By: Lorrie Ward | Category: Other | Issue: November 2012
(Front row, L to R): Rick Gibson, Brianne Saul, Taylor Carrell, Stephen Davis, Chris Velez and Jonathan Davis, (Back row, L to R): Eric Buckendorf, Michael Randal, Robert Baker and Keith Davis.
Chris Velez of Martial Arts Academy is a big believer in consistency: “Consistency is what will get you the black belt,” he says. Velez also believes in living by example – and that is why it is no surprise that his consistency in pursuing the goals he set when establishing Martial Arts Academy in Owasso nine years ago have paid off in visible and tangible results.
“One of our objectives was to create more than just a good fighter,” says Velez, who explains that concentrating only on defense sells the whole process very short. “We wanted to deliver the promises we made to the student, both with the black belt and the attributes it takes to achieve the black belt.”
In order to achieve this, Velez and staff continued to observe both the successes and failures of other martial arts schools in order to educate themselves. From the time they held their first class in Owasso Fitness Zone on October 3, 2003 through 2005, they traveled and evaluated both the business and instruction side of other academies in order to know what practices they could best incorporate and what traditions should be left in the past. They were then ready to proceed toward their own visions when they moved into their permanent Owasso location in 2005. “Everything we do comes from a position of experience,” says Velez, “but not tradition for tradition’s sake.”
One thing Velez and his staff took special notice of was the percentages of those who weren’t making it to black belt, and they looked for ways to lower this percentage. They found, for instance, that “catering to families at the speed of life” was of key importance and so began offering longer classes with fewer sessions per week, as opposed to short but frequent sessions, which can be more difficult to fit into a busy family’s schedule. Another change involved adult-to-child ratio in classes. These groups had typically been separated; however, Velez found that placing adults and children in classes together encouraged the adult students to provide much needed examples of maturity for the children. Beginning his own martial arts training at an early age, he still recalls the impact of his own instructors’ words, mannerisms, and ways of speaking – and these good examples have guided what has been put into the curriculum.
Through the years, Velez had also observed that martial arts classes were often geared toward people who were obviously athletically gifted. He believes that even those who do not show athletic aptitude in the beginning are capable of success with hard work, encouragement and consistency, so he and his staff gear their teaching styles toward a deeper learning experience, one that extends beyond competition and into personal growth.
Velez has seen tremendous results from the practices he and his staff have put into place. “People who didn’t think they were athletes in the beginning are often actually quite good, and our high ranking group is very technically sound,” he says. “It is not uncommon for our academy to have two or three lines of black belts.”
Through fulfilling these goals, Mr. Velez has been able to make reality another vision: providing opportunities for those who would like to instruct in the martial arts. In March of 2012, he opened a second Martial Arts Academy location, in Tulsa, with his longtime colleague Richard Gibson acting as chief instructor. “Expanding and opening up these opportunities has always been part of the plan,” Velez says. “We are happy to see this come to fruition.”