By Cathleen Tyson-Day | Published The Upbeat Reporter Spring 2023
When I first met Grand Master Mike Lister, he was wearing his Master dobok “uniform.” Looking prestigious, I was taken by his big smile and friendly composure.
Master Lister owns the only martial arts day care in the country. Officially named Martial Arts and Athletic Center. A then 8-year old studying acronyms mentioned that they should call the school “MAAC” for short. It stuck!
Teaching martial arts for 42 years, it all started when Mike was playing football at Tascosa High School in Amarillo. His sister was a prima ballerina at the Lone Star Ballet when she told Mike that they needed strong men to dance in the ballet. Not really thinking it was the route he wanted to take, he did attend and met a new Korean friend. This man introduced Mike to Tae Kwon Do and martial arts, he wanted to learn more. Mike did go on to college, but felt driven to open a martial arts school. The first school opened in 1984.
Classes were held in an expensive building that was eating up their profits. The instructors were teaching martial arts as a PE credit through the schools. They saw the need for an afterschool program to keep the kids busy and out of trouble. There is an added plus to martial arts, they teach respect, discipline, self-control, non-violent conflict resolution and self-esteem. These are traits not often taught anymore, but important in achieving success in life. It was decided to open a daycare.
Master Lister would drive down Line Avenue and notice a building with a large mural of Jesus surrounded by children. Across the top, it read, “Let the children come to me... Jesus.” He dreamed that someday the building would be the home for MAAC.
Master Lister shared, “It’s prophetic; it’s us.” The story tells of a grandfather who was so pleased at how well Master Lister had taught his grandsons through the MAAC program, he wanted to show him a building to expand in. Master Lister followed in a car to check out the building, and yes, it was the same building with the mural. Lister’s funds were low, and he knew he couldn’t afford to purchase it. This grandfather, Dennis Clounch, offered to carry the note, but wanted him to have “skin in the game,” Clounch required a $10,000 deposit. When you want something bad enough, you can find a way to get the money, and by pulling resources and donations from parents, the deposit was raised. The building became a licensed after school martial arts and childcare center in 2001. MAAC drivers pick up around 400 kids from various schools every afternoon. They feed them snacks, help with homework, and learn Tae Kwon Do, Jiu Jitsu, boxing and various others. As the students’ progress, the instructors lead them to which one fits them best.
Blessed and Highly Favored
Master Lister quotes this saying, “blessed and highly favored” as he describes the workings of his martial arts schools. He has been teaching so long that 85% of his employees are past students.
The Mini MAAC takes care of children ages 18 months to 4 years.
At the north location, the oldest students are 13.
MAAC has been a licensed daycare for almost 21 years. The buildings have gone through some renovation, one at a time, including the mural.
The mural was painted by Deborah Morgan in 1989. The children in the painting were based on children she knew of different ethnicities. While painting the mural, Morgan saw a man pull over in a truck and said that God led him to help her stencil a message above the mural. Morgan knew what that saying should be, “Let the children come to me. Jesus” A divine intervention.
For many years, children walked past the mural on their journey to and from school, becoming a staple in the community.
Morgan moved away, and the children in the painting grew up. The paint began to fade and crack.
Morgan moved back in the early 2000’s. Coincidentally, Dolores Pence lived across the alley from her at the time. They had gotten to know each other well. Morgan often spoke about feeling the need to touch up that huge mural. Pence offered her help. In 2016 with acrylics and paint brushes in hand, Morgan at 72-years old and Pence took on the project. After the completion, a construction company sprayed a protective coating on the mural at a fraction
of the cost.
There is a scripture above the door at MAAC:
“Thank the Lord, my rock, who trained my hands to fight and my fingers to do battle.” Psalms 144:1
I asked Master Lister what this scripture meant to him. “Several parents have asked how I can be a Christian and teach fighting like I do.” Knowing he was doing what God led him to do, he opened the Bible searching for that answer, and what he read before him was this scripture.
MAAC is an impressive facility teaching respect, self-control, and love of your fellow man. These kids meet new friends and learn valuable life lessons.
Information on how to sign up for daycare or martial arts classes of any age, visit the website.
MAAC.com or call 806-322-1080
3820 Line Ave.
2009 N. Marrs St.
4220 Wolflin Ave.
Watch the video interview on Upbeat and Beyond