Photo: Student Jordan Jensen, red belt, practices a spinning heel kick with Master Maness at Nacogdoches Blackbelt Academy. (Photo by Kelly Daniel)
Teaching skills with lifetime benefits
Martial arts students learn self protection, build self confidence
by Kelly Daniel, Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce
Studying martial arts at Nacogdoches Blackbelt Academy can produce a multitude of positive by-products in any person. Owner and sixth degree black belt Russell Maness believes the personal advancement comes from a positive focus on self improvement and self control.
Physical and mental improvements are achieved and can be implemented in daily life. "Schools in other countries recognize the benefits that the study of martial arts brings and incorporate it in to school curriculum," Maness said. "Professional athletes practice martial arts in the off-season, because it is an effective cross-training tool."
Second degree black belt Rodney Cummings has been involved in the academy for more than seven years, as a student and instructor. "Training in Taekwondo under Master Russell Maness has been a very rewarding experience," Cummings said. "Not only have I been able to learn along side my son, Bryce, but I have reaped the benefits as a parent of watching him grow physically stronger, having greater self confidence and developing into a true leader."
For self preservation, Maness compares learning martial arts skills to learning to swim. "Parents take their children to swimming lessons, whether the child wants to go or not, because the parent doesn't want the child to drown if he falls in to water," he said. "Learning self defense techniques saves lives, too. I'm not sure people understand that."
With the regularly published statistics of assaults against women, Maness strongly encourages women to take advantage of the training the academy offers including knife and pistol defense exercises.
Knowing the basics can give a person the skills needed to defend against personal threats including bullying and physical harm. The benefits go far beyond the main purpose of "using your body as a weapon," he said. "It changes the way you look at yourself, the way you carry yourself, the way you walk and talk."
For children, Maness said studying martial arts is different than participating in team sports. "There is a place for team sports, and I'm not saying team sports are a bad choice, but team sports don't always build strong character. They eliminates the weak ones," he said. "If someone doesn't have adequate strength or skill to be included on a team, compete in a athletic competitive sport, that person is out. Whereas martial arts can be tailored to anyone no matter the age, body shape, physical capabilities and disabilities. In martial arts, there is no 'B' team."
One of the academy's best students has spina bifida. "He was with me for seven or more years, and he advanced to just under black belt. His dad made sure he was treated just like the other students, and he practiced using his crutches and wheelchair," Maness said. "He is an adult now, living in Austin. His dad gives credit to the martial arts training for his son's transformation from a despondent child, who couldn't do what his friends could do, to a person with confidence."
Taekwondo is the most popular class, but other forms are incorporated and studied such as Jiu Jitsu and Karate. A student is able to use everything that works for that individual, and not necessarily focus on one form. Additional techniques are learned at different levels as new students have shared what they practiced before moving to Nacogdoches.
"What some only consider a sport has actually become an absolutely wonderful lifestyle that has brought us even closer together as father and son," Cummings said. "It truly is one of the few activities that a parent and child can both 100 percent participate in together on the same level."
Maness thanks Frank and Linda Gay for their instruction in his early training and for "getting him on the martial arts path." In 1998, Maness opened Nacogdoches Blackbelt Academy. In addition to Cummings, other instructors that have been involved in the academy include Victor Galan, a fourth degree black belt and Gary Harris a third degree black belt. All have fostered a character development exercise in the classes - allowing experienced students to help new, lower level students. The practice "builds leadership qualities and form mentoring relationships among students, and the experienced student will learn more from the teaching experience," Maness said."It follows the Chinese proverb 'I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I learn. I teach, I master.'"
The "students supporting students" practice builds comradery and socialization skills as well as integrity and character. "It's not about carrying an "I'm number one' attitude or being a tough guy," Maness said. "My sons who are young adults now, are thankful for what they've learned from practicing martial arts. Jordan recognizes the qualities that have helped him advance in his career came from his martial arts background."
Galan appreciates the qualities he has observed in his daughter's development while studying at the academy. "I've seen her discernment improve. She chooses the right time to say things, when to listen, when to speak up. She is handling situations properly," he said.
The Nacogdoches Blackbelt Academy is located in Venetia's Studio at 2817 Westward Dr. Call (936) 554-7920 for more information and class schedules.
Additional testimonial by Michelle Turner: "Master Maness not only promotes the great sport of TKD, but he continually pours into the students the importance of self discipline and honor in all aspects of one's life. Taking the ethics taught in TKD, he has reinforced in our own sons the need for good physical health through healthy eating and a daily exercise routine, responsibility in their school work, hard work ethic in their jobs and chores at home, and development of a positive character through traits such as honesty, integrity, and good citizenship. I have watched as he has been an important mentor to reinforce the values that we teach in our own family. I am always thankful to find a man who will be a positive role model to our boys!"