Moo Do Academy of Martial Arts launched its branch in Palm Coast with a celebratory grand opening Saturday, complete with demonstrations from the academy’s instructors, masters of karate and current students of the academy.
The studio is owned by Rich and Saundra DeFeo, who opened their first martial arts academy about five years ago in St. Augustine.
After starting an afterschool program through Indian Trails Middle School, the DeFeos saw the demand for a second branch.
“It’s more than karate we’re teaching the kids,” Saundra DeFeo said. “We’re teaching respect, doing the right thing, being a leader and having responsibility."
“Right, Sam?” she asked, directing her attention to 13-year-old Sam Wood, who’s been training through Moo Do for about a year.
“Right,” he agreed. “It’s been great — it’s better to have something to do than sitting around the house. And now I’m stronger, I’m more confident. I just love it.”
Rich DeFeo, a third-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do and a first-degree black belt in Taekwondo, is the chief instructor at the academy, while Saundra DeFeo offers yoga classes in addition to karate.
“It’s a lifetime pursuit,” Rich DeFeo said. “The rewards you get from either art form — karate or yoga — keep giving back as long as you practice.”
When Rich and Saundra DeFeo moved here from Pennsylvania six years ago, they knew they wanted to eventually open a karate studio. Rich DeFeo said he's been practicing martial arts for most of his life, and his wife learned karate from him — she was his first student.
“It’s really nice to get kids in and watch them transform,” he said. “They’ll come in and they’re really shy, and they won’t look you in the eye at first. But after six months of lessons, a complete transformation happens. There’s less fear and more confidence.”
The studio currently offers classes for students 8-13 years old 6:30-7:15 p.m Mondays and Wednesdays. The adult class, for students 14 and older, is held 7:30-8:15 p.m.
The studio also offers open mat, which is a time for students to practice, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every other Saturday.
Saundra DeFeo said they will also offer a Little Dragons class for students 5-7 years old if there’s interest. She also hopes to one day teach an all-female class that’s rooted in karate but focuses on self-defense.
Instructors from nearby studios and karate masters from nearby cities also came to the grand opening to show their support.
“Martial arts is a community thing,” Rich Defeo said. “True martial artists feel a brotherhood with each other. It’s not all about fighting; it’s about becoming a better person.”