Hamilton Herald Masthead Hamilton Herald


Front Page - Friday, November 6, 2009

Body Martial Arts training tomorrow’s warriors, leaders

Master and Chief Instructor Chris Edwards faces a young boy and bows. The child returns the gesture. “Take your place please, sir,” Edwards says as he begins class. The boy bounces into place alongside his fellow learners and awaits further instruction.
Moments later, Edwards is leading a small group of youth, ranging in age from single digits to the teens, through warm-ups, getting them loose for a Tae Kwon Do lesson. Some have more balance and skill than others, but all respond immediately to the words of their teacher.
“I speak life into my students,” Edwards says the following day, his new location on Adams Street now empty. “I call them young warriors and tell them they’re going to be great leaders someday. The military has time to break down soldiers and then build them back up; I only have time to build mine up.”
Edwards, 28, might not be what you expect in a martial arts instructor. He’s articulate and relaxed, he smiles a lot while talking and he emanates humility that seems to begin at a cellular level. Set Edwards loose with a pair of nunchucks, though, and look out.
The dozens of state and national trophies that line the wall of his school bear witness to his abilities. While Edwards has the right to brag, that’s not what the glittering display is about. Rather, he wants to motivate his students.
“They have fire in their eyes now, but that’ll eventually fade, and they’ll have to find new reasons to continue training,” says Edwards. “One of the biggest motivators is a tournament. That’s why I keep my trophies here.”
Edwards says he experienced many peaks and valleys, and overcame numerous obstacles, during his journey to become a teacher, but those merely gave him a greater capacity for encouraging his students when they hit a (figurative) wall.
When Edwards was 16, for example, he met his current master, who schooled him in Chinese Gung Fu. Edwards says the man changed his life.
“I’ll never forget the day we met,” Edwards says. “He grabbed a pair of nunchucks and exploded with the most speed I’d ever seen. It was amazing.”
As his training progressed, Edwards started to think of himself not as a Tae Kwon Doist, but as a martial artist, someone who respects and gains something from all the styles. He also realized he wanted to spend his life teaching others what he’d learned.
Edwards had a mountain to climb first, though.
“I was selfish. Everything I did in martial arts was for my glory,” he says. “I was training hard and doing well, but that was all I cared about. I wasn’t interested in building up others.”
At the same time, Edwards was dealing with personal issues that culminated in what he calls one of the worst years of his life.
“I got to the point where I didn’t want to do anything, so I gave my life to Christ,” says Edwards. “He ignited a spark in me and gave me a reason to do what I was doing. Martial arts is no longer about me; it’s about inspiring people to achieve greatness.”
After graduating from UTC with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, Edwards began giving private lessons part time while working in management for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. In 2007, he realized it was time to go “full out” with his plans to open a martial arts school.
Today, Edwards teaches Tae Kwon Do to youth, while adults have the option of learning Tae Kwon Do, Chinese Gung Fu or both. In his Tae Kwon Do classes, Edwards teaches basic kicks, punches, blocks, strikes, movements, stances, forms and sparring. One of his students won a state championship in 2008.
Edwards calls Chinese Gung Fu “deadly and beautiful” and says it takes years to master.
“If a student chooses to embark on this journey, he or she can expect to gain confidence, defend one’s self in a threatening situation, get in shape, be pushed to grow and have peace in all aspects of life,” his Web site, at www.bodymartialarts.com, reads.
Edwards says Southside is an appropriate home for Body Martial Arts, the school he opened this year, because of the extraordinary revitalization the area has experienced.
“When you’re learning martial arts, you’re always growing,” he says. “You can always continue the journey.”
The next step Edwards plans to take involves expanding Body Martial Arts into the “biggest and best” operation in Chattanooga. More than that, however, he wants to benefit the people of the city by doing something positive.
“I’m indebted to my students,” Edwards says. “The things I do aren’t about me; I have to teach others the things I’ve learned. Because it’ll be a travesty if I die without passing on my knowledge.”