Groton self-defense academy focuses on individual life lessons
Groton — Marcus Knight loved martial arts since he began practicing as a child growing up in Groton, when his father signed him up for classes at age 12.
As a shy kid, Knight said martial arts gave him a place where he could gain confidence in himself.
Training each night, week after week at Gabrieles Martial Arts in Groton, he improved his skills and not only saw physical benefits, but also built discipline and focus. He began teaching there as a teenager and continued until he was 25.
Knight, now 31 and himself a father of four with his own painting business, has opened a self-defense academy with his wife, Anastacia, at 1101 Noank Ledyard Road in Mystic. Knight's Self-Defense Academy, which opened in April, offers youth classes and private individual or group lessons for all ages.
Knight said he was inspired by their children to create a place where youths can gain confidence and learn real-life skills.
"I want them to feel comfortable with themselves as they live their own individual lives," he said.
"Our mission is to help our youth students gain courage while mastering the fundamentals needed to protect themselves," said Anastacia.
She said they are excited to provide their community with a unique atmosphere where students have the opportunity to individualize their own learning, according to their desires.
At Knight's Self-Defense Academy, there are no belts or uniforms, and the focus is on the individual, whether in small groups or individual lessons.
In small group settings or one-on-one training, people are forced to work on where they need to improve and dig inside of themselves, Knight said.
"My goal is really to focus on them as the individual and challenge them, not let them give up when we do moves that are difficult," Knight said. "We keep doing it. We keep pushing and we come back and we try it again the next time."
Knight said that as nice as it is to come together and train as a group, the important part is teaching each and every one of them what to do with their own individual lives and how to face their own burdens and challenges head-on.
He said he doesn't want them to only feel confident when they're part of a group, or when they put on a special uniform or a special belt.
"It's who you are when you don’t have those things, which is why we don’t do belts, we don’t do uniforms," Knight said.
He said he wants to teach students to develop the skills to defend themselves, should they ever need to.
"I always tell the students it's not about them being tough," he said. "I'm not trying to create a bunch of tough people — tough-minded, yes — but I'm not trying to teach kids to just go out and fight. The key concept of self-defense is learning enough to where you avoid those situations in the first place."
He also said that while signing kids up for sports is a big thing in the United States, a lot of kids aren't good at them or don't really enjoy them. He wanted to create a space where kids don't feel like they have to be a "super athlete" and can just come in and work at getting better at something.
"Self-defense is for everyone," Knight said, adding that he designed the classes so they fit everybody.
As Rachel Berlin of Groton looked on as her sons, Knox, 9, and Gage, 7, practiced with Knight during a class Monday, she said they have gained self-confidence.
"Marcus is very good at teaching them in a way that builds them up, but also giving them really challenging things to work towards," she said.
Knight said he wants to help people as much as he can to live their own life with wisdom and do what is right and feel comfortable in themselves. He said people are able to bring the skills they learn at the academy, including discipline, self-control, and focus, to their school and workplace.
"I've always loved teaching," Knight added. "I love helping whenever I can. I know that being taught by great teachers is a blessing to me, and I wanted to just give whatever skills I have to people who want them and hope that whoever comes through the doors, somehow, someway I'm helping. And if I can do that, then that's what I want."
What: Knight's Self-Defense Academy
Owners: Marcus and Anastacia Knight
Where: 1101 Noank Ledyard Road, Mystic (across from Whittle's Willow Spring Farm)
More information: (860) 908-9435 or www.Knightsdacademy.com
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