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Legacy Charlotte teaches children and adults to think before they react, using martial arts and years of training under the guidance of Ajarn (Instructor) Jay Henderson. He and his brother Shelton own and operate the studio together.
Teaching Karate for Adults, Karate for Teens, Karate for Children, Body Blow Fitness and Striking 4 Self Defense, Henderson is a second generation black lotus belt with over twenty years of martial arts experience. He began studying Lotus Self-Defense with Jack J. Gentry in 1991 at a West Charlotte Recreation Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Ajarn Gentry is one of the few American Lotus practitioners to have studied directly with Ajarn Precha and attained the rank of black belt.
Henderson, also a future PhD, took the time to brief the Black Wall Street Times about his program in an exclusive interview in which he admits that the martial arts came at just the right time for him.
Legacy Charlotte was a lifetime in the making.
“It’s one of the things that saved me as a kid. I fought every day until I was 10. But then I took my first martial arts lesson and I knew I felt different,” says Henderson.
With over 15 years of teaching experience, Henderson is now the Owner/Chief Instructor of Legacy Martial Arts & Fitness, where he is dedicated to continuing the legacy of Lotus Self Defense.
Though he’s been training people for over two decades, Henderson says he focuses more on their minds than their bodies. He is aware that the world may not treat the children he works with fairly, and he is sure that everyone will feel welcome when they enter.
“It’s all character development. I have a master’s degree and my day job is often the only black person in the room…I let the kids know that the world out there won’t be what it is in here. So by teaching them confidence, we are also teaching them to treat people fairly and equally.”
Because he was 10 when he discovered martial arts, Henderson says that children ages 7 to 11 are particularly vulnerable to the choices and associations that will likely accompany them through their formative years.
“Most of the children who come here are not self-confident. They don’t think they have a way of listening to them. Sometimes kids just need one person to listen. I try to be that one person. When children feel they are being heard, their confidence grows.”
Lotus Self Defense can mean the difference between life and death.
Henderson is aware that Daylight Saving Time is bringing more gun violence not just to Charlotte but nationwide, and Henderson says the Legacy Charlotte program can help people of all ages resolve conflicts without resorting to deadly action. “I want more people who look like us in here. You learn so much about patience, breathing and decision-making – many of us have never tried it.”
As an instructor of multiple self-defense disciplines, Henderson also instructs concealment carry classes to prepare and advise new and old gun owners on education, safety protocols, and laws in the Cardinal State.
When it comes to conflict, it comes from communication. Here we teach children how to communicate, speak clearly and assertively. All my children are black and brown, they are often told to hold their emotions down. Here, children as young as 4 are bottled up until you teach them how to articulate their feelings. It’s all about communication. The way we communicate with them, in turn, helps them communicate with us and the people in their lives.”
According to their website, Legacy Martial Arts & Fitness is dedicated to personal growth in themselves and their students and operates from the belief that what you learn and practice in the dojo should be applied in everyday life.
Legacy Charlotte is built on a foundation of family and community
Legacy Charlotte is all about family. “Every nail, every £90 piece of mat, every painting. My kids helped paint these walls. We made everything you see here. Nothing we have was given to us. Everything was earned.”
As a member of the Masonic Lodge and Kappa Alpha Psi, Fraternity, Inc., Henderson credits his family and community for the achievements of Legacy Charlotte today. “It’s base. My wife is my biggest supporter and my voice of reason when I wanted to give up. We didn’t always know if we were going to make it and some days I wanted to finish it, but the kids in the community – it means so much to them. I had kids that were from Charlotte, from across the state, from across the state. People know you can get more than just karate here.” He continued, “I have a young lady who has been coming here since she was 5 years old. She’s 13 now. I’ve been away from her life longer than she’s been alive.”
Learn more about their story here and join their 7th Annual Bookbag Drive on August 27 from 12pm to 5pm. Find out more about her nonprofit organization on Instagram at @GuardiansAdvocate.