I knew I was going to be interviewing a local gentleman who is revered as a luminary in the field of martial arts. John Maynard, the owner of Champion Martial Arts, and 8th degree black belt has an impressive lineage which includes notable names like Chuck Norris and Joe Lewis. His office is adorned with a collage of accolades and awards. On the walls are photos of John on covers of magazines such as Tae Kwon Do and Black Belt; names like Bill Wallace and Roger Greene are prominently displayed. I understood that this array represents a lifetime of achievement, but it really didn’t register for me since martial arts was a discipline I had entertained as a youngster with a few weekend classes, but quickly abandoned for the comfort of Saturday morning cartoons.
Before our meeting, I expected to endure the typical high-testosterone, grandiose attitude that seems to go along with being a badass. On the periphery, I had also heard that John developed a training system for state, regional, and local law enforcement used to sharpen firearm precision and combat readiness. Initially, I was the least bit eager to step foot into what I imagined was a sweaty, pugnacious environment. To add to this, I certainly wasn’t motivated to write about fighting and firepower in the same article.
It wasn’t until I met John in person that my opinions and beliefs were totally dismantled. There is no denying John has a formidable presence, but I found him to be humble, engaging, and fully committed to helping others. The gym’s atmosphere was not as I imagined. Those whom I met were friendly and eager to answer questions. John is a very passionate man and it was easy to see that his focus was on working to empower men and women, alike. After spending time with John it’s exceedingly clear that he has great respect for our military and law enforcement and admits he feels that it is an honor and a pleasure to help the individuals that put their lives on the line for our freedoms and liberties. John repeatedly makes the point that “this isn’t about me, it’s about passing on what I’ve learned.”
Growing up in West Virginia with an abundance of energy and perpetuance for distraction, John credits his father with recognizing this and directing his path toward positive outlets. The admiration John has for his father is evident, a former military sergeant, he taught John how to handle his first firearm. His mother too has been a supportive force and a prayer warrior.
Champion Martial Arts runs the gamut when it comes to fitness and self-defense. They offer classes that incorporate a myriad of different styles and routines ranging from martial arts to kickboxing and personal training. John has also developed a new system of combative shooting. I wondered what the two had to do with each other. “Martial arts leads into firearms,” he said. I still couldn’t wrap my mind around that.
After a little instruction a light bulb came on and I finally made the connection between the two. It was then that I understood how the two go hand in hand. The crux of it all begins with a firm foundation. When you’re involved in any type of self-defense there are certain innate reactions that occur. When you apply these same methods to shooting a firearm, the results can be extraordinary.
John emphasizes the gravity of handling firearms by reaffirming that an individual is both accountable and responsible. One of the biggest take-aways I garnered is preparedness, and when you think about it, it makes sense. We all hope that it never happens, but during a chance attack, do you know what you’re going to do? Do you have a plan? Granted the bad guys don’t care about rules and there is no proper decorum for criminal behavior, but being prepared for a potential threat is key to influencing the outcome.
As John explains, fighters need to stay active, they need to prepare to be combat ready. “Training saves lives,” he insists. Learning a few simple techniques and practicing them can determine the difference between life and death.
To some, John has broken with traditional methods. The system he has developed for firearm use is not what historically has been taught, and many are not happy with his departure from those predominant teachings. In spite of this, the truth is that his technique is intuitive and harnesses natural instincts that most people possess, then applies it to a combative scenario.
This approach leads to better handling, and with a slight cantoning of the firearm, it makes all the difference in the world. In fact, I can attest to this method. I attended a women’s shooting session where John offers weekly instruction, and with slight adjustments, I was shooting more proficiently and with a higher accuracy. I was amazed. I felt more empowered and confident because my body was in a more natural position than the basic isosceles stance that has been tirelessly taught. I had better control of the firearm and felt a greater connection to it. It was as if it became part of me, almost like an extension of my fists rather than a feeling of separation between myself and a piece of steel.
Additionally, my ability to see the target and the sights simultaneously was enhanced. The traditional method of shooting has you looking down the barrel, unconsciously blinking one eye, then the next, to determine where your target really is. The time it takes to negotiate your depth perception are seconds that could save your life. John has also developed his own sights that make it much simpler to line up your target.
I encourage anybody and everybody looking to become empowered or build on what they know to check out Champion Martial Arts. Whether it’s for fitness or self-defense, I’d wager you won’t be sorry you took the time. There is a real familial feel at the gym, and everyone is friendly and supportive.
John is really dedicated to helping women learn to protect themselves.
Howard Asberry who has been coming for the last month claims, “I’ve been on a journey to find something different,” he says. “At other gyms, nobody talks to you, including the staff.” At Champion Martial Arts where he has taken a few of the classes, he finds that everyone is congenial and immediately he “felt at home.”
During a kickboxing fitness class, I spoke with Sara Hollingsworth who shared why she continues to return. “This is not like any other kickboxing class,” she says, “John is really dedicated to helping women learn to protect themselves.”
Janie Ward, who heads a few weekly circuit training classes at the gym admits that she used to go to another local gym but began coming to Champion because she “wanted to learn how to kickbox for real.”
Angela DeArmitt who has been a member for the last two years had suffered a stroke before coming. “I came and never left,” she says, “It has been wonderful.” They took her under their wing, and slowly helped her progress. The gym has helped her improve her balance and build muscle and “get her closer to where she was before her stroke.”
Lauren Gartland who has become a fixture at the gym originally came for fitness. Being interested in acting and stage combat, her time at the gym has readied her to begin pursuing that career. “John has been a big help, he’s very supportive,” she says.
Many have come and many have stayed. Lee Roderick came to the gym 16 years ago and now runs the Personal Training Program. Champion Martial Arts is a gym like no other and John Maynard is an instructor like no other. He is fully committed to helping people find the tools and techniques to protect themselves and their families and his efforts are recognized. To add to many of the recognitions he has received over the years, he recently was honored by the North Carolina DMV License and Theft Bureau in appreciation for his vision and instruction to law enforcement.
All of my preconceptions were dashed the moment I entered Champion Martial Arts and met John and his students. His demeanor and methods help to instill confidence for those wanting to defend themselves and their loved ones. He is dedicated to what he does and truly desires to help people. We should all feel proud and honored to have someone like John, a man of commitment and vision, in the heart of our community.
Written by Kharin Gibson | Photography by Kimberly Dam