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OPD instructor wins over students - Odessa American: Law Enforcement

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OPD instructor wins over students

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  • Maura Matai

    Maura Matai, left, 34, keeps track of the time as he gives instructions for warm-ups to the students at his Stay Fit Stay Rich Fitness gym. Matai is also a corporal with the Odessa Police Department and teaches a women's self defense class there.

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Posted: Monday, August 8, 2016 6:00 am

Mauro Matai is an inspiration.

Just ask any of his students who religiously spend 45 grueling minutes every day sweating off the pounds, and shrinking inches off their waist line, at Matai’s small martial arts studio in Odessa.

One of Matai’s disciples, Leeroy Rodriguez, a 39-year-old Odessa resident, said that when he joined back in October he weighed about 250 pounds. Today, Rodriguez is 50 pounds lighter, he said.

“He’s just a motivating instructor,” Rodriguez said of Matai and of his fellow classmates with Rodriguez said he formed a bond. “I recommend him to anyone. (His class) brings out the positive in me.”

Matai, a 34-year-old, five-year member of the Odessa Police Department who currently holds the rank of corporal, runs his “Stay Fit, Stay Rich” studio in a single-story, 1,300 square-foot building at 206 W. 10th St., where about 20 students train.

The “Stay Fit” portion of the studio’s name refers to keeping healthy and staying in good physical condition. The “Stay Rich” part refers to how by keeping fit and healthy one can avoid having to spend money on the doctor, Matai explained.

Along with OPD Cpl. Brandon Ford, Matai also teaches basic self-defense moves for women during a series of six four-hour classes that meet on Saturday at the OPD. The classes, which are reportedly full, are expected to run until October.

The martial arts instructor and all-round exercise coach said he wants to provide a different outlet for officers to train. But Matai also said he wanted to provide something for local residents to enjoy.

“I wanted to do something for the community,” Matai said. “So that was the goal. If I’m not working, I’m here doing this.”

Matai, a veteran jiu-jitsu competitor, holds court over his students and hollers “let’s start lining up, y’all.”

And with that the students who vary in age and background run in place, do knee-bends and use small weights to warm-up before they all engage in crunches and other exercises that are not for those expecting a light work-out.

With Matai’s wife, Sarah, and his three children — Kai, 7, Lindon, 5, and Malaika, 2 — all in attendance, the class does its best to keep up with exercise while a mix of familiar dance tracks from the 80s and 90s fill the studio.

Matai, who is originally from Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, started out playing basketball until he eventually inspired to train in jiu-jitsu and muay tai kickboxing. He credits his instructor Bruno Bastros, who holds a fourth-degree belt in jiu-jitsu and is in Midland.

Matai also credited his friend and fellow mixed martial arts practitioner Brandon Frarran, of Abilene, for helping steer Matai to where he is today. But to get a real gist where Matai is coming from, he points to his “Thin Blue Line Flag,” a darkened American flag that has a black band streaked across it in honor of those police officers who were slain in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

“So, anybody who comes here knows what I stand for,” Matai said.

Stephanie Wilcox, a 32-year-old Odessa resident, was pointed out by Matai as one of his stand-out members. Wilcox is slated for a surgical procedure next Friday to correct a heart problem that she expects would require at least of week of recuperation.

But by then Wilcox said she ready to jump back in with the rest of her classmates. Everyone encourages each other to do their personal best, Wilcox said.

“It’s just not a place to come to,” Wilcox said. “It’s a team effort. Nobody gets left behind.”

Odessa, TX

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