(ORANGE, Calif.) — Natalie Guzman, a fifth-degree black belt and mother of two, sits at her desk in her new office.
“I just made my last payment in August,” she says. “The studio is officially mine.”
The studio, Frazier Martial Arts (FMA) in Orange, Calif., recently reopened at its new location on Tustin Street. A bright blue sign pops against the tan stucco, and the double doors open to a large, open space with wall-to-wall mats and new training equipment. This is the only satellite location of the long-standing martial arts school started in 1982 by Hideki Frazier, which offers martial arts and self-defense classes to over 200 adults, teens, and children as young as three. Guzman studied under Frazier’s tutelage, beginning at just 7-years-old, and she credits him with providing her the tools to become a successful businesswoman today.
“He was a very tough teacher, but he was like a father to me,” Guzman said, who recalls that Frazier showed her how to get her first bank account, how to buy her first car, and even introduced her to self-help guru Tony Robbins’s work.
She admires and reveres Guzman and so plans to continue operating her studio under the Frazier name and hopes to provide similar mentorship to FMA’s instructors and students. She mentions plans to help one instructor open his own studio and beams that another is saving for a down payment on a home.“It’s really like family here with Miss Natalie and the kids and parents,” instructor Uzziel Perez said. “They’re all so supportive.”
Kenneth Brady told The Click he appreciates the safe space FMA offers his daughter.
“She was four when she started and reluctant to try new things. But by the second class, she was all-in and loving it,” Brady said.
Now nine, she is just one belt away from a black belt and loves ground-sparring and breaking boards.
“I like that I can be strong and confident,” said Jade, Brady’s daughter. Giggling, she told The Click that “At first, I just wanted to learn how to punch someone.”
Parents hesitant to arm their children with combat skills can take comfort in recent research by UCLA and Israel’s Bar Ilan University that shows martial arts training can actually reduce aggression. Another study from Australia’s Macquarie University suggests that studying martial arts fosters resilience and self-efficacy in bullied children, and yet another study by psychologist Liye Zou found that it can even reduce symptoms of autism.
In Research Digest, psychologist Bradley Busch also said that “participating in martial arts helps improve concentration and self-awareness, self-esteem, emotional stability and self-regulation.”This positivity is fostered at FMA. Outside Guzman’s office, a class gathers on the mats. Student-turned-instructor, Javier Cruz, leads them in their pledge. Eleven kids in full protective gear repeat:
“I promise to be a good person, to put knowledge in my mind, honesty in my heart, strength in my body, and to make good friends.”
Class begins. The mats provide a soft spot for the kids to land when they fall, but with encouragement from their peers and teachers, they get up and try again. Guzman watches, confident the lessons her students master will help them thrive beyond their time in the studio, just as they did for her.