North County is now home to an established martial arts brand with nearly 250 locations nationwide. Premier Martial Arts (aka PMA) franchise locations – known for their characteristically clean, fresh-smelling, and bright studios often in popular shopping locales – have a reputation for considering the parents’ mindset of the children they serve. Afterall, it’s mom or dad who often spends a significant amount of time within the studio walls while their kids are in class. The PMA model includes an intentional carve-out that prioritizes a clean, conveniently located, and comfortable environment for parents that’s fun and rewarding for kids!
Meet the owner – Morris Lifschutz
One of PMA’s newest San Diego franchise owners is Morris Lifschutz. Morris opened his Rancho Bernardo location in August 2022. Later this month, he will open a second location in Encinitas. Capitalizing on his carefully selected brand of martial arts studios and its relative absence in the area, Morris is also on track to open two additional North County locations, within the next two years, in Carmel Valley and in Escondido.
You may have guessed from the news of his plans for PMA that Morris Lifschutz has a head for business! His educational and professional background are extensive and includes, earning his bachelor’s degree from USC in 2007 and obtaining his MBA from UCI. Morris’ professional history includes leadership roles for major retailers Target and Apple, as well as management positions for Amazon and Lyft.
With such an extensive professional background, I wondered why Morris would leave the corporate world to begin anew with a string of franchises.
María: Why did you choose to open a martial arts studio?
Morris: After being in various corporate roles for the last 15 years, I never felt personally fulfilled and have been looking for small-business opportunities for my family and I for several years. When I came across the opportunity to bring Premier Martial Arts to San Diego, it checked all the boxes for me. The brand has an incredible curriculum to create future leaders through character development, help kids feel safe and learn self-defense, improve mental and physical health, and also a focus on building stronger communities. Having three young children myself, and after a few bad experiences in other local martial arts studios, I wanted to leverage my passion and strengths to deliver the same experience I had as a child.
That curiosity left me with more questions about PMA and its business model. I know other parents in North County will ask many of the same questions. So I thought asking them here would answer the preliminaries and streamline the process for parents interested in enrolling their kids at the new PMA location coming soon to Encinitas!
Morris and a connection to martial arts
With his impressive résumé, I was curious where martial arts fits into Morris’ life.
María: Why did you choose to open a martial arts studio?
Morris: For one, martial arts has always held a special place in my heart, due to the impact and influence it had on me as a child. At that time in my life, I wasn’t great in sports but found a love and passion for martial arts. It helped build my confidence and strength, and I went on to competitively play football, wrestling, track and field in high school as a result.
Your martial arts success as a kid is encouraging for parents who might have children who may not readily take on a sport. It seems – beyond the benefit of pursuing martial arts for its own traditions and self-defense – MA instruction may open up a renewed level of confidence in kids as they pursue other sports.
María: How extensive is your martial arts background?
Morris: As a child, [growing up in Apple Valley], I began my martial arts’ journey at the age of five years old and earned my Black Belt when I was 12.
María: What style of martial arts did you learn in your childhood?
Morris: I trained in a traditional style of Karate and was involved in weapons training, demo teams, and tournaments.
Now we’re clear on why Morris left the corporate world to pursue martial arts franchising. But we also want to know, generally, how the PMA brand is unique among its class of similar suburban MA studios. I wanted Morris to explain what set PMA apart from other martial arts’ instruction brands.
What makes the PMA brand unique?
María: How is the PMA brand unique and unlike other martial arts schools?
Morris: PMA is unique for many reasons. Our curriculum combines karate, kickboxing, taekwondo and krav maga into a realistic, practical application of self-defense. We believe that acting like a “Black Belt” is just as important as earning a Black Belt, so we focus on teaching our “Black Belt Excellence” principles to our students so they become better children and students inside our studio, at home, in school and in society. We have designed programs for kids beginning at the age of 3, that help them control their energy, improve their focus and concentration, improve their motor skills and coordination, and prepare to move up to the next level of classes.
María: Beyond classes, what are some of the other features that the PMA brand offers the surrounding community that made it an appealing investment?
Morris: We also strive to build a fun and inclusive atmosphere, by offering Parent’s Night Out opportunities, hosting birthday parties, free community workshops through our nonprofit Premier Kidz Foundation.
María: Do you personally teach classes or do you leave that to your hired instructors?
Morris: I mainly leave that to the hired instructors, but I love getting on the mat and assisting the children. It brings me such joy to help them learn a new technique, and the smiles on their faces when they accomplish something they thought was difficult. We have dedicated instructors and managers for each location, as I am overseeing both as a “Regional Manager” and in both studios nearly everyday.
María: How many instructors teach at each location?
Morris: Depending on the size, we have one head instructor and a number of part-time instructors.
María: Speaking of instructors, do they have to reach a certain level of proficiency in martial arts?
Morris: Yes, they have years of experience teaching and practicing martial arts in different styles before coming to Premier Martial Arts, to earn their black belts with us and begin teaching our curriculum.
María: Are instructors trained in each of those particular styles? If so, what is the process and how long is the training?
Morris: Yes, there is a style of teaching that instructors learn which makes us unique, effective and fun! Each instructor goes through a certification process with our national Premier Martial Arts team and our International Chief Instructor, Ken Brayman. The training begins from Day 1 through certification before they begin teaching, and then each year instructors go through additional training sessions 2-3 times a year to stay up to date, learn new techniques, and perfect their teaching skills.
All about the belts
Most of us have heard that earning your Black Belt is a big deal in martial arts. But, if you’re like me, you’re probably not aware of all the time and preparation that goes into achieving one. I thought this was a great time to get Morris’ input and clarify what the process is toward obtaining that highest level.
María: Please describe the belt progression – that is, the number of belts achievable and the number of months it typically takes kids to progress to the next level.
Morris: Most students, with great attendance, practice, and demonstration of our principles, can earn their next belt every 3 months and their Black Belt in about 3-4 years. It is our goal to develop our students into black belts.
Morris: When our students reach this goal, they will have experienced a journey that will be life changing and that will be an achievement that they will never forget. They will have developed confidence from being in the best shape of their lives [with] the ability to defend themselves. And through our personal development teachings they will have gained the focus, concentration, and the perseverance to never give up when things get tough!
María: Do all styles of martial arts use the belt system to mark achievement?
Morris: I believe so, it’s usually a combination of belt ranks and degrees of achievement in the higher ranking belts. Each style usually has a unique belt and color system.
Martial arts styles
María: What style of martial arts does PMA teach?
Morris: Students gain confidence from the ability to defend themselves and their families. Our curriculum combines karate, kickboxing, taekwondo and krav maga into a realistic, practical application of self-defense. Our programs also incorporate sparring drills without contact, weapons training, and board breaking.
María: Does each style have a different focus and goal? If so, please describe.
Morris: Krav Maga is incorporated into the curriculum as the kids get older and move into older age groups. PMA is a mixed martial arts system, a hybrid style that incorporates the techniques and concepts of Kickboxing, Israeli Krav Maga, Kali, and Submission Grappling.
- Kickboxing – modern applications of strikes, blocks and kicks, teaches the highest form of stand up fighting.
- Israeli Krav Maga – Israeli military, streetwise self-defense system, which gives students the ability to defend themselves regardless of how they might be attacked.
- Kali – Instruction of offense and defense of realistic stick and knife fighting.
- Submission Grappling – Incorporates releases from grabs and holds as well as ground defense.
It’s good to have a sense of the PMA instructors’ training in mixed martial arts and the belt system in place – structured with incremental rewards and belt color levels before reaching the pinnacle, black belt. Now let’s have Morris paint a picture of his actual PMA locations in Rancho Bernardo and the one soon to open in Encinitas.
Inside a PMA studio & class structure
María: What equipment will we find in a typical PMA studio?
Morris: High-quality Fuji mats, Wavemaster punching bags, and several other striking bags. We have plenty of chairs and clean restrooms, merchandise and extra striking bags available for purchase for those that want to practice at home, TV to display our social media feed and speakers to enjoy music during portions of the classes.
María: How often do you recommend kids take lessons in a given week?
Morris: We encourage students to attend twice a week, so they can effectively make progress towards their goals to earn the next belt rank.
María: What is the duration of each class?
Morris: Depending on the age, classes range from 30 minutes to 80 minutes.
María: What’s the youngest age you teach at PMA?
Morris: We have dedicated classes for ages 3-4 years, as well as dedicated classes for 5-7 years, 8-12 years, then Teens and Adults classes.
María: What’s the average age that most parents enroll their kids in martial arts classes?
Morris: I don’t have a specific age average available, but I can tell you the 5-7 age classes are the most popular right now.
María: Do older kids and teenagers generally find success as first-time participants in PMA classes?
Morris: Absolutely! Many older kids and teens are coming for different reasons, mostly to build physical strength and learn self-defense as they prepare for high school and college.
María: How many kids participate in a single class?
Morris: To provide quality instruction, we don’t allow more than 12-16 students to participate in a single class. This way, kids can receive enough repetition and attention on the mat from our instructors.
María: Are classes geared to particular age groups, or are classes built around skill level?
Morris: Age groups
María: Are kids given homework, like terms to know or moves to practice, in between class sessions?
Morris: Yes! I’m glad you asked. Each month, we focus on a different “Black Belt Excellence” topic to help our students learn and practice the qualities of a black belt or champion. These monthly leadership and character development topics range from Respect, Self-Discipline, Anger Management, Positive Self-Image, Anti-Bullying, and so on. We provide the students with homework, so they can read and practice these things at home and review with their parents, before turning it back in with their parent’s or teacher’s signature on it.
María: Are all classes in-studio or are some classes offered virtually?
Morris: We do have the capability to offer some virtual classes or private instruction as well.
María: Describe the class structure. Are there a set number of classes parents are required to enroll their children in?
Morris: Currently, members can choose a set schedule for two-classes a week that includes specific times on either Monday and Thursdays, or Tuesday and Fridays. This way, our class sizes are predictable and manageable, plus the children make friends and build relationships as they move up in belt ranks together.
María: Can a child jump into a first class at any time, or are PMA classes set up in sessions?
Morris: We begin every student with a private, 1-on-1 lesson with one of our instructors, so the child or adult can learn the basics of our programs and feel comfortable going into their first class. This also helps us better understand the student, their needs and goals, and how we can best support the family through martial arts. Because these are private lessons, we can schedule these around the families availability, then move the student into the regular class schedule they choose after that.
María: What do kids love most about taking classes at PMA?
Morris: Many kids will tell us that coming to PMA is the highlight of their day! They have built strong bonds with our instructors and other students, they love coming to classes each and every day. They always learn new things, classes are always changing and have high energy, plus they leave each day smiling and more confident than before.
María: Do you offer classes for adults?
Morris: Yes we do! These classes focus more on kickboxing and Krav Maga techniques, to build fitness and self-defense skills. For the adults, there is a more rigorous curriculum than for the children, which helps increase their stamina, physical and mental toughness, as well as defenses from gun, knife, and stick attacks.
Self-esteem and martial arts
You often hear about how engaging in martial arts instruction can boost a kid’s (or an adult’s) sense of self. I decided to ask Morris to drill down on the concept of self-esteem, especially since he mentioned that participating in MA lessons and classes as a kid boosted his courage and readied him to take on a variety of sports.
María: Generally, why do parents enroll their kids in martial arts classes?
Morris: Most of the common reasons we hear is to improve their focus and concentration, build confidence, and learn self-defense. Many other students enroll to better control their energy, learn self-discipline, and also increase their physical fitness level.
María: How does a child’s participation in martial arts aid self-esteem?
Morris: Because we teach a realistic self-defense (hybrid style) where students learn to defend themselves in virtually any situation, whether they are standing up and someone attempts to punch or kick them or if they end up on the ground, they will learn how to protect themselves. Studies have shown that students who learn self-defense become more assertive and less aggressive. Statistics have also shown that people who know how to defend themselves usually don’t have to, since they carry themselves in a more confident manner. When students are not physically intimidated by others, they become more self confident.
María: How does PMA’s use of multiple martial arts’ disciplines enhance the students’ practical usage of learned skills in real life situations?
Morris: Most other styles of martial arts, boxing, and kickboxing schools usually focus on just one or two of these areas of self-defense. Combining techniques from these four disciplines is what makes Premier Martial Arts mixed martial arts’ system, or hybrid style. That gives Premier Martial Art students the knowledge and techniques they need to defend themselves in virtually any situation. It empowers students and gives them the courage to stand up for what they believe in and say no to peer pressure.
Martial arts training & real life applications
María: Do other sports (or physical activities) help condition kids for martial arts activities, and vice versa? If so, which sports best align with aiding martial arts movement?
Morris: Most other sports that include strength building and stretching can help aid martial arts’ movements, and vice versa. Because our curriculum also emphasizes Focus, Speed, Accuracy, Power and Intensity into our drills and movements, our martial arts can also support a student’s ability to hit or kick a ball amongst other things.
María: What life skills do martial arts’ classes instill in children?
Morris: At Premier Martial Arts, some of the life skills students learn with us include Perseverance, Modesty, Teamwork, Responsibility, Kindness, Positive Attitude, Respect, Positive Self-Image, Courage, Potential, Self-Discipline, Integrity, and the importance of fitness and nutrition.
Kids’ birthday parties & adult team building events
María: Tell us about birthday parties at PMA! What should kids and parents know about reserving a party space for their big events?
Morris: Yes! Birthday parties are so much fun at PMA. We take that high energy and excitement of our classes, and mix it into a fun and entertaining birthday party. The instructors spend the first half hour teaching the child and his/her guests a specialized karate lesson. The birthday boy/girl will lead a special cake cutting ceremony – and assist the instructor as he/she cuts the cake with a samurai sword! After filling up with cake, we will then open presents, and enjoy the last half hour of games, contests and prize drawings.
Birthday party packages
Morris: We have different birthday packages available, so parents are welcome to reach out to learn more about everything we can do to make their child feel special and have tons of fun on their special day.
María: Do you offer the space and manpower for corporate team building/bonding opportunities?
Morris: We do! We are available to create custom corporate packages to help bonding and build stronger connections as a team.
Well, North County, I hope you’ve learned a lot about Premier Martial Arts. Morris gave us a wealth of information that should easily facilitate signing up your kids for an initial, private, 1-on-1 lesson to learn the PMA basics! Now is the time to inquire about classes at the soon- to-open Encinitas location or to enroll in the curriculum at the Rancho Bernardo location. Be sure to visit Premier Martial Arts Encinitas and Rancho Bernardo online for more information.
Here is the contact info for the current PMA franchise locations offered by Morris Lifschutz:
PMA – Central Encinitas
191 N El Camino Real Suite 201
PMA – Rancho Bernardo
11964 Bernardo Plaza Dr
San Diego 92128
The North County Moms is honored to add PMA Encinitas & Rancho Bernardo to its list of community-leading marketing partners!
Featured editorial & interview questions written by Maria Felicia Kelley.
The North County Moms