Nick Schmitt works on high blocks during a training session on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, at Shaolin Self Defense Centers of Rio Rancho.
(Matt Hollinshead/Observer)

Kempo karate helped Rose O’Neill stay disciplined throughout her life, even in the most trying times.

“It’s taught me to never give up, always continue forward and never look back,” the Long Island, New York, native said.

That in turn led O’Neill to devote the past 29 years of her life to sharing her knowledge of that particular martial arts style.

Despite growing frustrations with New York’s expensive cost of living and gradually becoming overwhelmed by life in the Empire State, her passion for kempo karate never withered.

And after moving to the City of Vision in late-November 2019 for nicer weather and a quieter life, O’Neill decided to resume her love of kempo karate and launch Shaolin Self Defense Centers of Rio Rancho in July.

Shaolin Self Defense Centers, 3356 Cochiti Street, features kempo karate classes for those ages 10 and up, plus kickboxing classes for teenagers and adults.

“It’s definitely taught me discipline. I definitely feel it has been able to push me through life… I feel a lot stronger now, and a lot more confident in being able to defend myself, other people,” said Nick Schmitt, 16, of Rio Rancho.

O’Neill said kempo karate helps one build confidence to feel safe and be ready to defend themselves, especially if they may live in a tough neighborhood. She said kempo karate also helps build that confidence to speak up when necessary.

“Better to be a victor than a victim… Kempo is for everyone, for anyone who wants to learn self-defense,” she said. “Kempo prepares you for the street, it prepares you for survival… Kempo’s a very respected art. And, really, it is designed for the reality of the real world that is out there.”

Alex Schmitt, right, works on her jabs with Rose O’Neill, the Head Instructor of Shaolin Self Defense Centers of Rio Rancho, during a training session on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021.
(Matt Hollinshead/Observer)

Schmitt said he recommends any young person who’s being bullied give kempo karate a try. Aside from the self-defense tactics being taught, he also said kempo karate builds your body.

“It lets you know you have muscles that you didn’t know you had,” he said.

Considering violent crime that’s taking place in America today, O’Neill said no one should have to feel unsafe.

O’Neill’s current students feel more confident to get out of bad situations or to help someone else, thanks to kempo karate.

If community interest keeps growing, O’Neill said she will look to move her dojo into a new building by September 2022.

“Martial art is a way of life,” she said.

O’Neill, a second-degree black belt, said kempo karate keeps her “spirit alive,” which in turn drives her to continue teaching it.

For more information, call O’Neill at 631-921-7830, email ShaolinKempoRioRancho@yahoo.com or visit its Facebook page.

Matt Hollinshead | Staff writer