Wendy’s dojo at 12 Bridge Street in Westford is a traditional Japanese martial arts studios, with the obligatory connection to family. Uechi-Ryu, which is Wendy Kessler’s special discipline within the martial arts sphere, originated in Okinawa, Japan. “In Okinawa,” said Kessler, “the dojo is connected to the family. Most often the family lives upstairs of the dojo.”
So Kessler and her 20-year immersion in the self-defense world, wanted to replicate that authenticity by opening Kessler Karate Academy on her own property. After 15 years in Billerica, Kessler Karate expanded to Westford, where her family teaches other families the
authentic version of Uechi-Ryu, into now the two locations.
For more than 5 years she has operated the relocated academy, seeing membership swell to 80 students of all ages and skill levels. The classes are conducted in age groups, led by Sensie Wendy and Sensei Elijah, her son. Those teachings include self-defense but Kessler refers to it more as “defense of self” meaning that one objective is to instill confidence in people.
Her alternative approach to teaching martial arts involves the entire self, not just the physical skills. “With self-confidence people have the courage to stand up for their values and not to worry about other people’s opinions of them. We focus on skills needed for not only self-defense, but life skills that enhance social, emotional and academic development.”
The well-lit and tidy dojo at the back of the Kesslers’ property is a place of focus and training, completely devoid of distractions. “It is a very welcoming place,” said Evan Caten, whose son Cooper is a student of Sensei Elijah. “He (Cooper) took to it right away and really enjoys coming here.” Caten found Kessler Karate Academy after an online search for local dojos. “They had great reviews,” he said. And with lessons available for kids in Cooper’s age group, the choice was an easy one.
Kessler, a state-employee during the day, says that one of the principles of Uechi-Ryu is to assume the likelihood that you may get hit first. “So we toughen up the body, to absorb the blow,” while teaching the mind to discover that you are not broken after an attack. “learn to be comfortable getting hit.” Then the training and confidence will allow for a calm counterstrike.
Kessler also has a competition team known as Habu-kai, named after a deadly snake native to Okinawa. The tournaments are mostly intramural but afford the opportunity for students to test their development, gain confidence and allow for family members to see them in action.
For more information or to enroll in KKA classes, visit their website or follow on Facebook.