AF karate instructor stresses academics - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

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Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:00 am

For "Sensei Rick" Savagian, longtime owner of Mountainside Martial Arts Center in Ahwatukee Foothills, the academic success of his students is just as important as their physical development.

"I want people that are well educated," Savagian said. "My kids are smart kids, but they're tough kids. You've got a bunch of straight ‘A' students walking around campus, don't mess with them."

Savagian recently added a study room to his dojo at Chandler Boulevard and 32nd Street so students and their parents can work on homework while not in karate class. The room has a closed-circuit television so parents can monitor their children taking karate in the next room.

"For families that are busy with kids, they can drop the kids off in a safe environment. They can do their homework, and then they're here for class," Savagian said. "By the time they go home, their homework can be done instead of waiting until 7 or 8 at night to do it."

There are no iPods or video games allowed in the study room.

"It's for academics and academics only," he said.

Some parents have volunteered to come in as tutors. Savagian said he hopes to bring in tutors in such things as math, science and languages.

One of those parents, Taka Hills, recently made use of the study room with her son Zach, 9, and daughter Sarah, 5.

Hills, who plans to volunteer time to tutor students in Japanese, said having the study area means she has a place to spend time with her children without having to make extra trips. Students use Japanese almost exclusively while in karate class.

"This is a quiet place where they can study," she said. "It used to be that I would have to come and drop them off, and then come back and pick them up again."

Teresa Valentine, who made use of the room with daughter Angela, 5, while her 8-year-old, Michael, attended karate class, agreed.

"It really is a great opportunity for our family," she said. "Whenever they have class we're in here working on homework with them. So, when we get home, we have family time. We don't have to worry about doing homework."

Savagian, 56, said he's trained more than 10,000 students in the 31 years he's been teaching karate in Ahwatukee. He began teaching in 1979 with six students at the Ahwatukee Community Center. He now has up to 175 students, he said.

"We're probably one of the biggest in the Valley," Savagian said.

Wado-Ryu roughly translates as "school of the way of peace and harmony."

"We teach very traditional Japanese Wado-Ryu karate," he said. "Eventually we don't even speak English to them."

Classes are a family affair, and he teaches adults, as well.

"The kid takes karate. Mom and dad like it. Mom and dad start taking karate," Savagian said.

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