Growing with martial arts


Self-defense, confidence and discipline are some of the many reasons people want to participate in martial arts.

There are several martial arts school in the Silver Spring and Takoma Park area, including Capital AikikaiRoda Movements, Aikido Shobukan Dojo, Cloud Hands Tai Chi  and Capitol MMA and Elite Fitness – to name a few.

We took a look at two local schools: Gentle East Martial Arts  and Wu Shen Tao Health and Martial Arts. Both have been in the community for over 30 years.


Paul Ramos at Wu Shen Tao school. Photo by Rachel McNair.

Wu Shen Tao Health and Martial Arts

Paul Ramos, owner of Wu Shen Tao Health and Martial Arts, has a black belt in Sun Mi Do Karate, he’s been nationally ranked Olympic Style Saber Fencer and is a 3-time national championship in Tai Chi push hands.

“My philosophy is that martial arts should be holistic,” Ramos said.

Wu Shen Tao has classes for different martial arts styles.

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“Hard Style Kung Fu tries to overwhelm the opponent with superior strength, force, and mass speed. Soft style Kung Fu uses self-defense in such a way that you can manipulate the other person’s force,” said Paul Ramos, owner of Wu Shen Tao.

The curriculum includes “push hands,” which involves working with a partner and with great economy of effort controlling that person’s energy and force to your own advantage.


Paul Ramos. Photo by Rachel McNair.

The school also offers children’s Northern Shaolin Kung Fu, Yang style Tai Chi Chuan, Chen Style Tai Chi, Xing Y Chuan, BaGua Zhang, and fencing.

Ramos explained that in his classes he advances people at their own pace, allowing them to understand thoroughly what they are doing.

“My ultimate goal is to help them reach their ultimate goal,” Ramos said.

“Being a teacher teaches [me] and helps me grow which will help them grow,” Ramos said.

Ted Curtis, student at Wu Shen Tao since 2008 said, “I’m 63 years old, I have very few health problems, I have a lot of energy, I rarely get sick. I think it’s helped me to be a much better senior citizen.”

Classes usually consist of about 10 people and are offered Monday – Saturday.

Wu Shen Tao Health and Martial Arts is located at 7117 Maple Ave, Takoma Park, MD.


Master John Holloway conducting a Gentle East class. Photo by Rachel McNair.

Gentle East Taekwondo

Master John Holloway, owner of Gentle East Taekwondo, is 7th Dan Black Belt, international referee 1st class, and was inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame.

He is the only person to attend every US National Taekwondo Championship, either as a winning competitor, referee, or official.

Gentle East has classes for children and adults that emphasize physical fitness, discipline, self-control, and confidence.


A Gentle East class. Photo by Rachel McNair.

“It’s about passing it on, about learning, teaching, giving them the five tenets of Taekwondo: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit, said Master John Holloway, owner of Gentle East.

“I’ve won the medals, and I had fun being here this long,” said Holloway of his own accomplishments. But, he said, to teach children and see them become proficient, “that’s the biggest medal.”

“Each kid is different, every kid moves at their own pace…I want them to be able to look back one day and remember something they learned here which helps them with their pursuit of their goal,” Holloway said.


Awards and medals at Gentle East. Photo by Rachel McNair.

“It’s important for kids to have a good base as they grow, . . . so they can continue on a straight and narrow good path.” said Holloway.

Of his decades-long role as a martial arts instructor, Holloway says “This is where I am supposed to be, this is where I can make a difference and that is what it is about for me.”

Classes usually consist of about 15 – 25 people. Classes are offered Monday – Saturday.

Gentle East Martial Arts is located at 8749 Flower Avenue, Silver Spring, MD.

About the Author

Rachel McNair
Hi my name is Rachel McNair and I am currently a graduate student at the University of Maryland pursuing my masters in broadcast journalism. I am a former division I student-athlete and I am looking to have an impact on the media industry as I grow in my career.