For Jeff and Connie Duncan, teaching martial arts is about more than just honing self-defense skills.
The owners of Farmington Martial Arts want to instill in their students the kinds of values they've taught their own children, Jeff Duncan said.
Located in a shopping center at 10 Mile and Orchard Lake Road in Farmington, the business celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2012, although the Duncans didn't begin working at it full-time until 1993. As a young man, Jeff had studied martial arts with a studio that fit the hard-hitting "Cobra Kai" dojo image set forward in The Karate Kid, a popular movie released in 1984.
"I wanted to change that image. I wanted to teach martial arts the way I raised my children," he said.
The Duncans created a leadership team of 12 people, and everyone gets a vote on anything that will be changed or added. Farmington Martial Arts instructors stress that fighting is not a game.
"We focus solely on self-defense," Jeff said. "We're a non-competitive school, although we have students who compete. Our goal is, no matter who you are, you will be more capable and able to defend yourself."
The school teaches students core values like focus, teamwork and self-discipline, the same kind of values that parents want their children to have.
"Those things are going to do so much more for them than kicks or punches," Jeff said.
Farmington Martial Arts also embraces the principle of giving back to the community that Jeff calls "an amazing place to own a business". The Duncans have introduced thousands of kids to martial arts through after-school classes. They also work with the Farmington/Farmington Hills Emergency Preparedness Commission on a self-defense training event for women that raises funds for HAVEN, which serves families experiencing domestic violence.
Instruction at Farmington Martial Arts is open to students of all ages; the school's oldest is a 73-year-old woman who took up martial arts at age 70. She is now a black belt, Jeff said.
Classes are offered Monday through Saturday. Farmington Martial Arts currently employs 35 instructors who work with more than 200 students. Learn more at fmami.com.