Ron Esteller Teaches Kids Martial Arts To Save Lives

His martial arts career began at the San Leandro Boys & Girls Club in 1984. He says his SAFEKIDS training helped a Castro Valley girl fight off an abduction.


Teaching kids personal safety skills is not a job, it is a passion for Ron Esteller, owner of Esteller Martial Arts in San Leandro and Pleasanton.

Esteller teaches kajukenbo, a blend of karate (ka), ju jitsu (ju), kempo (ken) and Chinese boxing or kung fu (bo).

Founded in Hawaii in 1947 by five black belts from various martial arts, "kajukenbo" was designed by combining the most effective techniques in one art. It is considered one of the first "American" martial arts and is internationally recognized.

"I was teaching this before the 'Karate Kid' and 'Ninja Turtles' when it was mostly an adult sport back then," said Esteller, who started practing martial arts when he was 13.

In 1984, Esteller started teaching children at the Boys & Girls Club in San Leandro and he opened his first studio in 1999.

He opened a Pleasanton studio in 2012.

Esteller's students come from all over the Bay Area and as far as South San Francisco, Stockton and Santa Cruz.

He has become well-known for his "S.A.F.E K.I.D.S" anti-abduction program, which he teaches at local junior high and high schools.

"S.A.F.E stands for 'survey, avoid, flee and engage'," he said. "And K.I.D.S is an acronym for 'kids in danger survive'."

Having lost a cousin in 1979 to violent crime, Esteller knows the pain of child abduction personally. 

"My eight-year-old cousin, Tina Marie Salazar, was kidnapped and killed walking home from school in 1979," Esteller explained.

According to Esteller, kids between the ages of 11 and 15 are vulnerable and statistically have a higher chance of being abducted because they cannot yet drive and they are often walking, riding a bike, skating or taking the bus.

"Since teaching my S.A.F.E K.I.D.S program, we have helped prevent at least two abductions that we know about," he said. "There was a twelfth grader in Castro Valley who was grabbed one block from school and she fought the attacker off. She had taken my S.A.F.E. K.I.D.S. class when she was in eighth grade. When they arrested the suspect, he had a 'kill kit' in the van."

The program has nine classes and includes the instructor dressing in a full attack suit on the last day. The goal is for the students to fight him off and keep him from dragging them out of the room.

Esteller calls it the "taking to the van" drill and says it can evoke major emotions in the students.

"The kajukenbo philosophy is to make it real every time," he said. "We use 'andrenal stress training' and this is the one technique that will save your life. You can learn to take a hit as well as give it and you have a better chance of survival."

Esteller shares those stories with his students and also tries to inspire his students to do some kind of practice every day.

"Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect," says Esteller.
He ends the classes with the students removing their belts, wiping the sweat off their brown and repeating the mantra of "mind, body, spirit."

Esteller offers new students a free week of classes so parents and students can try it and make sure it is a goo fit for them.

"New students can come up to four days to get a feel for it," said Esteller.

Follow Sifu Ron's blogs on Patch for the S.A.F.E K.I.D.S  tips and techniques:
S.A.F.E.K.I.D.S Anti-Abduction Strategies And Techniques

Follow Esteller on Facebook.

This article is a condensed version of a story on Pleasanton Patch.

Do you know Sifu Ron? Are you a student at Esteller Martial Arts? Tell us in the comments section below.

TriValleyKarate December 17, 2012 at 09:38 AM
Fantastic!! "S.A.F.E stands for 'survey, avoid, flee and engage'," he said. "And K.I.D.S is an acronym for 'kids in danger survive'." It is nice to see people taking steps to educate and train kids. My goal is to do the same with martial arts in Plesanton and the surrounding areas. www.TriValleyKarate.com


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