Marine teaches martial arts to Lowcountry residents

23 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Kat Johnson

Hip-toss, choke-hold and grapple are heard throughout the Marine Corps during martial arts training. To one Marine, those words mean more than another colored belt. To him it means class has started.

When Cpl. John Manguno, Jr., avionics technician, Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, is not repairing communication systems on an F/A-18 Hornet, he can be found teaching submission fighting at his martial arts school, McCullough Submission Fighting in Port Royal.

Manguno joined the Marine Corps in 2000 after living in New Orleans for more than 20 years. “Before I came into the Corps, I had never left New Orleans,” Manguno said. “I never would have dreamed of doing the things I do now or owning my own business.”

Martial arts teaches children and adults how to be confident with everything they do in life. The impact it has on his students helps them make sound decisions when they are faced with obstacles, according to Manguno.

“I try to teach all my students, not just the kids, that martial arts is not for fighting, but at the same time no one has the right to hurt you,” Manguno said. “I teach them how to stand up to opposition by using their mind and not always their body.”
Manguno began learning martial arts when he was seven years old. For him it was something he did for fun and to stay in shape.

“Being able to perform martial arts gives me the confidence necessary to be good leader,” Manguno said.

Monday through Friday, Manguno teaches submission fighting to children and adults at his school. Manguno has been practicing martial arts for more than 20 years. For the past five years he has been experiencing the art as a teacher.

“I love the martial arts,” Manguno  said. “Being able to teach it makes me even happier.”

Manguno uses the discipline instilled in him from the Corps and the confidence he has learned while practicing martial arts to help him be a good Sensei, a teacher of the martial arts. He wants his younger students to have someone they can look up to, as an instructor, a person and Marine.

“If there was anyone in the martial arts community that I can say is a good mentor, it would be Randy Couture,” Manguno said. “ He has won more than three Ultimate Fighting matches and yet is able to maintain a positive, humble attitude.”

Before Manguno took ownership of the school, it used to be directed by his former Sensei Will McCullough.

“As Will was getting older, he came to  my wife and I, and said he was either going to close the school or sell his business,” Manguno said. “I thought to myself, no way, this place means way too much for it to close down.”

A few months later, Manguno had his own business and was looking forward to teaching with his wife, Rebecca Stem.

“I was so excited to be able to keep this place open,” Manguno said. “Not only was I going to be able to teach something I love, but I was going to be able to do it with my wife.”

But Manguno would have to wait until he returned from Kuwait to join his wife at their new business. Only a month after acquiring ownership of the school, Manguno deployed to the Middle East with the Hawks of VMFA (AW)-533 to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“He kept us motivated over there with his positive attitude,” said Cpl. Nicholas Orlik, avionics technician, VMFA(AW)-533. “He’s a great guy, he made our job fun and it made us want to get the work done even more.”

While in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Manguno helped to keep his Marines physically fit by teaching them martial arts.

“I try to take martial arts with me everywhere I go,” Manguno said. “You never know when you’ll have the chance to teach someone, so I try to never miss that chance.”
Last year, during the Combined Arms Exercise in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Manguno taught his friends a few techniques for grappling.
“I’d definitely pick him for my team,” said Sgt. James Rogers, avionics, VMFA(AW)-533. “I’ve seen him go four rounds with four different people, one after another. I don’t think he lost a single match.”

When Manguno returned to Beaufort in 2004, he could not wait to return to teaching. While he was deployed, Rebecca and her brother Abe Stem, kept the school going with a variety of classes centered around martial arts. They scheduled classes for children and adults, while having special lessons for self-defense workshops.

“It’s great being able to work with my family and teach,” v said. “Martial arts is one of my favorite hobbies. I only have two and the other one is my faith.”

Many of the people that Manguno work with believe he is  an oustanding Marine.

“He doesn’t let the fact he owns a business affect his work,” Chief Warrant Officer Tim Herron, Mangunos’ officer-in-charge. “He never leaves unless the job is done. His humbleness is what makes him the go-to guy around here. He’s a great part of this team.”