WARSAW — Participating in different styles of martial arts since the age of 7, Matthew Smith was introduced to the juko-ryu style in 2012 and has kept with it ever since. It’s not just the art form, it’s also the history.
Smith enjoys studying an accredited martial arts style that can be traced back through the years to its origins in Asia. He even travels three times a year to study under Soke Rod Sacharnoski.
Two years ago he met Karissa M. Salazar and insisted upon teaching her martial arts so she would be able to defend herself when he was not around. Although they had previously taught out of their basement, in April, Smith and Salazar were able to get their own building, the Juko-Ryu Toide and Martial Arts Center, Warsaw.
For both Smith and Salazar, the primary focus of martial arts training is to help others live empowered. Salazar shared a personal story of a time when she was in a situation where her life was in danger and she did not yet have the skills or confidence to defend herself. “Now it’s a sense of relief that I have a fighting chance,” she admitted.
Smith wants everyone to learn something they can take home. For him it’s about “self protection and protecting the community.” He emphasized, “Be aware of your surroundings. Have a plan of attack. Have the muscle memory.”
The dojo represents “a safe place where the community can learn real life situation martial arts,” Salazar insisted. Smith assured the martial arts style is “quick, effective and easy to learn” but also stresses it is a detailed art form and cannot be learned in just a few classes. However, the most important thing is to “just learn a simple technique of how to fight back and be safer.”
In his classes, Smith “tries to pull in the reality of situations” and get people to react as they would if someone were actually trying to harm them. While he does not want people to live in fear, he does want them to be aware the danger is real. Unfortunately sometimes the danger is even right at home which makes places like the Beaman Home necessary.
Red flags and warning signs are also covered so individuals can be aware of a potentially dangerous situation before it escalates. Martial arts will teach people the proper technique to use what they have so they are able to overpower someone who is stronger than them.
While martial arts also assists with discipline, control, fitness and even posture, it is not the only art form Smith practices. He also enjoys teaching couples ballroom dancing. Salazar also uses their space to teach a variety of music lessons including saxophone, piano and flute.
While the goal is to operate a self-sustaining business, currently Smith also works as a forklift driver and Salazar works as a dental hygienist. They live in Winona Lake where they enjoy fishing, watching movies and walking their two dogs.
“There is no need to be a victim,’” Smith highlighted. The desire to teach martial arts to anyone who is willing to learn is his part in trying to make the community safer and ultimately turn it into a victimless community.