POINCIANA – There are different ways for kids to spent the hours after they get out of school until their parents come home from work, but Merly Sepulveda thinks she has the ideal one: some study time, then some martial arts.
The key to this combination, she said, is to give students an opportunity to remain physically active and to stay fit, while also teaching them something about an ongoing problem in this society: bullying.
“Bullying is everywhere now,” she said. “If they say you’re ugly, you’re being bullied. If you get pushed in the lunch line, that is bullying. We teach them self-defense to make sure they’re doing the right thing to defend themselves.”
Merly Sepulveda and her daughter, Jennifer Massey, operate ATA, the American Taekwando Association, a martial arts studio that offers what they say is a safe environment for students after school. Originally a studio in St. Cloud, they were successful enough to expand and now have a second studio at 1901 S. Poinciana Boulevard.
“We just opened there on Poinciana Boulevard last August,” Sepulveda said. “We’ve been in St. Cloud for five years.”
“The business has been doing well,” Massey said, “although we are still trying to make the community more aware of what ATA is.”
As she noted, the studio is “geared for children and adults,” but in different waysParents, for example, can benefit by enrolling their children in the after-school classes. ATA provides an after-school pickup for the kids.
“So far in Poinciana, we are picking up students at their school, and it is working fabulous,” Sepulveda said. “We have an after school program where we pick up kids at school and bring them to the studio, we provide them with smacks and then study time in our study area. Then we have martial arts lessions, and then the parents can pick them up.”
The classes last 45 minutes to an hour.
At the same time, she said, ATA aims to tackle the problem of bullying among teens by allowing students to learn how to defend themselves in difficult situations, to build self-confidence so they won’t become a bullying victim, and to help all students feel safer in their schools.
“When they are bullied, they come in and we talk to them about bullying,” Sepulveda said. “You have to be able to defend yourself, but we also tell them to always talk to an adult first before they do self-defense. We always encourage them to speak up first.”
Massey added that “We empower the students and teach them different tactics on how to approach bullying. We make them more aware of how to come out of those situations if they happen. We’re also piggybacking on what the schools are teaching them.”
At the same time, ATA isn’t just for kids or teens. As Massey noted, they also offer Salsa Fitness classes for adults, and these courses have proven to be particularly popular with working moms, she added.
“It’s only $5 a class,” she said. “That’s for the mom who is busy working and just wants to come in and do some salsa, which is just really fun to do.”
To learn more about ATA, call 407-957-5425.
“We try to cater it to everyone,” Massey said.
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