• Pamela Froman

Shaolin Self Defense Center

Martial arts are a great foundation for your child. Learning the sport – and the artform – of martial arts can lead children towards self confidence, respect for authority as well as having a physical defense against life's challenges.

Chris Quarlena is the owner and instructor of Shaolin Self Defense Center in Canoga Park. The studio opened in July but Chris has innumerable experience, especially in Shaolin Kempo Karate, which incorporates multiple arts such as kung fu, kempo, jujitsu, traditional karate and kickboxing, “I started training when I was 6 years old and received my black belt at 12. I knew then I wanted to teach martial arts, so at 14 I got my working papers and became an instructor. I'm 26 now.”

The name of the studio, Shaolin actually is translated as “forest of little trees.” Chris wants all his students to be able to learn to defend themselves and protect themselves. In other words, learning these skills of beautiful movement increases self respect, trust and honesty. “I teach how to escape from grabs, being punched, kicked or taken down, as well as simulated knife fighting defense, with rubber knives,” he says.

There are multiple martial arts to learn, and while Shaolin Kempo Karate is predominant, classes also incorporate multiple arts Kung Fu, Kempo, Jujitsu, Traditional Karate and Kickboxing. With the kids he teaches, Chris makes every class be about building self-esteem and working toward a goal. “It's about confidence, self defense, discipline, self control, self discipline, respect, effort and integrity.”

Kids are welcomed to the sport as young as 4 years old with the Peewee Class. They then move up to Junior Class, ages 7 to ll, and finally the teen class. It's a great way for your kids to socialize with their peers while they are doing something instructive.

If your child is interested in martial arts the good rule of thumb is to start them young. In this way, martial arts become an extension of self. It becomes part of you, and you develop abilities right away. Kids no longer have to worry about bullies in school – they know how to protect themselves and will continue to do so through adulthood.

The most popular martial at Shaolin Self Defense is Shaolin Kempo Karate because it is the most well rounded. The aspects of it gives skills to go anywhere in life.

Shaolin Self Defense offers Peewee or Junior classes at $99 a month. They also offer price breaks for a 3 month class membership for $275 or 6 months for $525. You can break up these costs and pay as you go. There is also a 10 percent discount for families. Martial arts stays with you for life. The more classes you participate in the more you progress to advanced material. Chris Quarlena also offers private instruction and birthday parties for the kids.

But the best part for Chris is seeing the kids grow and thrive, not just physically, but emotionally as well. “You can see the kids making improvement, even if it's just throwing a punch,” he says. “That creates a sense of satisfaction – and parents see it too!”

Shaolin Self Defense Center is located at 22211 Sherman Way in Canoga Park. Call them at (81)8 912-6625 or log onto

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