By Marissa Willman

Since 1992, Mark Johnson at Universal Martial Arts Center in Palm Desert has been instructing his students in developing self-discipline and confidence through traditional martial arts and Krav Maga. Now celebrating its 20th year, UMAC is continuing to instill these values in students through its ongoing martial arts programs.
“We teach them something that will be with them a lifetime,” Johnson said. “The whole idea when they start is discipline, self control and to be a better person. It’s never like what you see on ‘Karate Kid.’”
Classes focus on traditional martial arts techniques that provide a structured form of physical activity. The classes and techniques also train the mind to be disciplined and focused. The end result, according to Johnson, is students who take their focus and confidence with them into adulthood. The classes are particularly beneficial for children with ADD, Johnson said, because students work on focusing and have an outlet to burn energy.
Christina Ladd of Palm Desert said that since enrolling her 8-year-old stepdaughter in Johnson’s classes, she has watched her stepdaughter grow from a shy and reserved girl to one who is confident and assured.
“When I came to live with her, she was so shy. In her first classes, she was so scared,” Ladd said. “Now, she’s going to be in the talent show at school and she’s started to find herself. She’s becoming her own person.”
Ladd added that the training her stepdaughter receives at UMAC eases her mind as a parent of a young child.
“I’m not worried about her walking to the bus stop because I know she’s more than capable of defending herself,” Ladd said.
Next month, Johnson will launch summer camp programs that will consist of longer morning sessions where students can focus on a variety of techniques, including Krav Maga. The Israeli self-defense system, described by Johnson as “a street self-defense class,” is usually reserved for junior high-aged students or older.
The classes and techniques are situation-based, focusing on how to react and respond to specific situations such as being grabbed from behind. The classes simulate situations where one would need to control an attacker brandishing a weapon, such as a gun, knife or blunt object.
Johnson said the classes are very physically demanding, incorporating a lot of punching and striking that ultimately train the mind to react quickly to dangerous situations.
“It puts you in a position where you don’t have to worry about walking down the street,” Johnson said, adding that the beauty of Krav Maga is that anyone can do it.
Johnson said the classes are beneficial for anyone who wants to be able to defend themselves. Women in particular, Johnson said, find both practical techniques and mental training that could save their lives in a situation where they need to defend themselves.
“Any parent would want their daughter to take Krav Maga in high school,” Johnson said.
To learn more about UMAC or to sign up for classes, call (760) 568-0649.

Universal Martial Arts Centers – Palm Desert
41625 Eclectic Way, Suite F1, Palm Desert

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