It most certainly has!  A year in review:

We have had the assistance of a phenomenal program director…

Program Director

Kailen Pirro
Originally from the small town of Hopedale Massachusetts, Kailen Pirro now resides in Fairfield with her husband, son, and terrier, Lando. Kailen earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor concentration in Philosophy from Fairfield University in 2000, and her M.A. degree in Survey Research from UConn in 2010. After working for a professional research organization in New York City, and a marketing research firm based in Shelton, Kailen began working as Program Director at Stryker Martial Arts in April 2010. When Kailen isn’t checking in with our students or planning events at the school, you may see her biking with her family around town, cheering on her son at his various extra-curricular events, or relaxing on the beach with a book.

Kailen initially became involved with Stryker Martial Arts by enrolling her son in our youth karate program in 2008. After a few weeks of watching their son’s enthusiasm on the mat, both Kailen and her husband began training in our adult Thai Kickboxing program. What started out as a hobby, quickly developed into something greater. While she has always remained active and played sports throughout her life, training in the martial arts provided Kailen with a level of personal growth and development that she found was limitless, as compared to the sporting arena. As her training increased so did benefits such as confidence and an increased willingness to try new things.  Kailen earned her Black Belt in Thai kickboxing in December 2011, and is looking forward to the process of earning her second degree.

We have also had the good fortune of hiring not one but two stellar instructors.  And while many older students are comparing them with former instructors…  let me tell you…  you are comparing apples and oranges.  These ladies are HIGHLY qualified.

Let me tell you about Ms. Kristin first:

Kid’s Instructor 

Kristin Veenema is a high school English teacher and has worked in a local public school system since 2003. She holds undergraduate degrees in English and Education from Fairfield University and holds a Masters degree in Cognition from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College. Since 2004, she has worked as a teacher consultant and a youth writing coach for the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University.  Besides providing literacy instruction to her students, Kristin integrates a focus on effective strategies for learning in all of her classes; she teaches students how to succeed, and she challenges them to apply these lessons about success to other areas of their lives.

Kristin began training at Stryker Martial Arts in 2010 because of an interest in increasing her knowledge in the martial arts; she stayed because she realized that the instruction at SMA provides her with much more.  For her, martial arts at SMA is about learning how to be alive.  The instruction in class is about how to punch and kick, but it is also about how to learn and grow through experiences. The physical accomplishments of improving a technique or earning the next rank are an expression of personal growth and the mental attributes that are necessary for success. Through her training at SMA in kickboxing and Doce Pares, Kristin refines her art of being a strong woman in both body and mind.

And there is Ms. Sarah:

Kid’s Instructor

Sarah Larson is a graduate of Sacred Heart University, and has been teaching 4th grade in Bridgeport, CT for the last 6 years, where she also runs the Light House After School Program for students in grades K-6.  Sarah has two Master’s degrees, one in elementary education, and one in Autism Spectrum Disorders, as well as her certification in Special Education. Sarah always tries to offer her students many opportunities for success, while at the same time challenging them to think outside the box and develop effective problem solving strategies that they can use both in the classroom as well as in their lives outside of school.

Having always been interested in staying active, Sarah has participated in dance, basketball, field hockey, cardio kickboxing, and, most recently, running. Hoping to break out of the gym-rat rut, Sarah has been training at Stryker Martial Arts for just over a year.  She continues to train at SMA because it has done more than just help her develop her physical strength.  It has helped her to develop a “mental toughness”, a sense of confidence and calm, and an appreciation for new experiences, instead of a fear of them.  These qualities serve her both at work and in her personal life, and she continues to strive to grow and learn through every new experience she encounters.

We have also had two of our Black Belt students step up and take leadership roles in the school.  

Out of their desire to share what the martial arts has given them along with helping other students working towards their Black Belt, they find the role very rewarding.

Assistant Instructor

Karina Gramesty resides in Fairfield with her husband, daughter, and dog.  She earned her B.S. degree in Political Science, with a minor concentration in English, in 1995 from Sacred Heart University. She has earned many accreditations throughout the past nine years working as an Interior Decorator and Home Stager.  At Stryker Martial Arts, Karina puts her exceptional martial arts skill to good use by teaching Thai Kickboxing classes, and working with our newer students to help them get the most out of their training.

Karina began training at Stryker Martial Arts in January 2007, as a means to get into better physical condition. She was immediately drawn to both the physical and mental challenge that the workouts provided her. As a yellow belt, she enrolled in the Black Belt Club, and diligently worked her way to earning her Black Belt in June 2009.  Karina recently earned her 2nd degree Black Belt in June 2012.

Practicing Kickboxing has allowed Karina to learn and distinguish things both on and off the mat. She has acquired better self-control as well as patience.  Karina’s martial arts training has empowered her to discover that if she wants something bad enough, hard work and perseverance will lead her to her desired objective.

Assistant Instructor

Born and raised in Bat-Yam Israel, Fred completed 5 years in the Israeli Defense Force.  Fred moved to the United States in 1991 and now resides in Fairfield with his wife Alyssa.

Fred holds a BSc and MSEE in electrical engineering. He is the President and CTO of SphereOne Technologies, a technology company in Fairfield which specializes in the development of hi-tech communication and measurement equipment.  Fred is a certified PADI rescue diver who enjoys diving all around the world.  His journey into the world of martial arts began in 2008 after casually strolling past Stryker Martial Arts.  He walked in, liked what he saw and signed up instantly…a childhood dream that was long overdue. Fred earned his 1st degree Black Belt in June 2010 and is now training towards his 2nd degree.

While always working to achieve greater physical conditioning and personal growth through ongoing training, Fred is pleased to share his experience with other Stryker Martial Arts students.

Finally, Master Dan has taught more classes in the last 12 months than he has in a LONG time.  He has been more accessible to students.  He has been monitoring everything in the school including the classes being run in order to ensure we continue to provide exceptional martial arts instruction.  We have raised the bar significantly and we did so without raising your tuition one penny.  We are bringing you exceptional value and exceptional martial arts training for the price we charge. 

So has our program changed?  You bet it has! 

I am very proud of my staff and the service we provide.  We look forward to continuing to improve our high level of service in the future.