In the children’s classes at Tiger Schulmann’s mixed martial arts (TSMMA) in Vails Gate, NY, Sensei Jose Montes has encountered his fair share of kids that test his patience. But his firm, gentle demeanor he has won the trust and respect of parents and students alike as they put their faith in his skill as a martial artist, as an instructor and as a mentor for their kids. He is an uplifting force that supplements the structure of a karate class each week with inspiring dialogue and his availability to his students. The blended curriculum of grappling, kickboxing and karate, which serves as the discipline aspect of training, are an essential part of the TSMMA program. In addition, Sensei Montes developed his own teaching style that is no doubt based on his own structured karate background.
Angela Morales encountered Sensei Montes at a Home Depot one afternoon (Yes, he shops at Home Depot like a regular person, kids). She noticed his TSMMA t-shirt and inquired since she had been looking to get her children involved in a karate program for some time. Meeting Sensei appeared to be a sign pointing her family to where they needed to be. Upon trialing class, Joshu Shane Burgos was yet another kind, accepting instructor that influenced her decision to join.
“I didn’t want my children to hurt anymore or feel inferior.”
Angela’s two oldest children, Isabella (age 8) and Jose (age 7) were both victims of bullying. Isabella was self conscious about her weight, and felt insecure despite her sweet personality, radiant smile and long, thick beautiful hair. Jose was described as the “suffer in silence” type, and revealed the plight of a bad day hours after coming home from school. “If someone pushed or made fun of him, Jose would never tell an adult. He was so shy. People would say ‘Hi Jose!’ and without a reply, he would shrink down and hide.” Angela opted to try TSMMA, hoping that the unique mix of martial arts and structure of karate would improve the confidence her children were lacking. As a parent, Angela knew that she needed to take steps in teaching them how to stand up for themselves. “I didn’t want my children to hurt anymore or feel inferior.”
Gabriella (age 4) also trains at the Vails Gate school. Angela felt that having her three children attend together would strengthen their bond, and reinforce confidence and discipline through the karate aspect of training. Isabella, Jose and Gabriella have been attending for almost 6 months. They are excited to be a part of the TSMMA family and look forward to the upbeat, motivating classes taught each week. Angela cites improvements in their academics and behaviors at home. “My children listen the first time they are told to do something (for the most part). All three can tell you what discipline is and what self discipline is. Their grades are better, they do their homework independently, and Jose even participates in class at school, is making friends and says ‘hi’ to his peers in public now!” Gabriella just started preschool this appears to be keeping up with her older siblings, who have improved their physical well being in addition to their academic progress and mental focus. Angela recognizes the importance of how martial arts and karate build off of one another. “The kids work hard at mastering their skills and are expected to focus so when they are asked to demonstrate a technique.” The interactive components of class have also appealed to the talkative nature of both Isabella and Gabriella. When Gabriella raises her hand to contribute, she may not always know what to say, but her instructors simply smile and assure her that next time she will have the answer. The first time Jose demonstrated his focused karate skills, Angela knew that this was a defining moment for her son and their family. “It was amazing. It may not seem like anything to some people but to me at that moment, I knew this was life changing.”
The quality of instruction at the Vails Gate school benefits many of the children who train with Sensei Montes and Joshu Burgos. Angela considers both men to be positive role models who genuinely care about each individual that walks through their doors. “They take their time to show each student what is right, model the moves, and have them try it independently. They speak with the kids and help them understand that it is not the color of the belt that matters, but who the person is on the inside. They teach children to be good people.” Isabella recalls feeling at ease the moment she met Sensei and Joshu and enjoys their humor. “It’s funny when Sensei moves his ears and eyebrows and makes funny faces sometimes.” Aside from the amusing antics, she acknowledges that she gets better each week and continues to steadily improve her skills. “I like coming because I am always better the second day.”
Four year old Gabriella also enjoys the humor Sensei and Joshu provide
to make the disciplined, karate aspect of class exciting.
Jose also enjoys class and already has fond memories of what he has achieved. “I love getting stripes and doing round kicks. My favorite memory is getting my first stripe!” He has continued to participate and demonstrate his skills without fear of judgment. Four year old Gabriella also enjoys the humor Sensei and Joshu provide to make the disciplined, karate aspect of class exciting. She recalls specific techniques and effectively learns how to use them, even at such a young age. “My favorite are when we do jabs and crosses. I really love it. It’s the best thing.” Gabriella also likes that her instructors know how to make the structure of karate fun with activities like “the focus game.” The kids are expected to stand on one foot, eyes focused without deviation as their instructor attempts to distract them. “They do funny things like this (she claps her hands and waves them outward as if to break concentration of an opponent) and they make silly faces.”
Although Angela’s kids have not been training very long, she has put her trust in TSMMA and believes in the program’s ability to teach confidence, discipline and self-defense. “TSMMA focuses on what children need. They build them up and show them that the world is theirs. Anything is possible, the sky is the limit. Everyone is so kind and welcoming; it really is a family oriented environment. You don’t get laughed at when you are learning, you are praised for all of the little achievements along the way, and that alone makes them feel special. Just after a few weeks of TSMMA, we knew this was going to be a lifelong commitment for our family.”
By Lauren Rose