Crafting Confidence: From Martial Arts to Leadership
“I could never have imagined the confidence I would gain through martial arts. Now I want to be able to give back what I’ve learned in some way.”
Jose Rangel was in the first grade when the bullying started. It was frustrating and confusing. When he’d finally had enough, he confided in his dad, who listened intently to his young son. Wanting to give him strength and purpose, he encouraged Jose to try martial arts, not because he would learn how to fight, but because he would learn focus and self-discipline. Confidence would come from learning what he was capable of.
As it turns out, his dad, Felix Rangel, knows a little something about the subject. A former world-class boxer from Venezuela, he knows firsthand what the hard work and dedication to a sport can do for one’s confidence.
While Jose had tried martial arts before, he’d never taken it seriously. This time he committed — in fact, he threw himself into it. His younger sister joined him, pursuing martial arts with matching fervor. They were a team.
Now 15 years old, Jose holds five black belts — in judo, taekwondo, aikido, krav maga, and kung fu. It is a remarkable accomplishment. And his sister? She dedicated herself to the mastery of taekwondo, and at age 13 is a third-degree black belt.
When asked what he enjoys most about martial arts, Jose said, “The rush, the discipline, the excitement before a match, and that I am fit. But mostly, I love being a part of the sport, belonging to something.”
“I have been given this great opportunity. And now I want to give back,” said Jose.
LEARNING ABOUT LEADERSHIP
Last year, Jose’s teacher at American Heritage School in Plantation, FL (his school since the 7th grade), introduced Chick-fil-A Leader Academy to his class as an opportunity to learn about leadership and to give back. Jose perked up.
“To be honest, the first thing I heard was Chick-fil-A!,” joked Jose. “But then they talked about how the program would have us lead by example and help other people. I felt like this was my chance.”
Chick-fil-A Leader Academy has been a journey for Jose. He’s learned several important lessons about leadership, some of which have shaped his view of what it means to be a leader. “Leading goes far beyond the name,” explained Jose. “Leaders are not just those who give orders, they are those who lead by example. Every leader needs a team, and to be a part of a team.”
This notion was thrown into action as Jose and his class prepared for their end-of-program Impact Project. The school hosted an event at HAPPI Farm, an organization that provides interaction with animals for adults and children with special needs. The class put together a range of activities for a “Fun Day” at HAPPI Farm that capitalized on the talents of Chick-fil-A Leader Academy students. One student played the cello, another performed with a traditional Indian violin. And Jose was given a unique opportunity: to demonstrate martial arts to a group of people with little exposure to the sport.
Of course, planning for an event like this took several weeks and was a true team effort and a great way to display leadership skills. For Jose, it helped him reflect on his path to where he is now.
“Being in Chick-fil-A Leader Academy has helped me understand how to turn martial arts into an opportunity to lead,” said Jose. “The demonstration was a chance for me to lead, using martial arts to teach strength and confidence.”