These five points have helped hundreds of people JUST LIKE YOU Discover issues with starting a After School that they NEVER would have considered – issues to be Excited about, WARY about, and everything in between!

1) Safety

The number one MOST important thing that should be stressed in an After School Program is safety. From the drills that are done in class, to the way the warm-up is presented, Safety has to be paramount through and through.

You would think that because it’s “Martial Arts” it might be inherently dangerous, and you wouldn’t be alone. But honestly, and it’s because we make safety a priority, we RARELY have an injury in class. In fact, regularly we see our students coming INTO the school with injuries from soccer, dance class, and just plain living normal lives – Mercer Island Martial Arts is often the safest place they go!

3) We Understand Children

Please be sure that the After School program that you choose understands children! The reality is that many After School programs enroll children, but employ staff that just doesn’t really understand how to interact with them.

The instructors at Mercer Island Martial Arts are true pros when it comes to working with kids.  The staff directly working with the children have been trained in the most modern educational and psychological principles.  They are lead by Master MeLisa Strongheart who holds a Master’s in Psychology, and has been working as a professional teacher for over 20 years, and by Master Krista Wells who also has a psychology degree as well as is a trained recreation therapist.

From the staff who pick your kids up at the bus, such as Instructor Claudia Vlcek -- a 3rd dan black belt, with 20+ years of martial arts training, to our volunteers such as Shelly Krispin who works at Islander Middle School --- you will find courteous, dedicated, and highly motivated people working with the kids.

At Mercer Island Martial Arts, you won’t find yelling, frustration or anger in our instructors. You’ll see experienced, solid leadership, which is exactly what children need. We’ve been doing it for a long time, and we’re good at helping children WANT to succeed, and helping them to develop their strengths!

3) We are Fitness Oriented

The BIGGEST difference between a GREAT program and an inferior program is the INHERENT use of fitness in the classes. I’m not talking about jumping jacks and pushups necessarily. I’m talking about kids while they’re learning techniques that are super fun.

This happens in our After School program because they’ll be working constantly throughout the day with the instructors and other students in exciting situations and drills where they’re constantly using new muscle groups that just aren’t used in “normal” daily life or exercise in PE at school.

4) We Teach Respect

Because we’re a Martial Arts school, respect is in our DNA! We have a culture of respect throughout our school, and it benefits kids tremendously, because it helps them be more respectful outside of our school.

Our martial arts school is a traditional martial arts school that teaches Self-Defense, not a Self-Defense school that just teaches techniques. So with us, there’s no doubt that Respect foremost in our school’s “Culture” – from the front

desk to the mat, we give it to get it, not the other way around.

5)Structured Curriculum

Imagine what it would be like if school teachers just showed up to class and taught whatever they wanted – no syllabus, no [structured] curriculum – just by the seat of their pants, based on their own experience. It would certainly be fun for the teacher (and the students) for a while, but eventually, the teacher would run out of “experience” and the student would run out of “preparation” – meaning, they wouldn’t be ready for the next, harder set of challenges.

Be sure that the program you choose doesn’t just teach by the “Seat of their Pants”.

At our Mercer Island Martial Arts school, our curriculum isn’t just structured, it’s flexible as well. Flexible enough to be individualized (allowing people with different goals to approach the same technique or challenge with varying levels of intensity and purpose) to YOUR CHILD as a student. In fact, it’s part of our staff’s responsibilities to review classes each day and note anything that WASN’T flexible for a student. Then we work together with our decades of Martial Arts and teaching knowledge to ensure that it’s fixed – that week.

Bonus: We have a Great Facility

It’s important that a good After School program be housed in a good facility, for Safety, comfort, and proper training. There should be proper safety mats on the floor, up to date equipment in good working order, etc. You do NOT want to take class somewhere that’s dirty, unkempt, or just plain run-down.

Our facility isn’t just clean (our staff has a daily cleaning checklist that includes not just cleaning at the end of the day – but throughout the day’s classes – you’ll often see them cleaning areas while you’re actually working out), it’s modern, bright and classy. Our goal is to make you FEEL comfortable and BE safe.

It is also large, twice as large as most martial arts studios.   This gives the kids plenty of room to run, jump, spin, fly, and kick.    that reminds me ---

Oh, and we keep it Fun! –

It HAS to be FUN! We’ve been teaching Martial Arts to children here on Mercer Island since 1997, and we figured out a LONG time ago, that if our students were going to get good at Martial Arts, they have to REGULARLY come to class. If they came to class and it was boring and terrible, they weren’t going to come at all! So we had to find a way to keep kids FOCUSED while having FUN, and over the years we’ve really perfected it. 

We literally use FUN and FOCUS as a way to improve the Quality of Life of our students. They love it, and you’ll love it too!

If you need more information or you would like to schedule a time to meet with our instructors, Masters, or staff, and look at our school further: check your email and click one of the links. We’ll answer your questions, and get everything setup for you.

We’ll see you soon!

About the Author:
MeLisa Turcott Strongheart is a Master Instructor and owner at Mercer Island Martial Arts. She is a 7th Dan Master Instructor. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology, Mental Health Counseling. She brings these two areas of specialization to her work with families, children, teens, and in designing curriculum.

Master Strongheart emphasizes and has taught thousands of students the value and power of respect. Respect for oneself, others, and the community.

(MIMA), located on Mercer Island between Bellevue and Seattle in Washington is celebrating 24 years on the island in 2021. MIMA's curriculum is intentionally designed to build fitness, flexibility, self-defense, as well as to create a milieu that engenders physical and psychological growth, respect, courage, community activism and leadership.

MIMA has programs for families to practice side by side, as well as adult, teen, and children's classes. Also offers before and after school, and summer camp programs for kids.

You can contact through email:; calling 206 230-9050.

The school is located at:
2630 77th Ave SE #106-108 Mercer Island, WA 98040
Parking free under the building.

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