Es­sex karate stu­dio teaches mar­tial arts for over 20 years

The Avenue News - - Front Page - By: GIANNA DECARLO gde­carlo@ches­

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.

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