By Jenna Christophersen
Since Grandmaster Azad started teaching martial arts in Chico, CA in 1985, more than 10,000 students have walked through his school’s doors. United by a common interest in martial arts, Azad’s students otherwise range in every way: size and strength, appearance and temperament, background and goals, age and gender. While many may regard martial arts as a male sport, girls of all ages also find Grandmaster Azad’s “Jong Shin Do” an exhilarating challenge that strengthens their bodies, minds, and spirits. “Girls can be simply amazing and just as powerful as boys when it comes to the martial arts,” says Grandmaster Azad.
Azad’s Martial Arts Center teaches “Jong Shin Do,” a blended system of martial arts designed by Grandmaster Azad to include physical, mental, and spiritual character-building. The Korean term “Jong Shin Do” reflects Grandmaster Azad’s holistic view of martial arts. “ ’Kung Fu’ means ‘to strive,’” he explains, “ ’Judo’ means the ‘gentle way,’ and ‘Jong Shin Do’ means uniting body, mind, and spirit.” Jong Shin Do strategically blends stand-up systems (e.g. Karate and Kickboxing), grappling martial arts (e.g. Jujitsu), traditional weapons (e.g. Kobudo, Escrima), throwing arts (e.g. Judo), and internal schools that focus on inner strength (e.g. Tai Chi). Azad’s system changes kids’ physiology, which strengthens their emotional health and how they view themselves and the world. “We guide students to face their fears and take positive steps toward their dreams,” says Grandmaster Azad.
Girls at Azad’s gain self-confidence as they develop strength and stamina. Jeanne Green has watched her daughter Callie transform at Azad’s. “As she has gained more skills, she carries herself more confidently; she stands taller,” Jeanne says. Although she might be (rightfully) biased, Jeanne says Callie “stands out among her friends” since becoming a martial arts student.
Learning martial arts has a very practical value for girls: self-defense. While self-defense empowers anyone, regardless of gender, parents feel a bit more at ease knowing their daughters can stand up for themselves. Azad’s system equips students to de-escalate hostile situations before putting their self-defense skills to work, giving kids two skill sets to avoid becoming targets of bullying.
Dane Frazier says studying at Azad’s Martial Arts has helped his daughter Callie gain “knowledge of what needs to be done in certain situations.” Professor Najma Yousefi’s daughter, Kimiya, “better understands the value of self-defense” and has become “more comfortable doing things on her own.” These girls, like all of Azad’s students, learn the most natural and scientific ways to maximize movement. As they grow in flexibility, strength, coordination, and stamina, even small girls learn to leverage their size and abilities against a bully or assailant. A valuable skill for all people, learning self-defense can help girls who find themselves in compromising situations. More importantly, it teaches girls to read their surroundings and avoid unsafe environments.
The Azad’s Martial Arts team fosters respect and discipline with every lesson. Students bow when entering and exiting the school and address adults as “sir” or “ma’am.” These cultural formalities serve as physical reminders of something much deeper: a strong sense of respect first for themselves, then for others.
Grandmaster Azad’s school promotes a culture of respect and success through a time-tested Black Belt Success system. The disciplined, clean, orderly environment of the dojang (school) silently expresses respect for the students and their surroundings, and the instructors’ kind, constructive words verbally communicate respect for students and families. Linda Patterson, whose daughter Iris has studied at Azad’s for about four years, says, “All the teachers there are wonderful. I love that even though they require respect from students, they show respect to the students as well.” Parents frequently pull Grandmaster Azad and the other instructors aside to thank them for helping their children learn respect inside and out of the dojang.
As part of Azad’s youth program, kids receive recognition for making good choices like demonstrating positive attitudes, wearing clean uniforms, cooperating with their parents at home, or volunteering in the community. Community service and civic engagement are important elements of Jong Shin Do. “At Azad’s, our goal is to make a better community by helping each child become a contributing member of society. We instill leadership qualities in our youth so they will lead us to a better tomorrow when they grow up to be adults,” says Grandmaster Azad.
Azad’s Martial Arts is the first martial arts school in Chico to have an all-girls demonstration team and an all-girls competition team. For young girls who struggle with self-confidence, Azad’s Martial Arts creates an environment that supports and helps them see their own strengths and encourages them to grow. “Training at Azad’s has made my daughter realize how important it is to be who she is,” says Michelle Mich. “Shai always does the right thing, even if it means going against her friends.” Likewise, Alex Marshall says that practicing Jong Shin Do has not only increased her daughter’s physical strength, but she also takes greater pride in Akiva’s internal growth. “Akiva is becoming a leader,” Alex says. “Since becoming a team member, Akiva has had more responsibilities and she feels she has become even a bigger part of Azad’s Martial Arts family. It is important for Akiva and girls like her to gain these skills.”
“At Azad’s kids learn many important life lessons while having a lot of fun learning very cool moves,” says Grandmaster Azad. “Students make great friendships for life. They recognize the main ingredients to success are hard work, attention to detail, discipline, resilience, courage, and determination.” While martial arts does involve competition against others, students learn to value their own effort. “Losing and winning are both a part of life, but neither one defines us,” Grandmaster Azad reminds them. For boys and girls of all ages, taking Jong Shin Do at Azad’s Martial Arts does not simply open the door inward into a martial arts school. Instead, Jong Shin Do opens the door outward toward a greater understanding of and appreciation for themselves and the world around them.