What's Up South Texas!: Martial artist hopes to take skills to 2020 Olympics

By Japhanie Gray - Reporter

A San Antonio woman is using her passion for martial arts to not only inspire others to get involved, but to push herself to possibly qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.

“There are so many styles to it,” said Clarissa Villanueva. “I can’t stop from learning them. There are arts from Korea and Japan and then there are subparts to those. It all fascinating.”

Villanueva started martial arts when she was just 6 years old.

“My dad put my brother and I in when we were very young,” Villanueva said. “He was three and I was six, but it was all to learn how to defend ourselves. He didn’t know how far it would take us.”

Villanueva, who is originally from the Rio Grande Valley, said as she and her brother got older, they were passionate about opening a martial arts school in the Valley named Team Tiger Martial Arts.

“We opened it in 2004 and we just took off with it,” Villanueva said. “It was hard, I am not going to lie. Here we are, trying to go to high school, earnf our black belts and run a school at the same time.”

After overcoming those obstacles, things began looking positive for their dreams as martial artists.

“Our parents pushed us and helped us and were the support,” Villanueva said. “Without that support I don’t know where we would be. When that black belt was tied around my waist, like, that was it. Now I feel like I can do anything. Like there is nothing I can’t accomplish in life now.”

Villanueva has been in San Antonio for about three years now, working full time as a manager at a 9-Round boxing gym location.

“I am able to do something I love and teach at the same time, and help other people, which is another part of my passion, while still continuing to train on the side,” Villanueva said.

In addition to her black belt, Villanueva is a highly decorated with a silver and gold medal after competing for Team USA. She plans to go back to Niagara Falls to earn two gold medals instead.

Currently, her brother still runs Team Tiger Martial Arts, to which she still goes to help train more than 100 kids, teens, and adults.

“They compete a lot so I am proud that they have taken our steps and really surpassed really what me and my brother have been able to do,” Villanueva said.

The biggest step and goal for her now is to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.

“I am going to Japan to continue to train and I hope to qualify moving forward,” Villanueva said. “That is the dream right now.”

She said more than anything, she is a proud instructor and proud to represent her passion on a national and worldwide level.

If you know someone like Villanueva who is making a difference in the South Texas community or who has a unique story, send us your tips. Contact Japhanie Gray on Facebook or @JGrayKSAT on Twitter. You can also send your tips to KSAT 12 & KSAT.com on Facebook.

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