Building character through martial arts
In 2005 Justin Dunham exited off the turnpike into Jenks having spent his last 60 cents to pay the toll. Today, he’s leading the area’s foremost martial arts academy.
Dunham moved to the Tulsa area in 2005 for a work opportunity and two years later his life took him down the path that led him to where he is today.
In 2007 Dunham took over a dying martial arts school of 20 students. In 2019, Jenks Martial Arts Academy is at capacity.
It took Dunham some time and growing over the last 12 years to get JMAA to where it is now, but it’s all part of the same process he instills in his students each day.
Dunham started in a small office space in the Elm Street Market building with a staff of just one, himself. Despite the lack of staff, he managed to bring more and more students in each week.
“It was to the point we had so many students, in good conscience I couldn’t sign them up,” Dunham said. “It was a good problem to have. I was there every morning at 10 and I was leaving around 10 every night. I answered the phone, I cleaned the bathrooms, I sold the t-shirts. It was a challenge.”
After five years in the first location, Dunham had the opportunity to own his own building. He purchased the old Jenks pharmacy building on West Main Street and converted it into the martial arts building he always wanted.
Jenks Martial Arts Academy doubled in size and then began to grow.
“Being able to add instructor programs really kind of sharpens the sword and decides who are we and each year we try to evolve and see what’s working and not working.”
The time spent at the second building was brief but important for the structure of the program heading forward.
Today, JMAA is housed at Titan Sports Complex. They sacrificed size for more convenient ways of people finding it.
But make no mistake JMAA is successful today because of where they’ve been and their dedication to creating great martial arts students.
“Our main focus, where we are right now, we are a character building program and our platform is teaching martial arts,” Dunham said. “Our business platform encourages goal setting and our instructors provide genuine feedback and a support system to help our students be successful in achieving goals. That’s where character comes in.”
The martial arts have proved to make this system effective.
JMAA activities include tae-kwon-do, krav maga, jiu jitzu and group self defense classes. All classes require students to work on meeting requirements, but tae-kwon-do is at the forefront.
“With each belt and each level, the students are required to meet A, B and C,” Dunham said. “As a beginner student they’re working on beginner techniques… As the students progress, the curriculum becomes more detailed and more challenging.”
JMAA isn’t going to let students have their ranks, they must earn them.
“One thing we pride ourselves on here is, we don’t give rank away,” Dunham said. “There are many schools out there that don’t conduct business the same way. One thing I feel everybody can agree on after experiencing JMAA, if someone has earned a belt or a stripe, it wasn’t given to them. It was well earned.”
What Dunham has learned in his time in Jenks building Jenks Martial Arts Academy has led him down a successful path. Teaching the next generation how to possess a strong work ethic is a point of pride with him.
Dunham hopes by teaching students how to deal with challenges it will help them in the future.
“What we’re doing is teaching character,” he said. “We’re giving, equipping and arming students with skills that are going to help them cope with challenges in life. When a student has the opportunity to move to the next level, they must meet the minimum standard… if the student can do it, great. If they can’t do it, then it’s only fair to keep that student at that level until they’re capable of achieving that and moving forward.”