Sometimes pride comes from unexpected places.
At Pride Martial Arts in Eastlake, students learn more than just how to defend themselves. They learn discipline, how to build self-confidence, refine strengths and overcome weaknesses.
Lizbeth Ahn-Berry and her husband Sean Berry opened Pride Martial Arts five years ago in Chula Vista.
“I wanted to bring back what martial arts is truly about,” Ahn-Berry said. “We’re not just teaching the kids how to take a hit and protect themselves, it’s about education.”
As a member of the American Taekwondo Association, Pride teaches bullying prevention and also safety.
As the leaders of martial arts, ATA began exploring bullying prevention in 2007 and introduced the Kidz’n Power bullying prevention program, Olweus, which focuses on making bullying prevention a primary focus in every classroom.
Within the last year Pride began pushing the importance of bullying prevention in Chula Vista elementary and middle schools by having certified bullying prevention specialists visit a few times each year.
Ahn-Berry said that parents walk through the door with children who are dealing with all kinds of issues from social anxiety, autism, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, low self-esteem and attitude problems.
What’s unique about martial arts according to Ahn-Berry, is that anyone, any age can do it. Pride has approximately 350 students ages 3 to 60-plus.
“We want to change the world one black belt at a time,” Ahn-Berry said.
Ahn-Berry started practicing martial arts in Chicago when she was 6 years old. She grew up in a generation where she was the only Asian student until she was a senior in high school and experienced racism and discrimination.
“Martial arts was in me from when I was younger and I loved the physical aspect of it,” she said. “But more so, as a confident woman, I never ever wanted to feel like I was a victim. I wanted the thing that was going to make me the toughest.”
For Eastlake residents Ann and Michael Shafer, martial arts became a family affair when nearly four years ago they enrolled their son Aden, 8, in Pride.
“We’d been wanting to put our boys into a martial arts class because we’ve heard what’s happening in school these days,” Shafer said, referring to bullying.
When Aden began attending Pride he was shy and introverted.
“We wanted him to be better prepared socially and gain that self confidence,” she said.
While in kindergarten, Aden was bullied by an older kid.
“Mr. Berry taught him to say no the first time, the second time to tell the teacher and if he does it again, to defend himself,” Shafer said.
One-third of school-aged children in the U.S. are affected by bullying every year, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“He was pushed the second time and then they tried to punch him the third time,” Shafer said. “He did a high block, which he learned at Pride. The kid fell and cried and after that never bothered Aden again.”
Today, Aden is a recommended black belt.
“The transformation has been incredible and it really has been due to the time he’s spent at Pride Martial Arts,” Shafer said. “We definitely recommend them to everyone we meet. It’s really impacted our lives.”
Ivette Navarro enrolled her son Arturo in Pride three years ago.
Navarro, 33, has three children and lives with her husband in Chula Vista.
Navarro brought Arturo, 13, to Pride because he was being bullied at his elementary school.
“My son came to me one day when he was in fifth grade telling me he was being bullied at school,” she said. “When they were in line they would stick their foot out and trip him. They wouldn’t let him play in a certain area of the playground. They called him names.”
Navarro said it went on for several weeks.
“I felt pretty helpless when he came up to me because I didn’t know how to teach him to be confident and stand up for himself,” Navarro said. “We spoke to Mr. Berry and he said these are the steps that we need to take… We notified the teacher, then the principal.”
Arturo began taking his belts and trophies to class and kids began to see that he was pretty good, according to Navarro.
“I think that’s all they needed to back off,” she said.
Today Arturo is a recommended black belt.
“I feel like I am so indebted to them because I don’t think my son would be the person he is now if it wasn’t for Pride,” she said. “It’s changed Arturo into a much better young man. He’s able to cope with a lot of the peer pressure very well because he has that training, that back belt attitude, and he carries it with him everywhere.”
Ahn-Berry, 44, is a second-degree black belt and Berry, 29, is a fifth-degree black belt. Both are world champion martial arts competitors. Ahn-Berry’s children, Ryan, 13, and Tyler, 10, also practice martial arts.
Pride Martial Arts is located at 2334 Proctor Valley Road in Chula Vista.