Martial arts provide motivation, self-confidence
The Professional Black Belt Academy of Hot Springs is about more than just learning techniques and earning a belt. According to co-owner Fred Green, martial arts classes teach students discipline, focus, and responsibility.
Opened three years ago by owners Fred Green and Stuart Lay, the school offers programs for kids and adults year-round.
In addition to being a co-owner, Green is also the chief instructor at the academy and has been doing martial arts for 25 years. Lay is not an instructor, but became interested in martial arts because both of his sons became second-degree black belts and they loved the sport.
“Both my boys needed the discipline and the focus and all of that and it became something that they both loved, so they behaved well,” Lay said. “Mr. Green was one of my boys’ primary instructors, so when the opportunity came for him and me to open a school, we jumped at it because we sort of tried to build the school that
we wanted our kids to have growing up, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Some parents enroll their children into martial arts because of problems focusing or engaging with peers or having a lack of motivation, crippling shyness, lack of follow through or perseverance and low fitness levels.
“Focus is the main thing out of everything. Focus and self confidence are two things our kids are missing today,” Green said. “It’s amazing because we get a lot of children with ADD/ ADHD, we’ve got some with Asberger’s, we’ve got some autism, just different things, and it really helps them focus.”
Green added that they are also very into discipline at the academy.
“I always use the quote off of Spider-Man, ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’ so if you can punch somebody and literally hurt them versus just a smack, then you have to be able to control that feeling when they take their swing or whatever, that you don’t haul off and just kick them in the stomach,” he said.
Generally, children who are 4 years of age and older will be accepted into the academy, though Green said that the age limit really just depends on the maturity level of the child.
“We’ve had 3-year-olds come in here that acted like 5-year-olds and we’ve had 5-year-olds come in here and act like 3-year-olds,” he said. “We always just let them come in and try a class and see where they’re at, and if it’s time to wait then we wait, and if it’s not then let’s move forward.”
Adult classes are for ages 13 and older. There is no age limit. “I just signed up a 68-year-old yesterday,” Green said. Adult classes are taught Monday through Thursday and kids classes are taught Monday through Friday.
Classes at the academy always begin with a one-week trial program so students and parents can “try it before they buy it.” Trial spaces are limited.
Green and Lay also offer an after-school program for parents who may work late and aren’t able to bring their children to classes. As of right now, Lakeside School is the only school available to participate in the program.
Green said at the academy they have what is called the “charyeot game.” Charyeot means “attention” in Korean, and when the word “charyeot” is said by an instructor, the students freeze and stand at attention.
“We had a kid come in and try the class and he did good. His brother was sitting there and said, ‘Hey, go show mom and dad,’ and so you charyeot, attention, and you freeze. You don’t move. This kid went five minutes in the charyeot game and his brother was doing it with him. Finally he fidgeted a little bit and he was out, and his brother was still standing there. So his mom comes up and she goes, ‘I can’t believe this, we are literally on our way right now to pick up his brand-new prescribed ADD drug from Walgreens and you just made him stand there for over five minutes without moving.’
“We make things into games. If you sit there and tell them, ‘Hey everybody, stand still,’ that won’t work. But if you tell them it’s a competition the last kid will fall down. I’ve had them where we’ve gone as long as seven minutes. The focus is just amazing,” Green said.
He and Lay will take approximately a dozen students to a national tournament in Shreveport, La., this month and Lay said they expect them to “do really well.” Green will also compete in the tournament, something he said he hasn’t done in a long time.
“We have several of these women who are competing at the highest levels of our associations that we belong to, and they’re doing well, they’re winning at nationals. For us, here, we love and we celebrate that kind of accomplishment because it’s really cool, but for each of our girls and each of our students regardless of gender, when they come, we’re not worried so much about them becoming national champions as each one of them developing and growing into good people and realizing their potential.
“One of the biggest differences between martial arts and, say, a team sport, is with the team sport the win/loss record is the bottom line. For us, the bottom line is personal progression and potential. It’s about them being the best people they can be too,” Lay said.
“Martial arts is just a disciplined way of life, that’s what it breaks down to,” said Green. “‘Martial’ being discipline and ‘way of life’ being the arts part.”