BERLIN - At Yousef Tae Kwon Do, thereâ€™s much more to the goals than punching, kicking and performing the technical aspects of Korean martial arts. The focus is more on discipline and living a healthy lifestyle.
â€śWe donâ€™t teach just the physical stuff,â€ť said Waleed Yousef, who recently relocated his school to 1201 Farmington Ave. from New Britain. â€śWe constantly teach them the positive things.â€ť
The 57-year-old Assyrian Iraqi immigrant, who is also a bail bondsman, came to America in 1980 and began building aircraft parts for a former New Britain company without knowing a word of English, he said.
After picking up Tae Kwon Do and teaching it part time, he decided to go full-time after one of his instructors left a school.
â€śI did it for competition. I like competing,â€ť he said, adding that he never envisioned himself as a teacher.
Passing on the practice of self-confidence that got him interested in Tae Kwon do to begin with, Yousef coached at the University of Connecticut and opened his own school in New Britain in 1992.
He ran programs for the New Britain Parks and Recreation Department and his own Battle of Champions tournaments in area high schools including Berlin and New Britain. It was at one of those tournaments that he met his future wife, Kristen.
A former Merrill Lynch employee, she had her own school in Wallingford, and the two decided to combine schools.
â€śI needed the discipline,â€ť said Kristen Yousef, 41, on what got her interested in Tae Kwon Do. â€śIt forces you to focus.â€ť
Their school teaches the Korean martial art and physical fitness, but also stresses the importance of life skills, including listen to your parents, do well in school, donâ€™t hit somebody and donâ€™t be late to class, Waleed Yousef said.
The school also teaches about healthy eating habits and the use of essential oils to also attain positive behaviors.
â€śWe work on the whole body,â€ť said Kristen Yousef.
A staple of the school, both Yousefs said, is that it makes students earn their black belts rather than awarding one in return for attending a certain number of classes, which is how other schools model their business.
No one can have a black belt - the highest level of Tae Kwon Do - at their school before the age of 10, Waleed Yousef said. Even if they join at 4, and are ready for a black belt at 8, a student must wait.
An 11-year-old old girl has been trying to earn a black belt for a year but hasnâ€™t been able to run a mile in less than 8 minutes, which is a requirement, Waleed Yousef said.
â€śWe treat them like they can do it ... and when they hear that they try harder, and if they can do it, weâ€™ve given them the confidence that they can do it,â€ť he added.
â€śThey call us the house of discipline,â€ť said Kristen Yousef.
With Kristin adding the more holistic, healthy approach, the two needed a bigger space and decided to relocate to the town in which they live, Berlin.
The school offers classes six days for a no-contract monthly fee, with students able to attend as many classes as they wish, depending on how willing they are to commit to earning a black belt. The school also holds a separate fitness class for adults and teens, four days a week, for those not working toward a belt.
â€śGlad youâ€™re here,â€ť said Mayor Mark Kaczynski at a recent ribbon cutting.
The school can be reached at 860-223-3399.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or email@example.com.