In an era when martial arts studios and exercise fads come and go almost as fast as Halloween pop-up stores, Napa’s Sidekicks Martial Arts is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Sidekicks owner Matt Weber says it’s because of their family atmosphere and self-defense today is more popular and necessary than ever.
Sidekicks opened in 1992. Weber, a martial arts expert, former member of the U.S. Taekwondo Team and one- time bodyguard, bought the business in 2000.
“Taekwondo (literally ‘the way of the foot’) comes from Korea and is now the most popular martial art in the U.S.,” Weber said, and it’s very dynamic and involves jumping, spinning and kicking and that’s what draws people in.”
“We have about 150 students here, 70 percent kids and 30 percent adults,” he said. “Students are as young as four and go all the way up to 65, and most of them are female, although we are getting more boys now.”
“Sidekicks has four young girls who just won national championships, and they basically grew up in here,” he said. “Most of our champions had been boys in the past, so these girls really worked their tails off.”
Weber says taekwondo is a fun form of martial arts. “I always tell parents if their kids can kick a ball, I can teach them taekwondo.”
But taekwondo is good for more than just self-defense. “It gives kids confidence,” he said, “and that’s important with all the bullying issues these days in schools. We like to ‘bully-proof’ kids.”
“We teach kids other kinds of confidence by having them help lead their class in warm-ups, so when they get asked to stand up in front of their classes at school, it’s no big deal,” Weber said. “We also teach kids to respect each other. There’s no laughing at anyone here or you’re doing push-ups,” he chuckled.
“Fitness, coordination and balance are other benefits of our programs. Kids can slim down, gain confidence and learn better eating habits,” Weber said. “Some of our kids have even influenced their parents to quit smoking and drinking beer, stop eating fast food and to start working out more.”
“It blows my mind that more parents don’t get their kids involved with this when you consider the benefits. We have a scholarship program for parents who can’t afford it. It’s a very simple process. Our normal classes for kids are $129 a month and our adult classes are $85 a month. We’re open from 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.”
“We also teach people what to do in ‘active shooter’ situations or how keep yourself safe when out in public. People need to look ahead and not wait until something tragic happens to prepare themselves,” Weber said.
“I consult with certain people and have private events for people for whom personal security could be a real issue. Almost 90 percent of these people are women.”
Sidekicks is located at 1732 Tanen St. in Napa. For details, call 707-252-6236 or visit sidekicksma.net.