The Family Self Defense Center is exactly as its name suggests, a place for families to learn traditional and practical martial arts and self-defense. From the moment you start your first class you can tell that not only is this a warm environment, but the instructors know what they are talking about. I joined as a young single woman wishing to return to martial arts as both a physical activity and to get out of the house and meet new people. But what I have found at FSDC is much more–a family. FSDC is a community of practitioners who know and value karate’s ancient roots and wish to pass it on to the next generation. There is a 50year difference from the youngest black belt to the oldest, but all of them are highly trained in Isshinryu as both students and teachers. For most of my time at FSDC, my teachers have been younger than me by 10 years but there is no question that they know what they are talking about and have been the greatest source of my own karate knowledge. Under the guidance of Masters Z and Chris Szelap the dojo is a fun and family friendly environment where one can achieve their own personal karate goals. You will learn not just the moves of a kata and form but how they transfer to real world skills.

The Dojo is consistently ranked among the top 5 in the nation with many of its students having success at competitions in kata, weapons, and sparring. The students are excited to come to class each week and to learn something new while they perfect the skills they already learned.

Personally, the dojo was a place of refuge for me when my family lost our home to a terrible fire. I found a family of karate ka who I could lean on. My confidence and general happiness has increased greatly since I joined FSDC. When I was younger and involved in martial arts I never thought a Black Belt was possible, but at FSDC I have found that it is both possible and earned through true dedication and development of skills, not just something handed out lightly.

The Family Self Defense Center is a staple in the community with over 100 students. The dojo donates time to the city to participate in events at Christmas, to march in parades in the summer, and to donate to charities from food drives to clothing drives. The students at FSDC learn more than just how to punch and kick, they gain skills that will carry them through life, no matter what path they take. Being a part of the FSDC dojo means you are a part of a family that works every day to help everyone achieve their goals.  

Rachel Manela, 2018



I started my martial arts journey nearly 10 years ago when my son and daughter were young and needed to build their confidence, strength and learn self defense and it’s always been important to me to do activities together, as a family.  We enrolled at FSDC and have never looked back.  With the guidance of Mr. Z and Ms. Chris all of us learned not only how to defend ourselves but we learned to work together, to trust one another, to cheer each other’s successes and to come together as a family.  This is done through the use of forms, kata’s, team kata’s, competitions, community events and FIDOY (Family in the Defense of Youth) a non profit organization to help those who need help.

Since the time of enrollment we have all reached a black belt level, a goal none of us thought would ever be reached when we had started. Now that my son will soon be graduating from college and my daughter from high school I still attend regularly and enjoy learning (always) and teaching martial arts.  If we can do it, so can you!  

Scott Verhelle



I have known Ms. Chris for more than 30 years and Mr. Z for more than 25. He led warm-ups for the first official karate class I ever attended, back in September of 1992. I rose to the rank of Ni Dan under Master Robert White, then drifted away from karate for about 10 years. During that gap, Mr. Z and Ms. Chris kept me somewhat connected to Isshinryu by inviting me to sit on the board at FSDC’s black belt testings. Eventually, Mr. Z cajoled me into coming back to classes “just for a little exercise.” Of course, I liked what I saw, and all the black belts were respectful and extremely patient with me as they helped me relearn things I had forgotten.

Mr. Z said to me one time, “Friends are the family you choose.” And that is the kind of family that Family Self Defense Center has built. Ms. Chris and Mr. Z have stood by me during times of personal struggle outside the dojo, and they have done so for many students and their families. While it remains very hard to earn a black belt, they have found ways to make learning fun rather than miserable, have a remarkably high retention rate with their students, and succeed in guiding a remarkable number of them to the rank of black belt. All the instructors at FSDC view the art of teaching as an important component of the martial arts, on a level with kata, kumite, or history. They seldom show off (sometimes a little showing off is a good thing), and never sneer at the lower ranks, or try to make them feel less than. Rather, they invest great effort in helping their juniors succeed, and take great pride in finding ways to reach those “Aha” moments when a student finally “gets” some tricky concept.

This dojo has many good martial artists, but more importantly, it has many good people.

T. C. Lambert


(More testimonials on following pages)