It’s a family affair at Valentin Karate
SOUTHINGTON – In the mid 1970s, Efrain Valentin’s parents enrolled him in a martial arts class so he could gain self confidence. Little did they know they were laying the groundwork for his future career as founder of Valentin Karate.
“Everyone was into Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and ‘Kung Fu,’” he said. “All the kids wanted to do martial arts.”
So Valentin attended two-hour classes three days a week and progressed through the ranks. He enjoyed it so much that he became a Master Instructor of Tang Soo Do, a Korean form of martial arts, and opened his first martial arts school in Meriden 23 years ago. Then he opened the Plantsville location in 2002. Six years later he gave up his career as a licensed plumber to teach full time. In 2010, he opened a third school, located in Berlin.
The business is truly a family one. Valentin’s six sons also took martial arts classes and the older ones help out at their father’s schools.
Six of his seven sisters took classes, as do all this nephews and nieces who are at least three years old.
His wife Rachel Valentin is also a Master Instructor and the main instructor at the Plantsville location. Many in the family have earned Black Belts.
Although he is not Asian, Valentin enjoys the ancient martial arts. And a little bit of it may be in his blood.
“My great-great grandmother was Chinese, so we look Oriental,” he said. “It’s good for business.”
Although many of Valentin’s students compete, Tang Soo Do is more than a sport.
“It’s not just kick, punch, get a trophy and go home,” he said. “We reinforce what parents, teachers and religious leaders teach the kids. That’s respect, confidence, honesty, integrity and perseverance.
“I tell the kids it’s like learning to ride a bike or walk,” he added. “When you fall down, you get back up and try again. As we get older we feel that we can’t do things. I want to build confidence in them so they feel that they can do things.”
Adults can also learn Tang Soo Do.
“Some of our adult students do it for their health,” he said. “Some want to be good role models for their kids, some like the challenge and some just want to get a little bit of exercise.”
Classes are ongoing, so customers can enroll anytime. Classes range from 30 to 60 minutes and are held at various times according to the schedule.
On Wednesday afternoon, Valentin and assistant teacher Thomas Rossi, who is also a six-year student, worked with a group of six young students at the Plantsville school. They did drills of basic moves. Some students went up in front of the class with Valentin to demonstrate what they have learned. Two of them were five year old Patrick and six year old Maura Lewonka, whose mother and grandparents sat in the audience watching.
“They love it,” said Ellen Lewonka, mother of the two. “And they have become more disciplined and better at listening and following directions.”
The Southington location of Valentin Karate is located at 991 South Main St. in Plantsville and can be reached at 860-621-1474.