Essex karate studio teaches martial arts for over 20 years
Elite Family Karate is celebrating over twenty years in Essex.
The martial arts facility, which opened in a small, cramped location on Bird River Neck Rd. in 1994, is a result of over two decades of work from its founder, Dave Street, or “Sensei Dave” as he is more commonly known.
Elite has over 160 children enrolled in its programs, all of whom Street works with one-on-one. Walking into the studio, you see Street demonstrating a move to the class and instructing the children by kneeling down
to their level and speaking to them calmly and with respect, regardless of whether they’re a yellow belt or a black belt.
“It’s about building up students. We strive to teach the kids you can do whatever you want. You just have to get started and keep with it,” he adds, saying that the children respond best to position reinforcement.
“It’s about creating life goals, not just karate goals.”
Word of this personalized instruction got around and more and more people started joining Elite until it outgrew its overcrowded one-room space and moved into a larger, redone facility with several gyms and studios on Eastern Blvd.
Throughout his business’ growth, Dave’s wife, Katty Street, has had his back.
“He’s been doing this since he was 8 years old so it’s his passion, he loves what he does,” she said.
Katty said that as Elite grew, she’s been able to also watch her husband’s students grow not only psychically and in ability, but in confidence as well.
“He pushes them to earn it. He gives them support and when they do earn it, they feel so accomplished and we can see really see that growth,” she said.
As Elite’s square footage increased, so did their programming which now includes several classes for the parents.
For example, in February, Elite Family Karate added a new class to their roster called “Fight to Fit”.
“It’s the everyday person working out, we try to keep bringing in unique interesting exercises each week instead of just working on one thing again and again,” explained Dave.
For example, his students are currently building muscle by swinging a 8-12 pound bar. This mimics the motion of swinging a sword or an axe, he said, and it helps build upper arm strength. Weights are later added to the bar so that it can be used as a barbell.
Trainer Christine Flora also offers a yoga class at the studio. The class is donation-only and anybody from the area is welcome to join in
“It’s a little family here. Our kids are all growing up together,” said Flora.
Street said that he believes that fitness should be accessible to all so he lets each student start and grow at their own pace.
However, belts are not freely given out, the student has to put in the right amount of effort and show the right amount of growth to move up a level.
“We don’t use the words ‘ play, can’t, game’ in here. We try to teach the kids that work can be rewarding, work can be fun and you can enjoy hard work.”
Street said that above all else, karate is about bettering the self, even if it means pushing yourself and raising expectations. Children crave discipline, he said.
“We are afraid to push them to be better because it might involve them actually putting the iPad down and breaking a sweat and being a little bit scared,” said Dave.
He works to help the children learn creeds, set goals and high standards for themselves which prepares them for the “real world” by building character and developing a work ethic.
Street’s personal creed is inspired by the fact that had to go through the same amount of work that he encourages his students to go through. He opened Elite when he was only 20 years old. At the time, he was simultaneously working as Jenny Craig consultant, a bartender and a newspaper delivery boy just to keep the studio open.
Street grew up in Bowley’s Quarters and though he has heard pleas to move his studio elsewhere, he remains firmly rooted in Essex.
“We’ve always stayed local because this is where I grew up. You want to improve your backyard. This is my home.”
He credits his success and growing customer base to the facility’s strict ‘no contract’ promise. Customers pay weekly and Street said he makes sure they are never beholden to any agreement, especially since he knows a good number of his clients are tight on money.
Street said that money shouldn’t factor into whether somebody has access to physical education.
“Martial arts is about helping people, that’s what I’m trying to do here.”
Elite Family Karate is located at 1546 Eastern Blvd. For more information on their programs and schedule, contact 443-422-1111.