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New Manchester Martial Arts Studio is a Family Business

Les Edwards wants to build a stronger community, one student at a time. He hopes to do that with his new studio in Manhester.

Les Edwards has been teaching martial arts for more than 20 years and has managed to turn Taekwondo into a family vocation as well a successful business. Edwards owns martial arts studios in Hannibal, MO, Rock Hill, and now Manchester.

ATA Martial Arts of Manchester, located at 14441 Manchester Road, opens on Saturday and will offer self-defense and exercise classes for both children and adults. The studio is signing up new students through the month of May and will start classes officially in June.

Edwards and his wife, Jenni, have five children and one grandchild--all of whom have taken up martial arts. Three of their sons are involved in the family business: eldest son Ross runs the Rock Hill studio, and Josh and Austin are instructors.

Les and Jenni currently live in Hannibal, but they will move to Eureka after their youngest sons, 19-year-old twins, graduate from high school this year. This move will allow Les Edwards and Jenni to run the day-to-day operations of the Manchester studio. They will still own the Hannibal studio, but a pair of Edwards' former students turned instructors will take over the classes.

Though Taekwondo is an ancient style of fighting, Edwards stressed that what he is really teaching is fitness, self-confidence, respect and good manners. He insists that his students address adults as “sir” or “ma'am,” something that he does himself.

“We develop leaders in our community through martial arts—that’s the most important thing to us. Teaching kids life skills eliminates a lot of problems,” he said.

ATA Martial Arts teaches a variety of classes and age ranges, from 4-year-old Tiny Tigers to adult kickboxing. Classes in mixed martial arts, Taekwondo, self-defense and antibullying classes are also offered. Edwards said that anyone can sign up for classes, whether they have previous experience or not. The studio offers two, free private lessons to meet with prospective students, see what they're capable of and to acquaint them with the program. After the trial lessons, a staff member meets with new students to set up a class schedule and go over pricing. ATA Martial Arts did not wish to disclose its pricing with Patch.

The studio will also offer an after-school program for elementary students, which is still being worked out with area schools. Edwards said he has a similar program in Hannibal, where a van picks up students from their school and brings them directly to the studio. The kids will have a snack, homework time then a 30-minute Taekwondo class. He said the after school-program can be a big help to families.

The new studio will offer free WI-FI as a courtesy to parents who are waiting during a child’s lesson. Another parent-friendly program is the studio’s frequent Parents' Night Out, where kids can be dropped off and entertained with crafts and martial arts lessons for a few hours on a Friday or Saturday night. The studio also offers birthday party packages where birthday children get to wear a "birthday black belt" and their cake is sliced with a ninja sword.

ATA Martial Arts of Manchester had a soft opening on May 2 with a ribbon cutting hosted by the West County Chamber of Commerce and a public grand opening on Saturday. Edwards said they have rented a bounce house to entertain kids whose parents drop by to see the studio.

For more information, call 636-527-0062.

On the Horizon:

  • Town and Country-based tech company Savvis has been purchased by CenturyLink, a company in California. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that this move is not going to hurt local business because CenturyLink wants to build its cloud computing data center in St. Louis. 
  • Governor Nixon vetoed Missouri Senate Bill 188. The bill would have capped punitive damages in workplace discrimination cases and force plaintiffs to prove that they were fired due to discrimination and not other causes.

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