There are several boutiques, a bank, a salon and few places to grab a bite to eat on Church Street. In the middle of these shops is Tom Defranzo’s Martial Arts Academy.
Tom took a few moments to talk to Winchester Patch about the art of Tae Kwon Do and the path that lead him to owning a dojang in Winchester.
How long has the Dojang been here?
15 years in October.
What style of martial arts is practiced here?
This is a traditional Korean style of Tae Kwon Do.
Is this considered a sport?
Well, Tae Kwon Do is an Olympic sport, so yes. I teach a very traditional form of Tae Kwon Do, so not so much the sport side. There are two different schools of thought. I am more of a traditional instructor than someone who just prepares someone for competition.
The students do compete against each other. It’s a full contact sport. There re some schools of thought where in order to move from one belt to the next, you have to learn a certain curriculum. There are schools that will only teach the sport aspect and not the curriculum. They only teach how to prepare for the competition. I teach both, I teach them how to prepare of a competition and the regular curriculum.
What’s the average age of your students?
I would say the average age is between 8 and 11. I start them when they’re 5 and I have a group of adults ranging between 30 and 55.
How did you get into martial arts?
I started when I was 6. Two of my friends in the first grade would take lessons. We would walk to school together and afterwards, they’d go to Tae Kwon Do and I’d go home because my mom had not enrolled me yet. Then she did. My two friends quit and I stuck to it. One of them is dead and the other is in jail for murdering someone. It’s weird how different paths go different ways. I was black belt at 13. Though it really means nothing, I was the national champion in 1991 and I was a qualifier for the Olympics in 1992 but I didn’t make the team. And I opened up this school in 1998.
If someone had no idea what they were getting into, how would you describe the classes?
Any martial art is an individually set program in a group environment. All kids learn at different paces. Just because your kid is 7 and your kid is 7, doesn’t mean that they’re going to move along together. They get a sense of being on a team, because they’re in a group, but they are going to go at their own pace.
The best thing about a good martial arts instructor is there should be at no point in time during a student’s training where an instructor will say, “You’re no longer good enough.” I played baseball from elementary school to high school, tried out for the college team, didn’t make it and that was the end of baseball. A martial arts program is an individualized self-improvement program.