Shut down by state efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, Mountainside Martial Arts is reopening.
But owner Rick Savagian didn’t waste any time during the closure. He said he’s renovated the 5,200-square-foot school so that “the students will return and train in a new, safe and beautiful setting.”
At the same time, Savagian kept his martial arts classes going virtually so with “private video lessons ensuring our students never missed a beat.”
The facility has a 3,000-square-foot matted floor for training, a lobby for viewing and “a tremendous academic center” with free wi-fi where “students can do their homework and parents can watch their children training on the closed-circuit TV while getting their business work done in a quiet environment.”
As the head instructor, Savagian also said what hasn’t changed during the closure is his “great team of professional instructors, coupled with incredible staff and volunteers to keep the student body engaged and never allowing this pandemic to slow down their training regimen.”
The renovation of the facility, or dojo, included upgraded locker rooms, a main office, the study center and lobby/viewing area “and a new exterior look to welcome everybody back,” he said.
“I have received so many positive emails and phone calls from our Mountainside Martial Arts student family in support of how we kept students engaged,” he said.
“It was encouraging and motivated me to keep the dojo spirit alive. I had a great support system that always was there for me and that also played an inspirational role in our success,” he added. “This was a true family effort.”
Savagian said the pandemic-fueled closure presented him with “a unique opportunity to upgrade our facility” because he wanted it to remain “the most upscale school in the country while not interrupting our student lessons.”
Savagian and his dojo are among Ahwatukee’s earliest settlers and businesses.
He set up shop in 1979 with only six students shortly after finishing a masters’ program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
After 35 years in business he is now proud to say he has taught more than 11,000 students with more than 100 earning black belts.
Savagian was hired by Presley Development Company to run the community center and build a comprehensive recreational program for the Ahwatukee Foothills development.
He had a background in physical education, exercise physiology and kinesiology and had a love for track, golf and karate.
At the time he had a five-year goal for himself to make the 1984 U.S. Team for the World Cup.
“The program at the rec center was a very small program, but it kept growing little by little,” he said in an interview with AFN in 2014 when he celebrated his 35th anniversary in Ahwatukee.
“When I made the U.S. team I went to compete in Japan and we had a lot of media coverage from print media and TV. When I came back from Japan the school just doubled. The community knew me from putting on community events, but now all of a sudden from a karate standpoint.”
In 1990 he was offered a space to open a school in the Mountainside Plaza. He started that school and continued to grow the program, eventually moving to the current location at 32nd Street and Chandler Boulevard.
He said the new 3,000-square-foot training area also “allows us to maintain appropriate social distancing measures” and said the dojo has become “an establishment that is above and beyond the normal martial arts facilities.”
Mountainside Martial Arts offers a number of classes onsite but he also will continue his virtual classes because “we understand the dynamic of family situations that may not allow for in person instruction.”
Additionally, his instructors will be following all guidelines issued to protect against the coronavirus.
“Our faculty and staff are extremely excited to keep the dojo spirit alive,” he said.
Information: 480-759-4540 or mmacaz.net.