Photo caption: Chris Velez, chief instructor and owner, Martial Arts Academy.
It’s tough. It’s highly regimented, with no tolerance for nonsense. It requires absolute focus and perseverance. So why do so many kids do martial arts? Because it is one of the best venues to develop self-confidence and lifelong leadership skills.
Chris Velez, Martial Arts Academy chief instructor and owner, knows from his own experience what martial arts can do for a child. Having started at the tender age of six, Chris now owns two studios and has earned his fifth degree black belt.
Watching kids develop through the program is one of the greatest joys of the work he has done for 11 years.
“Whether or not they come in initially to gain self-confidence, they gain it,” he says. Through the discipline and structure of martial arts training, students are encouraged to step out of their comfort zones and try something new. There is fear, anxiety, butterflies in the stomach. They usually don’t succeed the first time, but in a non-intimidating and supportive environment, they are encouraged to try again and again until they succeed. “It’s a process of learning and trying until they reach success,” he explains. They learn how to accept challenges and how to focus and perform under pressure. Every time a youngster pushes himself or herself to reach a goal and accomplish it, a little more confidence is built.
Behavioral scientists agree that self-confidence is one of the main drivers for success in life. It’s a gradual process, but one that has a direct impact on personal development and life-long benefits.Most often the candidates with self-confidence and soft skills tip the scales for job promotions or leadership roles in the community.
Chris and the other instructors hold all of the class members to a high standard that may not be required anywhere else in their lives. A code of conduct is strictly upheld. Class members bow to show respect for authority figures. They address one another as Mr. or Miss. And they show appreciation for the achievements of other members.
The goal is to teach each student to become the type of person who is always prepared to do their absolute best in whatever they set out to accomplish and become a positive example for others to follow. It is not an easy journey, but children as young as seven or eight have come up through the ranks and earned their black belts.
“When kids have a positive self-image,” he explains, “they develop a success-oriented mindset and see themselves as being successful, no matter what they are doing.” Parents often tell him how the once-shy kid who was afraid to speak in class has improved grades and gone on to make big commitments. He also hears comments about positive behavioral changes toward family members, how they handle peer pressure a lot better, and how they effectively deal with negative opinions from other people.
Martial Arts Academy offers classes Monday through Saturday (Fridays by appointment). All family members are welcome. For more information, contact Martial Arts Academy in Owasso at (918) 376-9080 or in Tulsa at (918) 622-5425 or visit martialartsacademy.net