The Power Of Martial Arts

I ran into Sam Bishaw when I was in Kailua recently. He’s the master, or kwanjangnim, at Martial Arts Company in Kailua town.

He was excited to tell me about the growth of his program that he started in a small space next door to McDonald’s back in 1997.

“I came over from Hilo, and we started with about 800 square feet and exactly zero students. I sat against the wall waiting for somebody to come in,” he recalls.

Through Bishaw’s hustle and hard work, they eventually came. The space has more than quadrupled in size, to more than 3,500 square feet now, with nearly 200 students a year.

“Many of the instructors who are teaching here now started with me when they were just 6 or 7 years old,” Bishaw says, proudly. “I love seeing other people succeed and being a part of that.”

He has students of all ages.

The Tiny Tiger and Tiny Cub programs for youngsters are especially popular. And he’s got some old-timers, too. His oldest student is 72-year-old Milton Cosme of Honolulu.

“We start as young as 2-and-a-half years old, that’s the youngest anywhere,” he says.

Bishaw is proudest of how his programs have helped youngsters with ADD, ADHD and autism, he says. Take 7-year-old Kanoa Krekel, for example. The Aikahi Elementary School first-grader has been with Martial Arts Company since the age of 4-and-a-half.

“He has Asperger’s,” says his dad, Bob Krekel. (Asperger’s syndrome is an autism disorder that is often characterized by difficulties in social interaction.) “He wasn’t very verbal or very social before we started. I have to give Sam credit.”

Kanoa started in Tiny Tigers, then graduated to Tiny Cubs, and is now in what is known as Phase I, for those youngsters working to attain their yellow belt.

“The structure, the lessons and the positive reinforcement have really made a difference,” Krekel says. “It’s really helped his self-esteem, and he’s become a leader in the class.”

Kanoa attends Tae Kwon Do classes at least twice a week, plus he trains at home and takes private lessons.

“This has taught him that nothing comes easy. You have to be self-disciplined. You have to earn it, and he’s learning,” his dad says.

“We’ve located him in the front of the class, so he’s not distracted,” Bishaw adds. “We use a lot of positive affirmation, and he’s improved greatly. What helps is that our program is so structured. We see tremendous growth in confidence, self-esteem and maturity.”

“If you had told me two-and-a-half years ago that he would be where he is today, I wouldn’t have believed it,” says Krekel. “The patience and the positive staff have worked wonders, they’ve been great mentors. (Kanoa) is talking more and socially interactive. This has proven to him that he can do anything.”

Bishaw’s website at talks about how someone can “learn the art of living through martial arts” and how it emphasizes “respect, discipline and having the positive black-belt attitude.”

Kanoa Krekel is learning that lesson every week as he moves his way up the ladder to his own eventual goal of attaining the coveted black belt.

“My biggest joy is seeing improvement in these young people,” Bishaw says. “Our martial arts program has helped remarkably.”