BURRILLVILLE – She works with students both young and old, teaching confidence and focus, and after years of instructing others in martial arts, Audrey Hussey notes that everyone has one thing in common.
“People want to hit stuff, and the ones that don’t have never tried,” Hussey said. “It’s such a stress relief and an endorphin rush.”
But students at Hussey’s new Village Martial Arts studio on Chapel Street are learning much more than just how to throw a punch.
A third-degree black belt with training in Kempo, Goju Ryo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Hapkido, and Aikido, Hussey has been training in martial arts since 1999. She’s trained exclusively in the Korean art of Tang So Doo since 2010, and has recently been promoted to third degree in the Cheezic Tang So Doo Federation.
The physical studio is the result of more than a year of preparation, and the business owner has faced more than a few curve balls in accomplishing her plan.
A Connecticut native, Hussey began teaching karate to students at both Callahan and Steere Farm Elementary Schools in 2019 while searching for a brick-and-mortar location somewhere in town.
She had difficulty finding space in Burrillville appropriate for her needs and once she did, the building owner was having trouble bringing the property up to code, leading to more delays.
Meanwhile, her after-school classes came to a screeching halt due to COVID-19.
Hussey heeded the governor’s advice to “take it outside,” over the summer, teaching classes at the pavilion in Harrisville through collaboration with the Burrillville Parks and Recreation Department.
And she finally located her studio space in October: a 1,100 square-foot former hair salon in the same building as North Country convenience store. After a month of renovation, she was ready to bring life to the space, which had been vacant for several years.
Within just weeks, the governor announced a statewide “pause,” that would effectively shut down her classes through mid-December.
Now, at last, Hussey is fully up and running, and notes that the confidence, exercise and focus karate can provide people is more needed than ever.
“Current circumstances have had a major impact on our lives, and we need the physical outlet, peer support, and guidance in boosting our self-esteem,” her website notes.
Many of her former after-school students have followed the instructor and her son Jonah, a high school freshman, is now working as her apprentice.
The studio offers group classes for kids ages 5 through 8, and 9 through 12, along with an adult class for students age 13 and up during the evenings Monday through Thursday, as well as Saturday daytime classes.
She’s also launching a weekday class focused on home school families, where like-minded parents can learn marital arts with their kids.
Hussey estimates that 50 percent of the kids in her 9 through 12 class have been victims of bullying – a problem she works to address through instruction.
“Their confidence is in the toilet,” Hussey said. “This is not to teach them how to fight. It’s to teach them the confidence to know what to do in the situation.”
“It has very little to do with kicking and punching,” she added. “That’s just the fun part.”
At classes this week, the instructor maintained a cheerful but serious demeanor that commanded respect, patiently correcting her student’s planking position.
“You are strong,” she said as one agile young woman held the position.
The most satisfying aspect of instruction, Hussey said, is watching her students’ progress.
“It changes them. It makes them stronger in ways where parents are shocked,” Hussey said.
“Schools can’t teach them everything. I’m looking at each kid. I’m holding them accountable for their behavior. They learn so much more than just how to throw a round house.”
Hussey still competes in point sparring in the regional circuit and notes that schedules are made to give students enough time to retain lessons, and advance through the ranks – which is helpful for those who wish to compete or become instructors themselves.
But she also hopes to cater to those just looking for a great workout who are not as interested in competing or earning belts and plans to launch a kickboxing class in the near future focused on sparring drills and technique.
She’s currently offering a one-week free trial for new students.
“This area is so devoid of anything not school sports-related,” Hussey said. “It’s somewhere to go that is a safe environment for little kids.:
She plans to expand the class and schedule and is hoping to move to town once the studio fills up.
“I really like Burrillville,” she said. “The people there just seem really down to earth and friendly.”
Village Martial Arts offers something for all ages and experience levels. To learn more or sign up for a free trial week visit www.villagetsd.com.