Back in 1975, Rick Arnold was beat up in school by the same bully three days in a row. That was when he began doing martial arts. Almost 43 years later, Arnold is still doing martial arts and now he is using what he learned all those years ago to help teach others self-defense and self-confidence.
“I knew the benefits that martial arts had for me,” he said. “I wanted to give that to others. It let me compete. I still do martial arts every day. I still love it.”
When Arnold’s Martial Arts in Sherman was opened in 1984, the faith-based studio had 20 students. Of those students, three of them are still at Arnold’s.
“We empower children through self-defense,” Arnold said. “We empower people through martial arts. We teach bully proofing. We teach the levels of bullying so that children know when they are being bullied even before it escalates.”
Along with teaching how to prevent bullying, Arnold’s has become an internationally known martial arts studio.
“We have a pretty extensive tryout for our international competitions,” Arnold said. “We pick our students according to age and position. Then we fund raise. We train for four months for our international competitions. This year, we won more than 20 medals internationally.”
There were nearly 20 students from the studio that competed this summer in Scotland and Ireland.
“We have been around the longest and we are the biggest martial arts studio in this area,” Arnold said. “We have had people from Ireland, Italy and London to come and visit our studio.”
The studio has about 43 black belt students.
“We are not just a competition school,” Arnold said. “People come to us for various reasons. Adults come to get in shape and learn how to defend themselves. We empower people for self defense skills. Demeanors change. We love each other. We respect each other.”
Rick Arnold is not the only Arnold at Arnold’s Martial Arts. His wife and children are also a part of the family business.
“We appreciate how they love to spread the word,” he said. “We do not talk about things but we are faith based. I believe if you have not seen or heard of us, come by and pay us a visit. We do not preach, but we are of those values.”
Arnold said he wants people to feel comfortable if they decide to join.
“We had a disco night on Friday,” Arnold said. “We dressed up and did our workout in disco attire. Then we taught the students how to eat healthy. We served them a healthy dinner.”
On Saturday night, about 51 children participated in the studio’s parent’s night out which was a glowing swords night for children.
“They dropped off the kids for the class and then got to go out to dinner,” Arnold said.
Wednesday was crazy hair night and Thursday was crazy socks day at the studio.
“We want everyone to learn the benefit of martial arts,” Arnold said. “It’s about respect, discipline and more importantly, learning how to walk away.”
Alinda Maxwell is also working to teach character through karate. Themes that she uses to teach her classes include respect, humility, courtesy and attitude.
“A lot of times, people come to us to learn self defense, and that is great but it is really about learning confidence,” Maxwell said. “The people that lack confidence or show that they lack confidence are generally the ones that get messed with. But, when the children are more confident, they seem to not be phased by the fact that they are getting messed with. Physical self-defense becomes almost unnecessary when people gain confidence.”
Maxwell’s journey in martial arts began 31 years ago when she was watching her stepbrother attend a class at Denison Parks and Recreation.
“I fell in love with it and I fell in love with competing,” she said. “I competed for 18 years at the national and international levels. I have met a lot of really good people and really good fighters through this competition.”
Maxwell taught at Austin College, Whitesboro Parks and Recreation and St. Mary’s Catholic School in Sherman before starting her own studio.
“Come and try a class,” Maxwell said. “See if you like it. If the class works well for you then that is great. Martial arts are great for those that are athletic as well as for those that are not good at sports or who have never worked with team sports. Martial arts gives children the space to grow as athletes. You are your main competition. Your improvement is mainly yourself.”
Maxwell fighters compete in open competitions, which allow fighters of all skill levels to compete with each other. Fighters compete in categories like sparing events, points events, weapons events and forms competitions, which is like a mixture of gymnastics and martial arts.
“They are really big,” Maxwell said. “There are generally about 800-1,000 competitors. People off the streets are able to sign up and compete in open competitions.”
Maxwell said that she has had many success stories through her program and most of them are about learning more than the art of fighting.
“I had one student,” she said. “She is a black belt now. She was born with a heart defect. She went on to be a great martial artist. I think that is a great success story because she is a testament that anyone can do it.”
Besides allowing students to go beyond what they thought were physical limits, Maxwell said that she has had students that have surpassed behavioral limitations that have been placed on them.
“I have seen students with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder that were just bouncing off of the walls,” she said. “Then after a few classes, they are completely different. I have also seen students that just do not have great self esteems. They grow and become great martial artists and really have confidence in themselves.”
Maxwell said that she has also seen students come alive during class.
“One of my students had a mom that was really doing the best she could, but she was tearing her son down in the process,” she said. “When he came to martial arts, it was like he was free. The pressure left and he was just able to be a kid. It’s great.”
A black belt student that still works with Maxwell’s has recently started teaching martial arts through the Chuck Norris Kick Start Kids program.
“The program pays for an instructor to teach students in school like a physical education class would,” she said. “The students have to earn their way into the program and by the end of the program, they get their black belt. It teaches students to be goal oriented through the program. I think its amazing that I have a student that went on to do that.”
While martial arts is for anyone, Maxwell said she is most proud of what her students do beyond the mats of the studio. She said martial arts is more than working out, it’s about achieving complete control of the body.
“I have students that work in the medical field, in law, as graphic artists,” she said. “They are successful people and they do this too. Anyone can do this. When school age students earn their black belt, it is just like an extra star in their favor on their college applications. It’s a benchmark that they have attained and it really means a lot to them. It builds so much in them. Confidence is just a part of that.”