Visitors to Team Karate Studios, a Hapkido dojo in Woodland Hills, CA, will be instantly surprised.
Online PR News – 19-November-2009 – – Visitors to Team Karate Studios, a Hapkido dojo in Woodland Hills, CA, will be instantly surprised. Where most studios are one-room affairs with 50 to 100 students, TKC is an 8,000 sf studio with over 500 active members. Nor is the difference skin deep. TKC also plays host to world-famous teachers. Benny "The Jet" Urquedez, Aussie actor and martial artist Richard Norton, and Ron Balicki all teach courses at TKC, as well as numerous other martial arts masters and "Hall of Famers". In addition to Hapkido, courses are taught in boxing, jeet kune do and Philipino stick fighting, and kickboxing. TKC even recently became a licensed affiliate of the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu curriculum, making itself a martial artist's dream - a cornucopia of styles and skills.
More than even that, though, what sets TKC apart as a martial arts studio of choice for so many is the sense of commitment and family that TKC seeks to instill in its members. Many of them spend as much time together outside the studio as in, and regularly participate in events meant to strengthen both the TKC "family" and the communities its members live in.
Instead just learning to kick and punch, TKC members are urged to become Very Involved People (VIP's). They are encouraged to help newer students, to go the extra mile whenever they can for each other, and to make the world a better place. Black belt candidates are required to spend a year-long qualification period performing team exercises and finding ways to reach within themselves for strength at the same time as they reach out to others for help. Examples range from killer runs up overgrown hills that invariably end with half the students carrying the other half, to CPR and First Aid certification courses offered to the community.
6th degree Hapkido Master Fariborz Azhakh, head teacher and founder of TKC, has found that encouraging his students to be successful in life will reap better dividends than a narrow focus on the technical aspects of the joint locks and powerful strikes that are the hallmarks of Hapkido. "If they're successful in life, in being VIP's," he says, "they're going to be successful at Hapkido. One follows the other."
Hapkido 8th degree black belt Steve Sexton - one of the highest-ranking Hapkido practitioners in the United States - is not surprised at this attitude. He says of Azhakh, "He is very special... Even those that have done him wrong, he has been there for them in their hour of need." That specialness has come to define TKC as a place and as an institution. It goes far beyond the strong technical skills that are found at TKC. Says Diane Ben-David, mother of several young TKC students, "I mean [it's] the intangible aspects such as respect, discipline, teamwork, concern for others, honesty, integrity, tolerance, dignity and the list goes on..." Perhaps that is why, in addition to teaching adults and teens, TKC is also home to a "Little Ninjas" program dedicated to teaching children three and up the basics of karate, and the basics of good behavior and what it mean to be a good person. It is not unusual to see a Little Ninjas class end with the children in a circle, the teacher talking alternately about how to do a front kick and what it means to lie.
Azhakh, who also created and runs www.martialinfo.com, one of the most comprehensive sources of martial arts information in the world, hopes that the TKC "family" will grow even more. There are already affiliates in Florida, Ohio, and two others in California. More are certain to come. But for now, walking through the glass door at the "original" TKC will mean walking into a new and different kind of martial arts studio.
At TKC, breaking a board will get you a moment's admiration. But only breaking through boundaries that separate people from each other will earn you respect.