When most people think of karate they tend to think of Bruce Lee movies and being able to break a wooden board in half with a single swift “chop!”
That’s all well and good, but at Hellertown’s Saucon Valley Karate Academy, owner and chief instructor Phil Geiter, places much emphasis on the mind-over-matter benefits of this most ancient of martial arts.
The emphasis in all aspects of instruction at the academy is on building leaders, through development of both physical and mental power via rigorous training.
Geiter, a fourth degree black belt and Saucon Valley resident, opened the karate academy as Saucon Valley Tang Soo Do a little over a year ago, after teaching classes at Saucon Valley Community Center. Tang Soo Do is the traditional Korean form of karate, and he recently changed the name to help potential students better identify with what the school offers, since karate is a more familiar name in the U.S.
Another change that is taking place is an expansion/renovation, which will nearly double the overall size of the academy and result in a larger, more comfortable waiting area, changing rooms and a bigger practice floor with viewing areas.
“Since we started in this location my student population has almost doubled,” Geiter said, adding that word of mouth from parents of current students has helped him attract new students.
“People who knew me…brought their kids in,” he said. “Parents talk, which is the best thing I think.”
A page on Geiter’s new website provides first-hand testimonials from parents who explain how karate has helped their children overcome everything from bullies to a lack of focus on their schoolwork.
“At first I wasn’t sure if Ashley would like the program,” said parent Cynthia Snyder. “After all, she’s only 6, so she never really sticks to anything. Boy was I wrong! She gets extremely upset if we ever have to miss a class now. And I can tell she’s more focused, more attentive and just all around happier after starting this program.”
Another benefit of karate is fitness, and in many cases, weight loss.
“I want them to be physically fit,” Geiter said of his students, many of whom are plugged in to electronic devices such as tablets in a way their parents never were as children. “I like it when the little kids say, ‘Oh my God, I’m sweating.’”
Some other well-known benefits of learning karate often include:
- Increased confidence and self-esteem
- Better listening skills; improved ability to follow directions
- Success in later life (e.g., a recent study showed that a high percentage of black belts went on to graduate from college)
Geiter offers classes for both children and adults, although kids currently represent the majority of his clientele. He is interested in offering self-defense classes for women in the future if there is a demand for them, he said.
- TINY TIGERS – A 30-minute class for children 4-5 years old which is designed to teach basic skills, in addition to discipline, respect and teamwork, at an age-appropriate pace.
- LITTLE DRAGONS – A 30-minute class designed for children 6-7 years old. The goal of this class is to advance the Tiny Tiger curriculum to prepare each student to transition to the Children’s class.
- CHILDREN’S CLASS – A 45-minute class for children 7-12 years old. The class is taught at a pace that takes into account each student’s age as they work through the ranks toward their goal of earning a Black Belt.
- ADULT – An adult class is one hour long and for ages 13 and older. The class focuses on traditional Tang Soo Do, stretching and flexibility exercises, strength and endurance training, meditation and breathing exercises, which will benefit students in their daily lives.
Classes are mixed (boys and girls) and Geiter is currently offering an introductory special through his website: Six weeks of classes (two classes per week) for $69, including a uniform. Online enrollment is easy via the website.
Geiter added that people who are interested in knowing more about the classes are always welcome to come and observe a class.
He is planning to host a grand reopening of Saucon Valley Karate Academy once the renovations are complete, which will hopefully be in early May.
Beyond that, he said students will once again participate in a demonstration at Hellertown-Lower Saucon Community Day in Dimmick Park in August.
On May 16, they will take part in an on-field demo at the Lehigh Valley IronPigs’ Martial Arts Night at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown.
The school–which is registered with the World Tang Soo Do Association–is located at 46 W. Water St., Hellertown, about a half block west of Main Street.