In a shopping center long characterized by empty storefronts, a martial arts instructor is finding a growing customer base.
New Wave Martial Arts opened at 4323 Ebenezer Rd. at Perry Hall Square Shopping Center in early April. Even before the wall-to-wall mat in the main instruction area had been installed, 15 students were signed up for classes, according to Master Rick Stephan.
The taekwondo master built up more than 17 years experience as an instructor before joining his son, owner Shawn Stephan, in making the $20,000 investment to start the school. At least two other martial arts schools already hold classes in the Perry Hall area.
Stephan told Patch he anticipates 90 students within the school's first 90 days.
"Our enrollments have been exceeding our expectations and we are already planning to open an additional location," he said.
Classes, averaging about $80 per course, include taekwondo, cardio kickboxing, advanced training and hand-to-hand self defense. Students currently range in age from 4 to 26.
Stephan said the course training is beyond basic.
"We're focusing on school bullying ... we show students how to defend themselves in the hallways," he said.
Stephan said he would never promote violence, but rather basic self defense to combat bullying.
"A student says he gets bullied, and I show him how to turn it around. It's not about taking somebody's head off, it's about deflecting it," he said.
Harassment and intimidation in schools strikes a personal chord with Stephan.
"I've got five kids and I know from experience ... one of my daughter's friends committed suicide because of school bullying. It's a large problem," he said.
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