The American Taekwondo Association Keizer dojang, or “school” in Korean, located on River Road, has been open for decades while delivering a consistent message: Martial arts is about more than just violence.
Currently helmed by Salem-native and 6th degree Black Belt and Senior Master candidate Carson Clews, the martial arts dojang is one of only two other martial arts gyms in Keizer including Impact Ju Jitsu and Toe to Toe Boxing.
The ATA martial arts gym in Keizer has been around since 1999 when it was formerly owned by martial arts instructor Kelley Ireland.
A lifelong learner, Clews began practicing martial arts in 1996 at the age of 11 and has been a martial arts instructor since the age of 14.
Being a self-described “know-it-all” from a young age proved to be a boon as the passion and skill for teaching came naturally to Clews.
Clews bought the school from Ireland’s son, Keegan, in 2016 whom he had known since they were young when they trained together since they became orange belts.
With his wife, Sarah, and daughters, Abrielle, Alsea, Ela, Clews has spent the last eight years delivering training, life lessons and confidence to students of all ages at the school.
“My life purpose is to help people know their intrinsic value,” Clews said.
The national ATA began in 1969 under Grand Master Haeng Ung Lee and has the goal of taking the tradition, culture and skills from the martial art and providing them to communities in an effort to combine professional instruction with good business practices, according to Clews.
One business practice they instilled involved switching from part-time instructors to full-time which Clews described as helpful due to how full-time instructors were those with more time and often more dedication to the art which in turn improves student experience.
With a more dedicated crew, Clews is able to better pursue the ATA’s other goals, self-improvement and empowerment.
And Clews does this through a simple mantra, impressing “the idea that life does not just happen to them, but they can make things happen in their own lives by choosing where they want to go.”
While owning the Keizer ATA was the most recent step, Clews also managed the ATA dojang in West Salem for nine years as well as a martial arts school in Albany.
With help from his family, Clews was able to purchase the Keizer dojo and in the eight years since they opened in 2016, he has grown his business.
His instructing staff includes: Reuben Gould, Robert-Jay Wolf, Tyler Jones, Zane Ling, Colleen Campbell, Alicia Anderson and Cariana High.
Clews discussed how, while being a part of a national organization, he has significant freedom for how his particular school operates.
This freedom manifests through his own vision for the school.
“ATA Keizer exists to use the physical and mental training available in the martial arts to develop the character and skills of our students,” Clews said.
The idea is to help create more opportunity and prevent its loss while helping instill more confidence in students young and old alike.
“Opportunity is a big word for us and that’s really why my business exists and the effect we want to have on Keizer,” Clews said.
With more confidence to create opportunity, an adult could better make the case for more pay at work, or a child could learn how to regulate their emotions in a more mature way, according to Clews.
While the dojang may be better known for their children’s program, it also offers options for teens and adults as well.
“These children eventually become teens and adults so we have to have a place for them to go to,” Clews said.
Keizer ATA offers a sports/ summer camp in their dojo to act as a place for working parents to bring their children to stay.
Clews noted the idea was not his originally but worth adopting, as other martial arts gyms have done sports camps and after school programs.
The camp is offered throughout the school year and into the summer to provide a year round place for kids to go that will encourage them to do more than play video games.
“Why not take the kids to a place that will develop their respect, their focus, their self-control and their discipline,” Clews said.
Through teaching these values, Clews’ objective of instilling more focus and discipline shines through as, despite their feelings, this action often encourages children to develop the ability to get through tough feelings.
“If you have a kid that is feeling kind of bad, but chooses an enthusiastic response, they approach a task with enthusiasm making [others] respond to them more happily and they feel happier about themselves,” Clews stated.
Martial arts provide a number of physical, emotional and mental benefits which Clews has boiled down into four areas: discipline, confidence, health and fitness as well as self-defense.
By focusing on these different areas, the goal is to help create more healthy, confident and self-aware children and adults who are also able to defend themselves and others.
More importantly though, these lessons aid students in many other aspects of life such as helping them identify their own self-worth.
A lifelong pursuit, Clews described how the simpler aspects of the martial art is what continues to inspire his love for it today.
This love of martial arts has never waned but rather waxed as Clews noted he practices other forms as well such as Brazilian Jujistu taught at Impact Jiu Jitsu on Commercial Street.
“I love just throwing a good kick and hearing your pants make that ‘pop’ sound,” Clews mused.
Just as rewarding, Clews added, was the thrill he received after teaching a new move to someone and watching the students’ faces as they performed it.
“Seeing my 6-year-old start to take on difficult techniques makes my heart full,” Clews said.
The comments from parents stand out as another impactful part of his goals describing how with certain techniques or when learning how to use a weapon, parents will say how they had no idea their child was capable of accomplishing that feat.
“I want all of my kids to hear the adults in their lives saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t know my kid could do that,” Clews finished.
ATA has been active in the Keizer community hosting free events such as Easter egg hunts as well as a Trunk or Treat contest where families can decorate their vehicle with some Halloween theme and have passersby vote for who they like the best.
Keizer ATA also offers free anti-bullying seminars and child safety courses that are free for the community for kids to come in and learn how to navigate a dangerous or bullying situation.
Acknowledging the ever changing demographics of Kezier, Clews stated that while classes are taught primarily in English, he and others in the school speak Spanish to assist new students and parents to the program as well as emphasize the notion of community for all.
“My heart is full when the other parents see a Spanish-speaking family come in for the first time. They don’t know anybody and they’re struggling with the language barrier. And these other parents swoop in and help them out,” Clews said.
For those interested in learning more about the programs, pricing, and all else available, check out KeizerATA.com.
Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-105
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