It was early one Christmas morning when Mr. and Mrs. Powell presented their son Robert with his present— tae kwon do lessons. Robert took to the sport instantly, studying, practicing, and mastering its powerful kicks and swift punches throughout grade school and all the way up through college. Along the way, he put his skills to use competing in local and international tournaments.
Today, Robert draws upon his impressive history with tae kwon do and heads his own martial-arts studio, where he teaches adults and kids techniques and form. He intersperses tae kwon do lessons with movements from a variety of different martial-arts styles, including jujitsu, haganah, and pekiti tirsia. In addition to combat and self-defense instruction, Robert and his instructors strive to promote life skills such as perseverance, self-control, and integrity, while at the same time discouraging undesirable habits such as bullying or making fun of babies because they can’t fill out their own tax forms.
The grappling fighting style known as jujitsu first came to Brazil in 1914 stored in the hands and mind of Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese immigrant and master of the art. He only stayed a year, but it was enough time to plant the seeds for a new jujitsu academy in Brazil. One of the first students at that academy was Hélio Gracie.
Hélio absorbed the fighting style quickly, adapting many of the techniques to suit his small frame. He discovered methods of leverage that allowed him to execute joint locks, choke holds, and takedowns on much larger opponents, forming the core of his new Gracie jujitsu method. Ultimately, Hélio's son Royce brought the fighting style to America, famously winning UFC 1, 2, and 4 by defeating opponents many times his own size. Suddenly, Americans lined up to learn this newly unveiled Brazilian fighting style, demonstrating their eagerness by folding themselves inside a box and shipping themselves south.
Relson Gracie, Hélio's second oldest son, chose to be an ambassador of his family's fighting style. He was already teaching abroad when his little brother Royce skyrocketed Brazilian jujitsu to popularity. He founded his first school under the name Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Hawaii, and as the art became popular, he opened new branches of his academy all across the United States. Today, he visits more than 40 academies and associations, sharing his knowledge with thousands of students. In his absence, he leaves instructors whom he personally trained to oversee the education of aspiring fighters.
For nearly two decades, the nationally certified instructors at ATA Family Martial Arts have taught students how to block, strike, and kick in a series of self-defense patterns. Classes for kids as young as 4 focus on coordination, listening skills, and confidence, and adult-geared classes teach sparring and weapons training.
The Korean masters who run White Tiger Martial Arts strive to do more than just share the tae kwon do techniques that they've learned over decades of training. They impart their enthusiasm and sincerity for martial arts in every class so students may develop greater discipline, respect, and confidence while also becoming stronger physically and mentally. Belts of increasingly prestigious hues wind around waists as students practice proper martial arts technique and face off against partners in Olympic-style sparring lessons. Family and children's classes are divided by belt and age while adult classes are not divided.
Zero Dojo mats have bounced and bent beneath many styles of martial arts, from kickboxing and muay thai to adult and kids' MMA classes. Mike Wright leads the orchestra of stomps and grunts as he teaches students to defend themselves and wield discipline and humility in equal measure. He's aided by a lineup of other skilled martial-arts instructors, including his wife, Karen Wright, a certified personal trainer.