When thinking about martial arts, most think of fists flying, high kicks and maybe Jackie Chan.
However, J.K. Lee Black Belt Academy has a reputation for broadening what’s defined as martial arts. As the largest set of schools in the state with the newest location in Fox Point, J.K. Lee’s teaches more about life skills than sweep-kicks.
The school prides itself on moving beyond the Hollywood stereotype by helping students learn things like stress management, increased self-esteem, and respect. Jeff Gendelman is the owner and principal of Fox Point’s J.K. Lee Black Belt Academy, and he wants to make sure people know what Tae Kwon Do is really about.
“We teach respect for self and respect for others,” Gendelman explained. “And people are learning now that theTae Kwon Do we teach is just a little bit about breaking peoples’ clavicles or noses. Grandmaster J.K Lee has really made it about how everyone can be your best every single day of their life, no matter their age. We’re really about character development.”
Gendelman is a true believer in empowering adults and children to be confident and aggressive. While students at the Fox Point location range from three-years-old to 73, he says children 12-years-old and younger make up the majority of the students.
With a vast number of the student-body at a younger age, a core part of Gendelman’s curriculum focuses on bullying and how to control a situation wisely. J.K. Lee’s is the only school with the rights to Verbal Judo, or verbal defense, and Gendelman understands it will come in handier than how to block a punch.
“Physical self defense is great, and we love to teach it,” he said. “But more importantly, we also teach assertiveness and how to handle conflict and adversity as life is sometimes a difficult journey. We give children verbal defense tools to help them avoid conflict, so a disagreement never escalates into verbal or physical abuse. How many physical fights is a child going to get into? How many fights is an adult going to get into? None, most likely. I’ve been involved with the martial arts close to 40 years… and I’ve never been in a physical fight.”
And bringing families together to understand this message is also something J.K. Lee’s strives for. They even offer discounted rates to families. The more people, the less each person has to pay.
And people really seem to be taking advantage of it. With a diverse student population, J.K. Lee’s is teaching their curriculum to both men and women from every age bracket, including someone at the Pewaukee location who’s pushing 80-years-old.
“We have a wonderful group of families here. Moms and/or dads attend, and we even have grandparents who are students and come here with their grandkids. We have an incredible growing student body here," Gendelman said.
Along with a few of the students, J.K. Lee’s has an old heritage as well. After training with the founder of modern Tae Kwon Do, Grand Master J.K. Lee emigrated from Korea and opened the first business in 1976.
Now with five locations, Gendelman says the company is hoping to expand to the west-side or south-side in the near future.