, skateboarding, we teach how to roll, how to maintain your balance. And also, we emphasize focus and discipline and respect for others. So students are not allowed to use their martial arts even harassed at school with peers and stuff, but very definitely we teach them how to control a situation if like an adult is trying to get them into a car or something like that.”

Mattson will be bringing those lessons to Sandia Vista Elementary School from 4-5:45 p.m. every Tuesday. Martial Arts for Education held after-school programs until the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to that. Martial Arts for Education had a dojo training area on Northern Boulevard for years but sold the facility in September. Since then, programs have been offered at the Anchor Point Church Annex and the McDermott Athletic Center. Now, add Sandia Vista Elementary to the list.

“This is the first time we’re back in the schools since the pandemic, so we’re kind of happy about that,” Mattson said. “And it falls on our 30th anniversary year, so that’s really good.”

Classes are Tuesday and Saturday and range from $40-$60 per month. Mattson also allows students to try a class for free to see if they enjoy it. He’s also flexible with payments.

“The kids do pay a monthly fee, but if there’s a student who can’t pay, we allow them to either adjust the amount or lots of students just came in trained for free,” Mattson said. “But the vast majority, especially now, pay a monthly fee, but compared to for-profit schools, everybody says, you guys are great. Our entry fee is like $40 a month and if you have two kids, each one is 35. So it’s kind of unheard of these days.”

Martial arts and education is a perfect combination for Mattson, who has plenty of experience in both.

“My background is as high school and middle school and grade school teacher and I’ve been in the martial arts for over 50 years,” Mattson said. “I take that experience and combine it with my experience as a classroom teacher to sort of support what teachers are doing in the classroom and especially nowadays with a lot of attention deficit. Kids, they really benefit from having something they can work on their focus, as well as keep them active. You know, they’re not sitting in a chair, they’re rolling, punching, kicking or whatever we have to be doing. But under that is emphasis on each time trying to be able to focus and have better discipline within that context and also within schools. So we’ve had really good feedback from teachers and counselors, and in fact, one psychologist works at Presbyterian that sent us a whole number of kids who he knew about our program and actually prescribed training for them. So we feel good about being able to help kids no matter where they’re coming from.”