“Courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, indomitable spirit.”
Each class begins and ends with this mantra at Chondo Martial Arts Academy in Challis, where everyone from toddlers to adults come to learn and be part of a community.
Started by BJ and Shelby Bryant, Chondo teaches students a combination of tae kwon do and hapkido. Both originating from Korea, tae kwon do emphasizes powerful kicks and agility while hapkido incorporates striking and weapons training.
The Bryants began teaching in Challis in 2009. They started in a back room they rented from the school district in the building that now houses the Bureau of Land Management. Since then they have invested in their own location at 400 Main.
The move to their current spot was symbolic to the Bryants.
“We wanted to take that first step and invest in us,” said BJ.
Now the Bryants have the space they need for all the kicks and flips they teach their 30 to 35 students.
They begin evening sessions with a class of three-to-five-year-old students, where the emphasis is less on taking your opponent to the mat and more about having fun.
Four-year-old Sophie Hardy had a great time smashing boards, kicking bags and pretending to be a tiger. Her father Ty Hardy said he’s glad she’s having a good time, but he values what the classes teach Sophie about discipline, focus and self confidence.
“It trains you to take a hit, and in life you have to take hits,” said Hardy.
Once the toddlers leave, things take a more serious note as the older students start their class. Children and teens in this class still have fun, but train like they mean to take their opponent down. For example, when they play a game of sharks and minnows the sharks had to get on top of the minnows and use the take-down they learned in class to win.
The combination of fun and function brings out the competitive spirit in the kids. Bella Evans, 8, was the last minnow to be eaten. Sensei BJ shouted “go” and the rest of the class piled on her. Despite the onslaught, Evans refused to go down and dragged them screaming across the floor.
Evans’s parents, Bruce and Kerri, said their daughter took a short break from martial arts classes to focus on other things. However, after a while, “she really wanted to get back into it,” according to Kerri.
After the teens and kids, adults are next up. Teens 17 and older join adults for the sessions. BJ and Shelby begin the class with the same energy and enthusiasm. They intend to keep that same energy as long as people want to learn about courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control and the indomitable spirit.