“This is the first time the ATA Martial Arts here in Sulphur Springs has ever been owned by a family,” Melissa, a fourth degree black belt and nationally certified instructor, said. “The business has been around for a long time, but we have owned it for the past four years. This is not like the movies. It is much more than just hitting, kicking and punching.”
Daron, a third degree Black Belt and nationally certified instructor, explained how they got their start.
“Melissa was a student at Texas A&M University—Commerce when she took a class…She trained at Sulphur Springs…After we were married we bought the school,” he said. “Since 2006, there have been 500 students through the school, many entire families and lots of relative relations (such as brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, etc.)”
Their primary goal is to provide a safe, injury-free place to train with a facility located at 1530 West Industrial, Sulphur Springs and a new facility in Greenville under the direction of one of their students, Jon Foster.
The Sulphur Springs ATA Black Belt Academy is a franchise of the American Taekwondo Association (ATA). With over 100,000 members worldwide, Songahm Taekwondo is the largest Martial Arts organization in existence.
They offer programs for the smallest students beginning at three-years old with the Tiny Tiger Cubbies all the way through to adults with a Black Belt Club and their Leadership Program.
Ground fighting, cardio kickboxing and women’s self defense are also some of their seasonal seminars.
The most rewarding aspect of the program is “seeing them grow.”
“If a student still remembers me 10 years later then I believe I’ve done a good job, or I have a face that just doesn’t change,” Melissa said with a laugh. Yet she is that proud of their students, as well, informing that three received scholarships this year.
Keeping them grounded in family, Melissa and Daron welcomed their son, Nathan, two years ago. He spends time observing his parents’ teachings on a nightly basis and will soon to be a Tiny Tiger himself, when not being cared for by the Shadix family—also their students.
Often the classes will celebrate together, like a family honoring the success of a fellow classmate at Black Belt ceremonies or hosting parties at the local pool or at the skating rink.
They have even found more ways to promote parent/child relations with their chore/grade sheets encouraging, “praise, correct, and praise.” They have recently expanded on this concept with the “Task of the Week” forms for the upcoming summer months.
The couple is always looking for new ways to teach discipline and respect.
“These classes are about mental and physical wellness,” Melissa said noting that they even address each other as Mr. and Mrs. Bilyeu, displaying a professional relationship during their instruction.
However, it is not always that way.
“We often get asked whether we fight out our problems at home with Taekwondo,” Daron said with a smile. “I explain that I just say, ‘Yes, dear.”
Melissa chimed in, “I outrank him!”
The couple has more common than martial arts. Each holds a degree in music education. Melissa was the band director at Saltillo before their son was born.
“After Nathan, we decided I would stay home during the day,” said Melissa. “Daron had been substituting for me, so now he is doing my old job.”
The couple offers classes nightly Monday through Friday. For more information on Sulphur Springs ATA Martial Arts, call (903) 243-8767, go to their website at sulphurspringsata.com or find event updates and news on their Facebook page.
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