Salem Police Officer Joe Miller is getting part of the financial help he needs to expand his program at South Salem High School that gives young men what he calls an alternative to “hanging out with friends and getting into mischief.”
The Salem Police Foundation raised more than $15,000 at Breakfast with the Chief on Feb. 29. The foundation board has authorized $3,000 of those funds to go to the Saxon Jiu-Jitsu Club, which Miller has run with mostly family gifts. The foundation hopes to match that with a similar amount from a grant application.
This year the jiu-jitsu program gave about two dozen young men an outlet for their aggressiveness, “channeling them into being productive adults,” Miller said.
Miller is youth services officer at South Salem, and he is responsible also for the police presence at the Howard Street Charter School and McKinley Elementary. He got the idea for this program two years ago when he saw a need for “a positive activity that an edgy kid–an aggressive kid–might show interest in.
“Jiu-jitsu appeals to those edgier kids who would otherwise probably be on the street acting out in a more violent or aggressive way,” he said. “I wanted to capture those kids who were most prone to trouble and get them involved in something that suits their aggressive tendencies but is also very productive.”
With seed money provided by his mother, Miller bought several gis for the students who joined the club. The gi (pronounced like “glee” without the “l”) is a loose-fitting top and bottom garment fastened at the waist with a cloth belt. In traditional sport Brazilian jiu-jitsu, grabbing the gi is a major way of controlling an opponent.
The Saxon program offers the kids training and competition in jiu-jitsu. The sport is a martial art and self-defense technique that uses grappling and ground fighting moves. It involves leverage over strength. There are no kicks, slaps or punches. It’s like wrestling, only slower. Miller said it appeals to young men who want to feel powerful. “They want to feel that they can handle themselves, especially as young men of that age,” he said.
Miller volunteers his time–as do other coaches–in training the young men. They work out twice a week during the fall and spring. Throughout the winter, while the mats in South Salem are used by the wrestling teams, the jiu-jitsu club attends regular personal finance sessions (dangers of credit, how to buy a car, paying for college, how interest works, etc.).
The foundation’s $3,000 and the matching grant will help Miller replace gis, develop a summer camp for kids and coaches, pay a small stipend for instructors and officials and provide seed money to expand the program to other high schools in Salem-Keizer.
Saxon Jiu-Jitsu is giving our community well-rounded adults, which is one of its strong appeals. “It gets you to be a responsible, confident and competent adult,” Miller said. “What you’re paying for is a better product–a slightly better product than what the school itself would provide without these activities.”