Martial arts teacher hopes to shape lives


The trophies keep piling up in Dr. Bokary Maiga’s dojo at 319 Spring St.


The Socorro Academy of Martial Arts instructor seems to be running out of room for awards his students keep winning. A gleam of pride sparkles in his eyes, but Maiga’s primary goal isn’t about winning. It’s about shaping a person’s character and seeing someone better themselves.

Eric Heinz - El Defensor Chieftain: Socorro Academy of Martial Arts students put on a demonstration at the Fourth of July celebration last Friday. The academy is located at 319 Spring St. and is always accepting new students.

Maiga, who opened his martial arts school in 1985, recalls the time one of his former students dropped by to visit back in 1996.

Maiga was with his son Ibrahim, who was 5 at the time. The former student looked at Ibrahim and said, “He’s my dad too,” Maiga said. Ibrahim looked puzzled, Maiga added, but he told his son he had raised the former student since he was 10.

The former student had earned his college degree, had a great job and a wife and children, Maiga said.

“I was really proud what he had turned into,” he added. “That’s the reward — helping others succeed in life.”

Maiga was born in Hombori, Mali in West Africa. Wrestling, stick fighting, sword fighting and spear fighting were common while growing up there. That sparked Maiga’s interest in the martial arts.

He eventually learned judo, aikido, tae kwon do and karate. Maiga excelled, earning black belts in each style. That segued into opening his own school in West Africa.

“The first time I took my students for testing, my instructor was impressed,” he said.

Maiga ventured to the U.S. In 1978 to attend the University of New York in Buffalo. He eventually found his way to Socorro to pursue a doctorate degree at New Mexico Tech in 1982. It was here where he started offering classes on campus but decided he needed a better venue for his students and opened the Socorro Academy of Martial Arts.

Maiga has around 25-30 students, but he’s always accepting new students of all ages starting at 4. The school’s oldest student was 77, Maiga mentioned. The school is ranked fifth in the country by the U.S. Association of Martial Artists. Maiga is ranked fourth among martial arts instructors in the country.

Classes are held two or three times a week and students participate in competitions monthly, according to Maiga. He made the decision long ago to stay put in Socorro because he wanted to raise his children in a small town environment. Maiga also wanted to help area youth.

“If you can get at-risk kids to go through martial arts, it’s going to change their lives for the best,” he said.

Jared Griffith’s three kids Jay, 9, Jorden, 8, and Jaxon, 6, are enrolled in classes. Griffith said he’s always getting compliments from his kids’ teachers at school.

“They finish their work and then help other students,” he said. “I think a lot of that comes from martial arts. Everybody should get into (martial arts) a little bit. It would really help the world.”

It’s not always easy keeping kids in martial arts in a city where poverty is prevalent, Maiga said. He stresses that people who have the means are welcomed to sponsor a kid.

Classes are roughly $80 a month, and that’s much cheaper than classes offered in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, according to Maiga.

“We have to invest in our children,” he added.

Frank Gallegos is one of Maiga’s former students. He took classes when he was in his 30s and competed at nationals. Gallegos didn’t hesitate to get his own children involved. Frankie, 21, Bo, 16, and Aiyana, 7, take classes at the academy.

“It gives them a lot of discipline and confidence,” he said. “It makes them better kids and helps them to grow up a little faster.”

For more information on classes or to sponsor a child, call Maiga at 575-418-1001.


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