Making a Difference

Written by Mindy Wood in the August 2010 Issue

Passion comes easy when you know your effort makes a difference in the lives of those you serve. Blake and Bekah Graham’s passion is American-style Tae Kwon Do. Their goal is to see students become healthy from the inside out through Martial Arts Ministry.

Both second degree black belts, the Grahams have ten years combined teaching experience at several large dojos. As instructors, their hearts ached to provide the physical, emotional and even spiritual benefits to families who couldn’t afford classes.

“We took this idea to our pastors and decided to create a non-profit organization so we could accept donations for scholarships. We wanted to offer high quality instruction, but on a smaller pricing scale,” said Bekah.

The school is even uniquely equipped to teach children with special needs, such as cerebral palsy with a doctor’s consent. “Our student with CP had horrible core strength and we’ve seen him go from not being able to do a sit up, or pushup, or kick above his knees, to kicking waist high, doing pushups and up to 50 crunches,” said Bekah. “He’s a student who was bullied because of his disability. He’s gone from shy and afraid, to confident and capable of defending himself.”

They stress the difference between aggression and boldness and Bekah said that works especially well for students with aggressive behavior. “We had a four year old with aggression issues,” she remembers. “He just turned six and he’s now controlled, confident and has a lot more focus. We know that low self esteem is typical with bullying and his boosted self esteem actually stopped that behavior. His mother said he’s now gained friendships and this has given him an outlet for natural aggression and provided boundaries.”

The Grahams take a different approach to teaching by replacing the extreme formality of a typical school with a family atmosphere where kids and parents work together in beginner classes.

“We make sure we know what’s going on outside class too, especially with our older students who have to present their report cards and can’t move on if they’re failing classes,” said Bekah. Students who struggle with poor attention and behavioral challenges often thrive in the active world of martial arts when given the correct guidance. “Many times parents confide in us about discipline issues at home. We work on several layers because we want the person to improve in all aspects of their life.”

As former children’s ministry directors and youth pastors, the Grahams decided to use their Biblical teaching background to also coach virtues, such as respect, honor, courage, discipline, honesty and self control. At the end of class, they discuss a “focus” and take prayer requests.  “Our mission is to protect the vulnerable places of families and individuals by instilling both Biblical and martial arts principles simultaneously.”

They offer a preschool class, as well as beginner’s and intermediate levels ranging from 1st grade children to adults, and an adult course in mixed martial arts for ages 14 and up. For willing students, they also compete in four to six tournaments a year.

Although the two-year-old ministry saw immediate growth, they keep their classrooms at 10-15 students and only meet twice a week to maintain their own busy schedules. Bekah is a stay at home mother to their three children, ages 3, 6 and 15 months, while Blake works as a tech support trainer.

They don’t mind squeezing it all in. “We don’t feel the pressures of building a big business because that’s not what it’s about for us. We’re going to get more out of seeing the changes in the kids than we’ll ever receive financially. That’s our heart,” she says.

For more information, contact Martial Arts Ministry at 412-0111 or visit www.mam.krossfire.net.

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