A martial arts business whose athletes routinely earn national titles recently moved into Middletown. The approximately 5,000-square-foot training facility at 1725 Yankee Road was a structure that had been vacant for more than a year before Rob and Melissa Gerhardt renovated it into the second home of Budokai Academy of Martial Arts. CONTRIBUTED

Martial arts academy moves to Middletown, renovates vacant building

A martial arts business whose athletes routinely earn national titles recently moved into Middletown.

The approximately 5,000-square-foot training facility at 1725 Yankee Road was a structure that had been vacant for more than a year before Rob and Melissa Gerhardt renovated it into the second home of Budokai Academy of Martial Arts.

Making the move to Middletown from Fairfield Twp. was a result of the academy’s expanding student practitioners and competitors, she said. Budokai Academy has 11 high-level black belt instructors, three of whom are master instructors and most of whom still compete and hold national and international titles.

“The building that we were in before was a total of 2,100 square feet,” Melissa Gerhardt said. “The mat space we have in the new space is 3,000 square feet, so we have 900 more square feet of mat space than we had building.”

The school offers Tae Kwon Do, Olympic Sparring, Hapkido, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and Cardio Kickboxing, making it what Melissa Gerhardt said is “the only martial arts school in the Tri-State that offers all these arts under one roof.”

“It’s great because parents, teenagers and smaller children all have sometnig. There’s literally something for every age, so they can find value,” she said.

Gerhardt said she and her husband are excited to contribute to economic growth in Middletown, which is home to two-time Olympic Gold medalist Kayla Harrison, who trained with Frank Herzog, Budokai Academy’s Judo sensei.

Budokai Academy of Martial Arts’ class schedule is at www.budokaiacademy.com. A grand opening event is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 20.

The school recently took students to compete at the national level for the fourth consecutive year with more competitors than ever before and several more national titles.

Fourteen athletes qualified and 13 competed at the event, with one not doing so because of injury. Budokai Academy athletes earned 21 medals: nine gold, five silver and seven bronze. Twelve of the 13 competitors placed in the top three of their events.

“The best of the best compete at this level and we train all year for this one-week tournament,” Melissa Gerhardt said. “Our competition team trains 6 days a week for about four to six hours a day to earn their spot.

“All sparring events are one and done, so if you lose the first round, you’re out.”

Nationals are held annually by the Amateur Athletic Union. In order to qualify to compete, athletes must place in the top 8 at an AAU-sanctioned event during the tournament season. This year, nationals was held July 1-6 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Next year’s tournament will be at the MGM Grand Las Vegas.

“The tournament is so large it lasts six days and competitors come from all over the world for this event,” Melissa Gerhardt said.

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