What started as an after-school activity for her son has grown into a full-time job, community outreach, and a successful martial arts academy. And now, Suzanne and her team are bringing the academy to 105 Washington Street in downtown Huntsville!
“Maverick Training Center is a family owned martial arts academy that specializes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai,” explained Suzanne, owner and head instructor at Maverick. “We began our journey in 2003 when we were operating out of an aerobics room at a local gym. The academy has expanded over the years; we currently have more than 100 active students. This move downtown will make us more central to our students, allow us to offer additional classes, and provide the room we need to grow.”
Currently located on south parkway, Maverick is slated to open its new space—with 2,800 square feet of training mats—in October later this year! Suzanne said there would be a robust class schedule to accommodate downtown residents and professionals.
Nearly 20 years ago, Suzanne placed her son Evan in a local martial arts class. Something about the discipline intrigued her and she knew she had to learn more.
“I spoke with the head instructor and I was immediately fascinated; I knew it was for me,” smiled Suzanne. “He mentioned Bruce Lee and, at the time, I didn’t even know who he was. Beyond being an amazing actor, Bruce was also a very skilled martial artist. After learning more about it, I was hooked!”
Suzanne searched for a way to study Bruce Lee-style martial arts, and she made headway when she spoke with Richard Bustillo, one of Lee’s prodigies living in Los Angeles.
“The first thing he said to me was, ‘but you’re a woman,’” she laughed. “But he was only joking. We talked about my goals and he told me he had an affiliate gym in Huntsville where I could train using his methods.”
A single mother, Suzanne worked long hours to successfully juggle her family life, career, and martial arts training. Some weeks she traveled several hours to and from gyms to get individualized coaching in Jiu-Jitsu. Now, she’s one of only two female black belts in the state of Alabama and one of the few women to own a martial arts academy in the country.
“Richard gave me the nickname ‘Maverick’ when we were training together,” clarified Suzanne. “I was working hard on my own journey that fit me. I was making my own way. I was a Maverick.”
The name stuck, and when Suzanne began a training group in Huntsville there was no hesitation on what to name the blossoming academy. As the training group grew, Suzanne discovered that she could turn her passion into a business.
“Maverick is a place where everyone can train—men, women, children—and we make sure it’s always comfortable and laid back,” assured Suzanne. “We train hard, but we always try to make it fun.”
There’s no shortage of martial arts knowledge at Maverick. Suzanne carries 15 years of teaching experience. Her children, Evan and Julia, both have 10 years under their belts in addition to multiple competition awards. Instructors Matt Johnson and Ed Nunn also help make up the skilled Maverick team.
“No matter how much training we receive or competitions we win, we always remember where we came from,” said Suzanne. “Sadly, Richard passed away in 2017. But we remember him with our dedication, passion, and—of course—our name.”
Choosing Your Training Path
At Maverick, students can take many different paths with their martial arts training.
“All of our students have different goals when practicing martial arts, and we do everything we can to get them there,” said Suzanne. “Whether you’re looking to get in better shape, de-stress, learn self-defense techniques or have a desire to compete, we are here to guide you.”
All ages and skill levels are welcome at Maverick. In fact, they have experience teaching children as young as three and have students well into their late 60s. And while Maverick specializes in Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai, Suzanne believes all martial arts training can be beneficial to health and wellbeing.
“Martial arts did so much for me and I know it can do the same for others,” guaranteed Suzanne. “We love to share our knowledge with anyone who is interested in improving themselves and we will train you in whatever direction you want to go.”
Maverick also has plans to hold training workshops with world champions and master instructors.
“Our students will never be in a bubble when it comes to training,” said Suzanne. “We make it a point to invite the masters of our craft to Huntsville so they can work directly with our group. Our students should have access to every possible opportunity, and we work to make that happen.”
On October 20th, the academy will host a seminar with the founder of Atos Jiu-Jitsu, Andre Galvao.
“Maverick joined the Atos Jiu-Jitsu Association under World Champion Andre Galvao,” she said. “He’s a very sought after instructor and we can’t wait for our students to train with him in October at our new location.”
Bringing Martial Arts To Downtown Huntsville
When asked why the academy chose downtown as its new location, Suzanne shared that she and her team were drawn to the area because of its vibe, easy accessibility, and their desire to reach the downtown community.
“We’ve done everything we can to make sure our services fit the needs of downtown,” said Suzanne. “People who work in the area can come see us for a 6 a.m. class, shower off at our center, and make it to work on time feeling confident, fit, and ready to take on the day.”
Classes will remain in session as normal at Maverick’s current south parkway location until the academy’s opening downtown. So you don’t have to wait until October to get started.
“I believe we bring something unique to the area,” said Suzanne. “Maverick currently offers around 20 classes each week, but we will add more if needed. We live and breathe martial arts and we are committed to making this an incredible experience for everyone. We can’t wait to welcome new faces to the academy and give our current students a wonderful new facility downtown.”
Now, another nearby property will experience renovations and add more retail and office space to the square. 107 North Side Square will be transformed into a space desirable to restaurants, office users, and retail. Crunkleton will be handling the leasing for the project and working with other local groups who are handling the redevelopment.
“Environmental, economic, and social sustainability—those are the pillars of our company,” shared Candace Stough, co-owner of The Foundry Coffee Roasting Company. Have you ever considered the many skilled hands it takes to make your morning coffee? From the farmers to roasters and baristas, it takes a village to create each pour. The Foundry will bring sustainable coffee practices, products, education, and more to the Huntsville area that will have a global impact.