Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Robert Ellis Uses Martial Arts to Instill Confidence in Kids in Tigard
By Kristen ForbesThe Times, Oct 29, 2009

A teacher of Asian history once explained to Ellis that if he wanted to understand the culture, he had to immerse himself in a cultural activity, whether it was flower arranging or martial arts. He gravitated to a karate school in New York, where he grew up. He went on to undergraduate school, then the Marine Corps, then attended graduate school at the University of Oregon.

Ellis worked as the CEO of a high-tech company that grew to national prominence and started several other companies before starting Karate on Main three years ago. One evening he had a conversation with his wife over a glass of wine and it occurred to him that what he really wants to do is give back to young people.

“In my opinion, there is a lack of character education and development during the formative years,” Ellis says. “Also, there is a crisis of obesity among juveniles.”
Through martial arts, Ellis strives to guide children (and adults, as well) through a “journey of self-discovery” that teaches them how to be better and more peaceful through strength. Unlike in traditional sports, the competition in martial arts comes from oneself.

“The process is one of first learning discipline. Physical discipline always comes before mental or spiritual discipline,” Ellis says. “Physical discipline leads to the ability to concentrate. The ability to concentrate then leads to the development of skill. As skill development occurs, it leads to confidence. Confidence leads to more concentration, more skilled development, and eventually what we have is kids with self-esteem.”

Ellis teaches value-based life skills: respect, perseverance and work ethic among them. These skills are obtained once the physical training takes hold. Mental discipline follows physical discipline, which then leads to philosophical, or spiritual, discipline.

“The understanding of true humility is only realized eventually,” Ellis says.
The lessons at Karate on Main are always age-appropriate, he says. Community is developed during the process, which Ellis builds on by offering movie nights, picnics and other activities for kids and parents to share.

Ellis, a sixth-degree black belt, says his goal is to get all of his students black belts.
“A black belt is a universally recognized symbol of excellence,” Ellis says, “like being an Eagle Scout or concert musician. Everybody knows it takes skill development, perseverance and work ethic over a long period of time. No one has ever said, ‘I wish I hadn’t received my black belt.’”
The life lessons, he says, are even more important than the belt. Ellis is proud to provide an opportunity for his students to learn and grow.

“The ability to provide a positive influence and to provide the training and curriculum toward goals of self-improvement is so rewarding,” he says. “When most adults think back on what was their most enjoyable job, often people will remember when they worked construction for a summer in college — because it’s an integration of mind, body and spirit. Often, you’ll find the most rewarding hobbies have that integration, as well. So it’s very rewarding to discover that integration in my work.”

The dojo on Main Street is designed to capture the look and feel of classical and historical China and Japan. Also included in the studio are an acupuncture clinic and meditation area. Ellis stresses a holistic approach to martial arts.

“What we do here can’t be found anywhere else,” he says. “Regardless of whatever words are spoken in organized sports, every year it becomes more and more about winning and less and less about the development of the kid and the development of character. There are many exceptions and many great coaches, but as an organized activity, it really has become all about winning.
“In this day and age, we have school systems that don’t teach character because of political correctness. Many of these kids are not getting this instruction at home, either because they’re children of the “Me Generation” or because of economic pressure on the middle class. You have two working parents, and there’s just not enough time. What’s happening to our kids? Generally, we have seen across the board a loss of respect, a loss of civility. These are the very kids that someday will be running AIG or nuclear power plants or becoming surgeons.”

Through martial arts, Ellis hopes to instill respect, civility, and other values that are crucial to children’s development.

Karate on Main is located at 12566 S.W. Main St. in Tigard. The Web site is
www.karateonmain.com, and the phone number is 503-968-1600.