“You’ve got control over a person’s life because they’re listening to you,” local karate instructor Maurice Moore said.
The internationally-known teacher and competitor wants to inspire local children and teens to maintain integrity and dream bigger than their small community.
He said he has a desire to keep young, first-time offenders from getting locked up in juvenile jail, and instead, take them under his wing for six months.
Moore has worked with hundreds of children over the years who stemmed from drug-infested neighborhoods and families with domestic abuse.
Some of them have gone on to become NFL players, actors and military men.
He believes in order to change a person’s life, you have to change them from the inside, teaching them respect and discipline and giving them incentives to do their best.
For 25-year-old Lincoln County resident and father of two, Josh Mayes, Moore did exactly that — change his life.
After his wife, one of Moore’s former boxing students, encouraged Mayes to train at the seasoned instructor’s Lincolnton facility, Moore’s Karate Academy, he not only stayed out of trouble but also developed a new sense of “self,” shedding 128 pounds.
“If it weren’t for Maurice, I would be dead or in jail,” Mayes said.
Moore hopes other local juveniles will follow in Mayes’ footsteps.
His first milestone to achieving his plan for aiding first-time juvenile offenders is to send a petition to a Lincoln County judge with as many signatures as he can obtain from local residents and parents of troubled teens.
Moore’s reasoning for taking on such an influential role is simple.
“Because I can change lives,” he said. “If I can save four or five out of 100, that will be worth it.”
He noted that once a juvenile enters jail, he often learns better criminal tactics from the other inmates.
A former Army man, Moore has seen his life flash before his eyes on more than one occasion, particularly during the Vietnam War when bullets buzzed past his head. Following his return from overseas, he said he was also stabbed by a man who called him a “baby killer.”
As a result, he understands he’s been “left here” on Earth for a reason.
Moore said he compiled four basic stipulations for any juvenile a judge allows him to train and mentor. Not only does the individual have to attend church and school but also respect one’s mother and work with the karate teacher on various community projects.
“They’ll spend one hour a day, four days a week with me,” Moore said.
However, once a student acts up in any way or violates one of the rules, the juvenile will go to jail.
“If they do anything degrading on the list, they are gone,” Moore said. “No second chances.”
He consistently counsels his students, who often go to him first before talking to parents, because they trust and respect him.
Moore said his karate teaching is centered around “heian,” the Japanese phrase for “peaceful mind,” and only instructs his roughly 80 students — toddlers, teens and adults — to fight defensively, not offensively.
Bullied himself for his tall stature growing up, Moore has no tolerance for bullying and wants the world’s younger generation to become more compassionate.
Since June, he has been shooting footage of his students and area residents for a documentary he plans to send to Hollywood once completed.
The goal of his project is to motivate young troublemakers to change their lifestyle and choose a path of success rather than a path to prison.
For decades, Moore, whose official title is “10th Degree Blackbelt Grand Master,” has toured the world, visiting Amsterdam, Germany, Ireland and beyond, for boxing competitions, fighting against and working with various famous faces such as Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Jackie Chan, Kevin Costner and Johnny Depp, to name a few.
“I never drank or smoke,” he said. “All I did was train. You preserve better.”
In the second grade, he collected Bazooka gum wrappers in order to purchase his first karate book. He then saved money he received from cutting area yards in order to attend karate classes without his parents’ knowledge.
Twice a week, Moore said he snuck away from his home and bicycled hours from Lincolnton to Charlotte, where he took the classes.
He now trains his youngest son, 10-year-old Jayden, in the sport.
Jayden has only lost 10 competitions out of 350, Moore said, and has worked alongside actor Will Smith’s son, also Jayden, in the newest Karate Kid movie.
Moore will host a karate and boxing-focused event 12-3 p.m. Saturday at his facility, located at 2610 North Aspen Street in Lincolnton. He encouraged everyone in the community to attend the event and sign his petition.