OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Oakland teachers and administrators will be able to box, practice yoga, Brazilian JiuJitsu and mixed martial arts this year at a new martial arts gym in downtown Oakland if they sign up for a free membership before the school year starts, co-founders of the gym said.

Co-founders Ben Kovaks and Joe Lunenfeld of Guardian Gym at 1922 Webster Street are offering the memberships to teachers and administrators because they cannot bring up teacher’s salaries, which are much lower than for many other professionals.

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“We’re just trying to do our part to close the gap,” Kovaks said.


The two also don’t want teachers and administrators to miss a chance to train if they have a passion for martial arts.

Free training is also available year-round for Oakland youth 10 to 18 years old, who can take advantage of mentoring relationships with instructors.

“We operate under the philosophy that, in the course of training, our coaches establish deep social bonds with the kids who come in here,” Kovacs said.

“Those bonds then give these coaches the currency to successfully encourage the kids to excel in school, eat healthy foods, and prepare intelligently for their matriculation to college or entrance into the workforce.”

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Teachers and administrators can play a part too if they refer students to the gym where the two might develop a bond by sharing a common sports interest.

As former Twitter colleagues, Kovaks and Lunenfeld are sensitive to the reality that many times men get more opportunities than women and they hope to reduce that difference.

“We have a very interesting split between men and women,” Kovaks said.

The gym’s membership is nearly 50 percent boys and 50 percent girls.


“We’re using martial arts as a bridge to get there,” he said.

Former golden glove boxers, Ultimate Fighting Championship contenders and award winning athletic coaches make up the gym’s staff.

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Tyson Griffin, a former UFC fighter, who beat some of the sport’s top competitors, is a coach. Other coaches have black belts in their respective sports.

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