The Arvada Press
Get your kick!
Families can learn martial arts together at
Karate and Fitness Center in Arvada

April 26, 2007

Tom Bishop, 45, and his kids, 9-year-old Christopher and 7-year-old Carrie, are on the cusp of their black belt test at A-West Karate and Fitness in Arvada.

It could be said the family that kicks together stays together.

A-West might appear like any other martial arts school from the outside. But inside, it's a much different experience, owner Daniel Klenda said.

The martial arts studio, with 15 years in the community, has a knack for turning entire families into black belt arsenals.

It's what owner and Tae Kwon-do master Klenda does different than most studios. Instead of separating groups by age, he places his students by belt, which, he said, often puts entire families in the same boat.

"We'll have a 41-year-old and a 4-year-old in the same class," Klenda said.

Klenda has the look of a sixth-degree black belt — which is what he is — as he stands over his class with broad shoulders and a chiseled jaw.

A martial artist since 1978, Klenda has trained some 1,500 students and certified 200 of them as black belts. His approach to teaching, he said, is unique from many other studios because of his mixing of various ages.

That mixing was evident on a recent afternoon as Bishop sat among a gaggle of children — two of them his own youngsters.

"It's quality time," Bishop said.

The family first got into martial arts when Bishop's son, Christopher, expressed an interest. Bishop said he liked A-West because the studio wasn't trying to turn his kids into "little ninjas," so he got involved too.

"It's very practical," Bishop said on a break from exercises in the studio.

Bishop told a story about slipping on his driveway one cold morning this past winter. After his many years of martial arts, Bishop said as he fell, he instinctively rolled into a position he's been trained in and saved himself from injury.

Besides helping his health — and conditioning his body to take some bumps — the whole experience of doing something as a family lets Bishop identify with his kids even more, he said.

"We're a pretty close family anyway," Bishop said. "But this is a great thing to do together."

Even on their worst day at the studio, Bishop said they still come away from each session gaining something, be it physical strength or mental discipline.

The Bishops are nearing the end of three months of preparation for their black belt tests. The test can sometimes take hours, but the Bishops are prepared, Klenda said. As an early spring hailstorm pelted cars outside, the trio eagerly got back to the Tae Kwon-do action, going through a series of drills putting them closer to their belt goal.

For Klenda, he's just glad other instructors can help him teach. Besides teaching Colorado's next possible Bruce Lee, Klenda also runs the business and keeps his building up to code.

But a passionate sparkle in his eye is evident whenever he talks about his students and all they have done.

On a wall inside the studio, pictures of martial arts students from past years are proudly displayed. Klenda points to the pictures proudly, saying only, "That's 15 years right there."

© Copyright 2012 A-West Karate and Fitness. All rights reserved