When you mix skilled movement with self-defense, you get a form of karate called Kenpo, something Grass Valley Kenpo Family Karate has offered for the past three years and will continue to offer in its new location.
“We were working out of another martial arts school and started with two students, and finally we got to the point where we got too big for our space and mat time,” said David Garcia, who owns the business located at 640 E. Main St. in Grass Valley with his wife, Jakki.
“We have our own school now five days a week with better visibility, bigger space, and it’s our school, so there’s a lot more mat time.”
The Garcias are a husband-and-wife team with second-degree black belts, David Garcia said.
“Kenpo Karate is a self-defense martial arts, not a sport karate or mixed martial arts form,” David Garcia said, adding the idea is to be able to defend in a necessary case and not to provoke fights. “Our goal is to teach you how to defend yourself and make awareness better.”
Jakki Garcia also leads a women’s cardio class.
“Exercising with women only is a little easier and less intimidating,” she said, as there is no physical contact involved.
The class includes a warmup with calisthenics, push-ups and sit-ups, then mitts and gloves and striking combinations of two-minute rounds with 30-second rests, she said.
“I’ve had some ladies who took the class for three years, and I was just recently looking at videos from when we first started the class, and now they’re all way more fit,” she said. “It was so satisfying.”
Participants really enjoy the instruction and atmosphere, they said.
“Dave and Jakki are fantastic instructors who keep the lessons fun, interesting and challenging,” said Trinity Proctor, who has attended the school with her son, Michael, for more than three years. “Taking the cardio class has helped me to develop a strong, healthy body and great friendships.”
Proctor’s son is now in the Air Force and said it helped in preparing him for his career, Trinity Proctor said, adding, “He has also developed lifelong friends in the ‘Kenpo family.’”
Another attendee said she enjoys the mental challenge of karate compared to kickboxing alone.
“I love that it makes my mind think,” said Grass Valley resident Cynthia Soszka, who began taking classes a year and a half ago. “There are a lot of physical parts, but a lot is trying to remember the techniques and all the things that go along with it.”
Soszka enrolled her 6-year-old son in the Tiny Eagles program and enjoys how family-oriented the Garcias are.
“They’re like family to me, which is part of the reason why I wanted to go back,” she said. “They’re great at what they do.”
The Garcias met in their home town of Lemoore, when they worked at the same pizza place and discovered they both were interested in martial arts.
“We didn’t do karate at the same time. I did it for a couple years, and she started after. I actually got back into it because of her,” David Garcia said.
Jakki Garcia became interested after she attended her friend’s kickboxing and karate class, where she became enticed by the physicality of the art.
“I was totally into it. I said I was going to start right up, and I was hooked, and I was there until the dojo (Japanese for ‘training hall’) closed,” she said. “I liked the punching and kicking and sparring, doing forms and techniques, and I also liked the family atmosphere. I made a whole bunch of new friends, and they’re all my friends to this day still.”
Some of the benefits of Kenpo are like any martial art, David Garcia said, including confidence and physical fitness.
“I’m also a coach. I have something like 16 kids who all need different things,” David Garcia said. “Some need humility, confidence. Some need structure and discipline. My role is to provide the individual with their individual needs.”
The studio teaches young students and older adults as well.
“I especially like that we’re getting people who wouldn’t normally think about starting a martial art,” Jakki Garcia said. “Most people don’t start when they’re in their 30s or 40s, and we have a brand new student who is 50. It’s part of what makes our school so special — because we have from 5-year-olds to 50-year-olds.”
The social aspect of the studio is another benefit, David Garcia said.
“It’s a group thing. You get to hang out with people you like. You get to work out,” he said. “They are challenging themselves and doing something kind of scary — testing in front of people and getting out of their comfort zone. … What’s making this work and grow is the great group of people who are congregating around us,” David Garcia said.
“It’s a neat thing and experience. We’re learning Kenpo as we go and putting together this cool group. It’s exciting.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.