Students in Marc Anthony Baca’s Team Armageddon class listen as he reads scripture from the Bible Thursday at his karate studio in Clovis. The class combines martial arts and the Bible. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer
The children stand with feet apart, arms extended, little hands tightly clenched in fists. Every face is turned toward the black-clad man at the front of the room. Marc Anthony Baca begins taking his Tae Kwon Do students through a series of kicks and punches. He shouts out encouragement and tells them they are the master of themselves.
The students begin marking their movements by shouting out the names of the books in the New Testament.
Ten years ago, Baca said he dreamed of combining his love for martial arts with his Christian faith.
“I didn’t pursue it at that time,” Baca said, “because I’m not a pastor and I thought it would hurt my business.”
He said a series of life-altering events changed his mind.
Two years ago, Baca said his life was turned upside down by financial and emotional problems. He said he was accused of credit-card fraud.
“I ended up spending time in jail over something I hadn’t even done,” Baca said.
He said the time spent in jail helped him re-establish his faith.
“I spent a lot of time praying,” Baca said. And he said he rededicated his life to the Lord.
He related the trying times he experienced to the trials and tribulations of Job.
“I went through so much,” Baca said. “But it has made me a stronger person.”
Baca began slowly building a new life by opening a new karate studio. His dream of combining Bible study with martial arts teachings started to materialize.
“I teach them the books of the Bible and things like that,” Baca said. “The kids and parents love it.”
The instructor said he also changed his teaching style due to his born-again Christianity.
“I used to have a ‘Karate Kid’ mentality,” Baca said. “I just wanted to fight.”
The focus of his teachings is now mental and emotional discipline as well as physical well-being.
Tracy Smith of Bovina said she has been bringing her children, niece and nephew to Baca’s studio for the past year.
“I have five children, and I love bringing them here.” Smith said. “I’ve never seen someone (Baca) with such charisma.”
A preacher’s daughter, Smith said she has seen first-hand the effects Tae Kwon Do and Christian values can have on a child.
“It gives them confidence,” said Smith, using her nephew, Triston Hill, as an example.
“He used to be so shy,” Smith said, “but now he is so outgoing.”
The hazel-eyed, 7-year-old said he loves being a student of Baca’s.
“Master Baca is my favorite,” Triston said. “He taught me that Jesus was the first black belt.” Smith said Baca has told the children Jesus was the original black belt because he turned the other cheek.
Baca, a fifth-degree black belt, said he plans to cultivate a group named “Team Armageddon,” which will give Christian martial arts demonstrations at schools, churches or youth groups.
“My goal is just to teach my students Tae Kwon Do with Biblical values,” Baca said. “I want people to know we are a Christian group.”