Antoine Sanders has always been a martial arts fan and was elated when he could finally start Karate lessons at 9-years-old.

While he only trained for a few years, Sanders said it had a huge impact on his life. Through Karate, he learned important life skills like respect and discipline.

Not only can Karate benefit you physically, studies show martial arts can reduce aggression and impulses and even improve mental health.

“My family and I, we credit Karate for keeping me out of the streets,” said Sanders, who grew up on the southside of Chicago before moving to Kansas City at 17-years-old. “A lot of my friends died. Many of them went to jail, got into gangs and fortunately I was able to avoid it because of the martial arts.”

Fast forward 20 years later, and as an adult Sanders started training and then instructing at a Karate academy in Johnson County, where very few of the students looked like him or his children. Sanders also realized he didn’t know of any Karate academies serving children east of Troost Street.

That was a problem for him because he knew how much martial arts benefited him as a child living in a crime-ridden area and he recognized the positive potential a Karate Academy could have on the lives of those living in Kansas City’s urban core.

So in March, he and his family opened their own dojo, Omega Karate Academy inside Boone Tabernacle Church of God in Christ on 12th Street where he also serves as a minister.

“When you're looking for something for your children to do in this area, there's not many activities available for young people,” Sanders said. “My students are all Black or Hispanic and we’re open to everyone, but I wanted it to be in an area where I can provide all those benefits of the martial arts to people that look like me.”

Sanders’ three children are all black belts and his wife is currently a green belt. The whole family teaches classes, which Sanders says sets their academy apart from others.

“My 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son are able to relate to some kids in a way that I can’t,” he said. “And then my wife, she's relating to some of the women on a different level too.”

Omega Karate Academy offers several self-defense styles: Okinawan Kenpo, a technique of martial arts used by the Marines; ancient weapons techniques; and Hawaiian Kenpo Jujitsu, which focuses on throws, take-downs and submission holds.

While the academy teaches a number of self-defense techniques, Sanders also teaches his students that the best self-defense is to not get into a fight at all.

“But if you get into a fight, we’re trying to make it so that you get out on top,” he said. “This is not a sport. We're not training you to go win a competition. We're training you to be alright on 12th Street, on Quindaro, so you can make it home safe to your family.”

The academy does offer individual memberships, but Sanders said he suggests entire families get involved. In fact, he requires parents take at least one class with their child and offers a family membership.

“Children's success with parental involvement is drastically better,” he said. “Anything that you can get a child doing involved with their parents, the chance for them completing the task and reaching a black belt is going to be better.”

In January 2022, Sanders will open another Omega Karate Academy location in Kansas City, Kansas on 24th Street and Quindaro Boulevard.

To learn more about Omega Karate Academy, visit: https://omegakarateacademy.square.site/enroll-now.

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