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Legacy Charlotte is teaching kids and adults to think before they react using martial arts and years of training led by Ajarn (teacher) Jay Henderson. He and his brother Shelton, co-own and operate the studio.
Teaching Adult Karate, Teen Karate, Kids Karate, Body Blow Fitness, and Striking 4 Self Defense, Henderson is a second-generation Lotus black belt with over twenty years of martial arts experience. He began studying Lotus Self-Defense in 1991 under Jack J. Gentry at a West Charlotte recreation center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Ajarn Gentry is one of the few American Lotus Practitioners to study directly under Ajarn Precha and obtained the rank of black belt.
A future PhD as well, Henderson took time to teach The Black Wall Street Times about his program in an exclusive interview where he admits martial arts came right on time for him.
Legacy Charlotte has been a lifetime in the making.
“This is one of the things that saved me as a kid, I used to fight every single day until I was 10. But then, I took my first martial arts lesson and I knew I felt differently,” says Henderson.
With over 15 years of teaching experience, Henderson is now the Owner/ Chief Instructor of Legacy Martial Arts & Fitness where he is dedicated to continuing the legacy of Lotus Self Defense.
Though he’s been training people for over two decades, Henderson says he’s more focused on their minds than bodies. Realizing the world may not treat the kids he works with fairly, he’s sure that all feel welcome when they enter.
“It’s all character development. I have a Master’s Degree and in my day job I’m often the only Black guy in the room… I let the kids know that the world out there is not going to be like it is in here. So in teaching them confidence, we also teach them to treat people fairly and as equals as a baseline.”
Because he was 10 years old when he discovered martial arts, Henderson says kids 7-11 are particularly vulnerable to make decisions and associations that they will likely be with them throughout their formative years.
“Most of the kids that come here aren’t confident. They don’t believe they have an outlet for anyone to listen to them. Sometimes kids just need one person to listen. I try to be that one person. When kids feel they’re being heard, you can see their confidence grow.”
Lotus Self Defense can be the difference between life and death.
Understanding the summertime brings more gun violence not only to Charlotte but nationwide, Henderson says the Legacy Charlotte program can benefit people of all ages to resolve conflict without taking deadly measures. “I want more folks that look like us in here. You learn so much about patience, breathing, decision making — a lot of us have never tried it.”
A teacher across multiple disciplines of self defense, Henderson also instructs concealed carry classes to prepare and advise new and old gun owners on education, safety protocols and laws in the Cardinal state.
When it comes to conflict, it stems from communication. Here, we teach kids how to communicate, speak clearly and assertively. All my kids are Black and Brown, they’re often told to suppress whatever feelings they have. Here, kids as young as 4, they’ll bottle it up until you teach them how to articulate their feelings. It’s all about communication. The way we communicate with them in turn helps them communicate with us and the people in their life.”
According to their website, Legacy Martial Arts & Fitness is dedicated to personal growth in themselves and their students and operates on the belief that what you learn and practice in the Dojo should be applied to everyday life.
Legacy Charlotte builds on a foundation of family and community
Above all else, Legacy Charlotte is about family first. “Every nail, every 90-lb mat piece, every painting. My kids helped paint these walls. Everything you see in here, we did it. Nothing that we have has been given to us. Everything was earned.”
A member of the Masonic Lodge and Kappa Alpha Psi, Fraternity, Inc., Henderson credits his family and community for the achievements of Legacy Charlotte today. “It’s grassroots. My wife is the biggest supporter and my voice of reason when I felt like giving up. We didn’t always know if we’d make it and some days I wanted to call it quits but the kids in the community — it means so much to them. I’ve had kids that come from Charlotte, around the state, out of state. People know you get more than karate here.” He continued, “I have a young lady that’s been coming here since she was 5. She’s 13 now. I’ve been apart of her life longer than she’s been alive.”