CALEDONIA TWP. — Beck’s Black Belt Academy had a “soft” opening last week, with an open house and ribbon-cutting marking the official launch July 25.
Joshua Beck, formerly the co-owner of a martial arts center for six years, is conducting a few classes while putting the finishing touches on the new school, 1395 E. M-21 in the Owosso East Plaza.
The owner of a painting company during the day, Beck said instructing classes in taekwondo, hapkido, weapons, anti-bullying, physical fitness, strength training and women’s self-defense after 5 p.m., when the academy opens, is no chore.
“This isn’t really work — I love to do it,” said Beck, 43, of Owosso. “I love working with students. The improvement I see inspires me and motivates me to keep going.”
Dozens of students from his old martial arts center, now closed, have transferred to Beck’s Black Belt Academy, but Beck is accepting additional students of all skill levels, ages 5 and up.
He said the new center, which boasts plenty of parking and a waiting room with toys and games for young children, can accommodate up to 200 students.
For Beck, teaching martial arts techniques is no more important than helping students develop such values as discipline, self-control, respect, self-respect and self-confidence.
“As an instructor, I really enjoy it when kids come to understand that they can do this,” he said. “They gain self-confidence when they break their first board or overcome hard movements. They learn to overcome shyness and insecurities.”
Classes will run Monday through Friday after the grand opening July 25. The open house, which starts at 11 a.m., will feature signup specials, food and refreshments sponsored by Owosso Masonic Lodge 81, board-breaking, foam sword fighting, the chance to fight with a black belt and a “Kung Fu Carnival” offering games and food.
At noon, the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce will conduct a ribbon-cutting.
Students at the academy earn belts when they achieve certain skill levels, from beginner’s white all the way up to the coveted black belt.
“You’ve got to earn every belt,” Beck said. “We’re not giving them away. It takes about three years to earn a black belt. I’m kind of old school or traditional school: I hold to the old values, of which martial arts forms the foundation.”
One of Beck’s sons, 17-year-old Tristan Beck Torres, earned a black belt in November 2017. He is teaching at Beck’s Black Belt Academy this summer. His brothers, Tiernan, 10, and Tomas, 12, are accomplished students.
“I like the sense of everyone helping each other out, the sense of community among the students and instructors,” Tristan Beck Torres said.
Their father received his first “lessons” in martial arts from the movies when he was a child growing up in the Lansing area. He’d fight “imaginary ninjas” in the backyard.
“I didn’t know I was already a martial artist until I took my first class, in my mid-20s,” Joshua Beck said. “I loved it. I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Beck’s Black Belt Academy has one paid instructor, in addition to Beck. Several of his black belt students, having learned leadership, time management and organizational skills, also lead classes.
Tomas Beck Torres said belt testings are his favorite part of the martial arts experience.
“So many pepole are there,” he said, “and after you finish, you get so much adrenaline. It gets you so pumped for the next testing.”