TRAVELLERS REST, P.E.I. - What started out as a hobby has turned into a career for Island resident Jason Saggo.
The Ontario native moved to P.E.I. almost five years ago. Recently, the 32-year-old mixed martial artist opened a school, Summerside Martial Arts Academy, in hopes of providing an outlet for a healthy lifestyle in the Summerside.
“In addition to providing another option for fitness and health in the area, I also wanted to be able to teach practical methods and instill confidence in self-defence.”
Saggo, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter, says there’s a lot of misconceptions about mixed martial arts (MMA) in the UFC and the way it’s used outside of the ring.
“In a practical setting, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is about self defence and positional awareness, while kickboxing or Muay Thai covers that and caters more to the fitness community.
“It’s not two people going at each other trying to hurt the other and knock them out. Two people can be sparring at high intensity, but when it gets to the point where you follow through with a move, and a person can tell that it will lead to injury, then you tap out and start again,” he said while contorting his arms in a demonstration.
The school also offers women’s-only kickboxing and kids martial arts.
Saggo, who says he never expected to be in the UFC, let alone teach the art, is excited to host the academy’s official grand opening on Sept. 22.
He opened the school in January in a gym located on Route 2 just outside of Summerside toward Kensington, but now he says is the perfect time to officially open the facility.
“These past few months have been really great. My goal for the end of the year is to have 80 students enrolled and I have 60 full-time students right now.”
He stresses that his teachings and practice of mixed martial arts aren’t about the fight but rather fitness, confidence and mentality.
“In the day-to-day, we might not be able to control X, Y, Z, but we can control our actions and reactions. It’s about self-control.”
Saggo says he also discusses bullying in his classes and how kids can stand up for themselves, not just physically but verbally.
“It’s more than about fighting with someone when I talk about bullying. I really try to get across to the kids that you can stand up for yourself and be assertive by using your words or by teaching them the confidence to walk away.”
“We also go over how to identify bullying, what it looks like and how it feels to bully or be bullied.”
He says his favourite class to teach is the little ninja’s class for ages four to seven.
“They have this great sense of awe where as we get older there are so many other barriers. Their innocence is incredible, and they really know how to have fun.”
The grand opening of Summerside Martial Arts Academy runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 22. There will be barbecue, inflatables, a free bullyproof seminar and free women’s only self-defence class.