By: Christopher Davis | Category: Health & Fitness | Issue: January 2014
(L to R): Rick Gibson, 3rd degree black belt, chief instructor; Taylor Carrell, 1st degree black belt, instructors’ assistant; Eric Buckendorf, 1st degree black belt, program director; Brianne Saul, 2nd degree black belt, assistant instructor; and Chris Velez, 5th degree black belt, senior chief instructor.
Martial Arts Academy first opened in Owasso in 2003. Since then, Chris Velez, owner and senior chief instructor, has built a reputation for developing instructional classes that instill mental stamina, discipline and self-confidence.
With over two decades of experience in martial arts, Velez began training (specializing in tae kwon do) when he was six years old. As a teenager, he earned his black belt and began instructing groups. Shortly after high school, he began instructing professionally and opened his own full time academy in 2003. As a 5th degree black belt, he strives to guide others in finding their own inner black belt.
Through word of mouth, classes at Martial Arts Academy in Owasso grew so rapidly that Velez found it necessary to move to a larger studio within two years. The transition to the larger facility took place in 2005, providing much needed space for instruction and offices at 9100 North Garnett Rd. The dedication of Velez and his team at Martial Arts Academy paid off, and it was not long before Velez was poised to move up a notch. He opened up a Tulsa location with his cousin, Rick Gibson, with whom he’d been training since childhood. Together, they run both facilities, with Mr. Velez primarily leading in Owasso and Mr. Gibson at Tulsa’s 61st and Memorial location. The progress has been organic, but focused, similar to the instructional style at Martial Arts Academy.
While some martial arts classes divide groups up by age or skill level, Velez takes a different approach by including students of all ages, from 4 to 40 (and older), in the same group. “I’ve found that classes with only young children tend to end up more as playtime than focused instruction,” explains Velez. “Also, many families enjoy learning together.” Some might think that combining adults and children on the same mat may lead to distractions, but Velez’s experience has been the opposite. “The children seem to keep the adults honest – they don’t cut corners because the kids are right there, watching them. There ends up being less distractions for the youngsters because there are teens and adults, modeling the forms alongside them.” Everyone wins when the full age range is represented in the groups.
Velez does have different groups available, based on experience. Whether a student is a first-timer or a black belt, Martial Arts Academy will be able to provide a positive environment to promote focused learning. Velez and his team’s holistic philosophy of martial arts embraces the best of traditional ideas and infuses it with newer, progressive approaches to training. “Self-defense is very important,” says Velez, “but we also emphasize qualities such as mental strength, or focus, as well as confidence and self-control, or discipline.” In Velez’s view, the characteristics all reinforce one another, resulting in strong bodies with strong minds and healthy attitudes.
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Christopher Davis is an educator and musician, as well as a writer. A California native, he resides in Tulsa with his wife, two sons and a modest menagerie of pets. When he isn't inspiring young minds, you will most likely find him spending time with his family or playing drums and percussion with Project Huckleberry or the Movetet. In addition to Value News, Davis also writes for Currentland. You can view his work at https://seedavis.wordpress.com.
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