Martial arts school in Ammon helps students learn discipline and leadership - East Idaho News
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Martial arts school in Ammon helps students learn discipline and leadership

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Southwick Black Belt Academy is a martial arts school at 3485 Rawson Street in Ammon. Students can take classes for Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Grappling and Samurai sword fighting. See what it’s like in the video player above. | Rett Nelson,

AMMON – For Scott and Tia Southwick, martial arts is a lifelong passion.

They began teaching Taekwondo, Kung Fu and other forms of martial arts to people of all ages more than 20 years ago and they’re thrilled to be open in a brand new building at 3485 Rawson Street in Ammon.

The duo began holding classes in the 6,000-square-foot space about six weeks ago and Tia tells it’s four times the size of their previous location, allowing room for more students.

“We have a Samurai sword fighting class we were offering once a week and now we’re offering it twice a week. Our Tai Chi program (a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing) has expanded and our Grappling program (which is similar to wrestling or jiu-jitsu) has gone from one hour a week to having a full curriculum,” Scott tells

See what classes are like in the video player above.

Most people associate martial arts with stuff they see in movies, which Scott says is a common misconception. In actuality, martial arts isn’t about beating people up. It’s about mental and physical discipline and knowing how to channel your aggression.

“Do they become good at fighting? Yes. But when you become good at it, you’re disciplined. It changes (who you are). There is so much character development (involved in the process),” says Scott.

Scott says the skills learned in martial arts are directly applicable to life and become part of the student’s lifestyle as they grow and mature.

Scott first got involved in martial when he was 8- or 9-years-old. He grew up on the same street where his academy is located and martial arts became a coping strategy to ward off bullies.

“I had a friend who was disabled and they’d pick on him and beat me up,” Scott recalls. “I remember coming home one time with gravel in my knees and bruises on my back. I was bleeding and my mom was furious. She said to my dad, ‘You have to do something about this.’ He was like ‘What do you want me to do? Go to school with him. I can’t protect him all the time.'”

Scott’s dad was a boxer and he tried to teach his son some basic moves. He reached over and gave Scott a gentle hook while he had gloves on and little Scott started to cry. His dad gave up on teaching his son how to box and that’s when they discovered a guy in their church taught Kung Fu.

Scott got involved and gradually, his confidence grew and he became less afraid of standing up to the kids that were bullying him. Eventually, they left him alone entirely.

“It would be really cool if I had a dramatic fight scene like in the movies, but the reality was I became less of a target and they just disappeared. From that point on, I rarely had any issues. It allowed me to relax and be friends with people. It gave me the confidence to do what I needed to do,” Scott says.

Tia and Scott Southwick pose for a photo inside their new 6,000-square-foot-building. | Rett Nelson,

Today, Scott is a seventh-degree black belt. A 10th-degree ranking is the highest possible rank in the sport. Tia became Scott’s student about a year after they got married and she is currently a fifth-degree black belt. She is being recognized in June by the International Martial Arts Council as the Instructor of the Year.

“I’ve gained a lot more awareness,” Tia says. “I was more shy growing up … so anybody that went to high school with me and sees me now doesn’t recognize me at all. I can look people in the eye and do a lot of public speaking without a lot of hesitation.”

Many of the students at the academy have personal challenges they’re dealing with and watching them grow and develop has been the most rewarding part of this venture for the Southwicks.

Scott started a martial arts academy in Pocatello during the late 1990s. They moved to the Idaho Falls area in 2004 and opened Southwick Black Belt Academy.

They have been planning for the new building for 18 years and they’re excited to show it to the public during a grand opening celebration and open house on May 15. The event will begin at 9 a.m. with an anti-bullying seminar followed by a family training at 10. Ammon Mayor Sean Coletti will be part of the ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m and there will be multiple seminars in the afternoon until 2 p.m. The event will conclude with a drawing for private lessons, seminars, in-store credit and other prizes.

“Our main focus is expanding our instructor program. A lot of people have been with us for a lot of years and they want to do this for a career as well,” Scott says. “We want to make sure they have opportunities to grow and do martial arts professionally. There’s a real need for it out in the community and in the world.”

Classes are available for anyone age 3 and up. The hours of operation are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Fridays and Saturdays are left open for seminars, tournaments and other events. Visit the website or Facebook page for more information.

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