United Martial Arts under new management

Photo Provided John Stewart, from left, is shown with Jayson Clark, Benny Provenzano, Brendan Miller and Fred McGaffick after Clark and Miller were awarded their second-degree black belts. Provenzano’s United Martial Arts studio is now under the management of Stewart and McGaffick.

United Martial Arts under new management

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — This June marked a change in ownership at United Martial Arts with the retirement of owner Benny Provenzano.

Provenzano has been active in the martial arts for more than 62 years and has promoted more than 85 black belts in his career. Beginning in June, he will no longer be instructing full time at United Martial Arts. He will be working with the black belts and higher rank students on Saturdays when available.

He is the former owner of the Pro Health spa in Wintersville and holds a second-degree black belt in Kung Fu. He trained with Leo Fong in Wei Kuen Do, with black belt Mike Stone, and achieved his fifth-degree black belt degree from world champion and superstar Bill “Superfoot” Wallace. He received his fourth-degree black belt in the Chuck Norris System and his ninth-degree in the United Martial Association. He was personally trained by Norris and served as a board member in the United Fighting Arts and received the first Instructor of the Year award bestowed by Norris.

“My goal has always been to help every student be the best they can be physically and emotionally regardless of their ability,” he said. “I’ve been involved in various areas of the martial arts. My students have entered many competitions and done countless demonstrations. I taught after-school programs and held karate tournaments to benefit Muscular Dystrophy (Association), Youth Services System and Easter Seals. I was honored to do a seminar at West Point.

“I want to thank all of my students and families for the wonderful memories and for sharing your lives with me. You hold a special place in my heart,” he said.

He has passed the studio on to John Stewart and Fred McGaffick, both fourth-degree black belts.

“They are exceptional individuals, and I am confident in their knowledge of the martial arts and their teaching ability,” he said.

“I’ve been associated with the studio for probably going on 18 years. I had started my 6-year-old son at the time,” Stewart said. “I said, ‘What if we do it together?’ So we started doing it together, and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

His son is now a second-degree black belt, helping to instruct students.

“It came from some interest that I had, but also something I could do with my son, that we could do together,” Stewart said, adding that he found martial arts put an emphasis on character building.

“It’s done a lot for me and also for my son. He was kind of quiet, timid, and it developed his self-confidence a lot and mine as well. It’s not just about punching and kicking as Mr. Provenzano always said. It’s a lot more than that. It teaches you the flexibility, the balance, the self-defense, the strength in kicking and sparring, but it’s also designed to overall make you a better person,” he said.

“As I’ve gotten older, because I started a little later in life, it’s helped me physically to be able to stay pretty physically healthy. It’s something Mr. Provenzano has proved, 78 years old and he’s still doing it. It’s not like a lot of sports where you get to a point where you can’t continue it. This is something you could do throughout your lifetime if you want,” Stewart said. “He can always teach you something new. He’s like the encyclopedia of martial arts.”

“It’s definitely a lifetime thing that will keep you busy and keep you active. It’s not overly intensive on your joints, and it keeps your back stretched out,” McGaffick said.

He also began with his son, who had problems with Achilles tendons in kindergarten.

“We wanted to get him something that was regimented and physical to help him out,” McGaffick said. “It teaches a lot of situational awareness, too. Always be ready. That’s a main focus, too, so you’re not that person who’s being overwhelmed in any situation. We want to make people aware, and they have the ability to control the situation.”

“In today’s world with all these shootings and everything that goes on in the schools, I think somebody that has a background in what we teach them would be much better prepared to deal with that than somebody who’s not been acclimated to the martial arts,” Stewart said.

Stewart added that they will continue Provenzano’s tradition of asking students to bring report cards to class to show they are doing academically well. They added that United Martial Arts teaches fighting that originated from the Korean martial arts style, Tang Soo Do, later modified by Norris.

McGaffick added that their current students are young and not tournament-ready, with the average age of 10 or 11, but students range from 6 years old to their 60s. Two students, ages 14 and 15, who have been working on the martial arts since they were 6 years old, recently earned their second-degree black belts.

United Martial Arts is open 6-8:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday through the summer. During fall, Saturday classes will resume. The studio is located at 98 N. Market St. For more information, contact unitedmartialartsinc1@gmail.com.