As we round out a week spent talking about health and fitness as it pertains to body image, our featured spotlight is on a local company with 2 area schools bringing you the world’s most popular martial art, Tae Kwon Do. Read on as we talk to Rob Fox of Lupo TKD, and find out what makes this school special and what it has to offer you!
Where are you located and how long have you been there?
Lupo TKD opened its first Tae Kwon Do school, United Sports Tae Kwon Do, in 2011, inside the United Sports Training Center in Downingtown, PA. This year, we launched a new location, Bucksmont Tae Kwon Do, inside the Bucksmont Indoor Sports Center in Hatfield, PA.
What is your professional background?
I spent twenty years working in market research. Most of that time was with the ESPN Sports Poll, an organization that I helped to launch in 1995. It was a great job for a sports fan. We worked with all of the professional sports leagues and their sponsors like Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola to help them to understand what motivated sports fans. Organizations used our information to guide sponsorship and other kinds of marketing decisions. I spent five of those years working in the pharmaceutical industry helping drug companies to design and market products that would meet physicians’ needs and interests.
How did you get into Tae Kwon Do and how did that translate into opening up this studio?
My co-worker and good friend, Frank Lupo, opened a Tae Kwon Do school and invited me to train there around 2003. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it, and certainly didn’t plan to earn a Black Belt. In 2009, Mr. Lupo passed away at the age of 37. By that point, he was like a brother to me. Following a lay off in the fall of 2010, I had trouble finding work like so many people. I had planned to retire in my mid-50s to open up a Tae Kwon Do school. Mr. Lupo’s death reminded me that life is shorter than we plan, and the lay-off was the motivation I needed. I approached United Sports and started the program inside their facility, which attracts over a million sports-minded families a year. The school took off, and at that point it became harder to get a job because people didn’t think I could be dedicated to them and run my school. I jumped into the school full-time and planned to make it my career. The majority of my students are kids, and helping them to reach their goals is far more fulfilling than helping XYZ Corporation to earn more profit. Last month, we presented our first Black Belts with the name Lupo TKD embroidered on them. Now, people who never knew Frank will wear his name and his impact on me has been, and will continue to be paid forward.
Can you tell me a little about what Tae Kwon Do can do for people/ how they can benefit from it?
Tae Kwon Do is the world’s most popular martial art, practiced by more than 70 million people in over 200 countries. It is a traditional martial art distinguished for the speed, power, and precision of its kicking techniques. Eighty-five percent of our students are children, ages four and up. Their parents want them to learn better self-control and self-confidence. They want them off the couch and away from the electronics for a bit. Regardless of a child’s physical or cognitive ability, we take them from where they are now to the next level. Roughly 30% of my students have Individual Education Program (IEPs) at school and are challenged by ADHD, Autism, auditory processing, etc. They often fail in team sports because they lack the coordination of communication skills they require. In Tae Kwon Do, success is measured by personal improvement, not athletic skill. Kids find they can be successful in a sport. In addition to the fitness and flexibility, our students learn to live by five tenets: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. Everything we do is a means to instilling those ends. Our slogan is “More than Just Fitness.” Tae Kwon Do is also a modern-day Olympic sport. The United States is a strong competitor on the world stage and our school is a proud member of USA Taekwondo, the National Governing Body of the US Olympic Committee. Our students, who like to compete, participate in State and National Championships. For those who do not enjoy contact sports, we compete in Poomsae as well. These are choreographed series of movements that demonstrate technique, power, balance, precision, and the beauty of Tae Kwon Do.
Is there anything that sets your studio apart from others?
There are two things parents love most about our program. One is the flexible schedule. So many kids’ programs are highly structured and I want people to be able to fit Tae Kwon Do into their busy lives. That is why we offer unlimited classes. At United Sports, we have classes six days a week so there are lots of choices. Bucksmont is a newer location so we operate four days a week there. Come when you can, but try to come to at least two classes per week. The other great thing about our school that my competition hates is our 50% discount for multiple family members. We offer family classes so moms and dads can train with their kids. Family members receive a workout at their own level but share the experience of progressing through the ranks together. This gives them plenty to talk about at the dinner table and in the car. I like to educate parents about the martial arts industry. So many have been burnt by poor business practices in our industry that is highly fragmented and unregulated. All industries have good and bad businesses, and you need to know the right questions to ask a school that you are considering for you or your child. For example, it takes four years to earn a Black Belt at my locations. That belt is sanctioned by the World Taekwondo Headquarters in Seoul, and will be recognized around the world for the life of the student. So many of the schools out there don’t tell you when you sign up that the belt they offer is recognized only at their school or among locations within their franchise or organization. There is nothing wrong with that. I am just saying, let people know when they sign up. Similarly, our curriculum is the same worldwide. Our Black Belts can walk into any World Taekwondo Federation school in the world and take or even teach a class. This becomes important should you move, or if the child wants to train in college or as an adult. I think it is important that prospective students know this before they invest a couple of thousand dollars over several years of dedicated training. Parents should ask schools they are considering who sanctions their Black Belts. Anyone can buy a black belt. In our program, you are not a Black Belt until a Master with at least ten years of experience as a Black Belt (fourth degree) says you are ready. Please do not hesitate to ask who will be teaching the class. It is normal to have youth senior students assisting, but there should be an adult Black Belt on the floor at all times. Know who will teach the classes, and ask if they have passed police background checks.
Are there any special classes/offers (camps, parties, kids stuff etc)?
Yes. Our birthday parties are awesome! The kids have an age-appropriate martial arts experience for all their friends capped off by the birthday boy or girl cutting the cake with a real sword (with instructor assistance of course). We do weeklong full day camps at both locations. At the end of the week, students can test for their Yellow Belt and join our school in the fall as Yellow Belts if they like. The camp teaches beginners all the basics and keeps them moving non-stop. They work on interpersonal and leadership skills that will prepare them for the new school year. What other camps promise that? For the serious competitor, we participate on a regional competition team run by my friend, Master Antonio Orlando. He is an amazing coach who prepares the kids for the sport-side of Tae Kwon Do. For adults looking to train in self-defense only, we offer Combat Hapkido at United Sports in addition to our traditional Tae Kwon Do program. This strips out the sport aspect of martial arts to concentrate on practical street-wise self-defense.
How can people find you?
In the Downingtown area, visit unitedsportstkd.net. Those living near Hatfield should go to bucksmonttkd.com. Both websites offer a $69 six-week special that includes a free uniform. Or, call me at 717-469 LUPO (5876).