As the pre-Broadway production of The Karate Kid: The Musical takes place on the stage at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, Tracy’s Karate Studio in Kirkwood and Robinson’s Karate in Crestwood have their own longstanding histories to share.
Founded in 1969, Tracy’s Karate Studio has seen many students grow in skill and confidence both on and off the mat. Led by a father and son team, Tracy’s Karate is based on the principle that everyone deserves a chance to be trained in the art of self-defense.
Tim Golby is the owner and Dan Golby is the manager of Tracy’s Karate Studio. Both father and son have an emotional bond with the studio as they both studied and taught karate at the facility at 10220 Manchester Road.
Tim and Dan Golby bring a family element to their workplace, which adds to the uniqueness of their studio. Dan Golby said that as a child he took his first steps within the walls of the building, which stands on the same spot where it stands today.
“I grew up here. For me it was just something that I’ve always had and always loved,” said Dan Golby.
Both father and son believe that karate should be available to all willing participants, which is why their studio is one of the few to offer private classes as well as group classes open to all, training students from 5 to 80 years of age. Those who opt for tutoring appreciate the opportunity to learn in a face-to-face setting.
“The advantage of this is that everyone learns at a different level. Instead of putting them all in a group where the strong survive and the weak perish, everyone can succeed if you do it individually,” said Tim Golby.
He added that one of the studio’s main goals is to build confidence in all students. He said that being able to defend yourself gives people confidence and more self-confidence.
“When you’re working on something really hard and perfecting your skills, it gives you a lot of confidence and allows you to do things in other areas of your life as well,” said Tim Golby.
Tracy’s Karate also aims to emphasize the importance of self-defense skills. Tim Golby believes that people must always be alert and vigilant as attacks are possible at any time. He said being able to defend yourself is an important skill that he encourages everyone to learn.
“Learning karate is a big step towards believing in your own abilities and protecting yourself and those around you,” he said. “You have to be confident in the water, but you don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer. It’s similar in karate. All people should probably train for six to ten months to really make sure they can protect themselves in a self-defense situation. I think that should be more universal than it is.”
Mark Smith, who has trained at Tracy’s Karate for the past six years, is glad he learned self-defense tactics through karate.
“The discipline you get and the physical activity makes you feel like you can handle any situation,” Smith said.
Robinson’s Karate, another long-established studio in the area, has been training clients at his studio for decades. Located at 8738 Watson Road, the studio is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. Robinson’s Karate is open to a variety of ages and accepts students from the age of four.
Stephen Robinson, who owns the studio, earned his black belt in karate and prides himself on passing on his knowledge not only of the physical martial arts but life lessons to everyone who walks through his doors. He says the programs make students more aware of the importance of hard work and perseverance.
“If you put in the effort, you’ll get better at it. As you get better at it, you get more confident, you get more disciplined, and you need discipline to be good at anything,” Robinson said.
The studio’s numerous self-defense courses aim to reach all levels of students from white belt to black belt and are designed to meet the needs of each student with multiple programs designed specifically for women and toddlers. In addition to training, Robinson’s also regularly brings in a licensed psychologist to help children deal with bullying and a street self-defense class for women.
Like the Golbys of Tracy’s Karate, Robinson said his studio is committed to ensuring his students reach the end of their program with greater confidence. He said the most satisfying part of his career has been watching generations of students learn and grow, while forming personal relationships with them in the process.
“When a child enjoys something and there is a good relationship between the student and the teacher, you can really see a person, a child or an adult, gain a lot of confidence,” he said. “A person goes from a white belt to a yellow belt, a yellow belt to an orange belt, and the more they progress, the more confidence you’ll see.”
That was certainly the case with Anne Williams and her daughter Olivia, both of whom train at Robinson’s Karate.
“Learning a new skill at my age was really fun and encouraging and I know it’s helping my body,” Williams said. “I’m definitely not a ninja, but I feel like I could defend myself better than ever if the need arose.”
Williams also loves to watch her fourth grade daughter, who already has a black belt, grow through karate.
“For them, it’s this intrinsic motivation that I want to keep going, I want to get to the next level,” Williams said. “I think it was good for them mentally, just that motivation and encouragement to keep going and do their best.”
One of the most important lessons Robinson learned through karate, which I hope his students will understand, is the importance of learning
Overcome obstacles and challenge yourself. He said he learned that lesson while earning his brown belt – the belt he earned before eventually earning his black belt, the highest achievement in karate.
“Once I earned my black belt, I knew what I was dealing with, but my brown belt kind of pushed me over the edge,” said Robinson.
A little inspiration
For those looking for a little inspiration or an evening of entertainment, The Karate Kid: The Musical production runs through Sunday, June 26 at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center.
“Someone told me about it and I was like, ‘Oh, this would be the perfect thing for Olivia and I to go together,’ so we definitely have plans to check it out,” Williams said.
Annie SanFilippo is a journalism student at the University of Missouri-Columbia and an intern at the Webster-Kirkwood Times.