Parents, supporters raise $10,000 to equip relocated fitness school
As the owner of Seamless Progression Academy of Martial Arts and Fitness, Benjamin Salas spends a lot of time inspiring students to push beyond their perceived physical limits.
However, when Salas moved his dojo from Franklin Street in downtown Port Washington to the Conservancy Court retail center in Saukville, it was a long list of supporters who proved to be inspirational.
In a two-month period, some 55 backers raised more than $10,000 to install a floating floor and custom-cut foam Zebra mats in the 1,700-square-foot training space.
The floor is suspended atop hundreds of closed-cell foam blocks which compress readily but allow the floor to bounce back slowly to negate any “springing” effect.
Salas said the floor is much more forgiving on the bodies of students young and old as they train in judo, jiujitsu and self-defense.
“The floor itself is built as a series of layers, each absorbing a little of the students’ impact,” he said. “Most gyms simply buy mats and put them on a concrete floor.”
The suspended floor is one of only a few in the state, and should add to the confidence with which students approach their training.
“No activity is completely safe, and when you join a martial arts school you accept the idea that you face a very real chance of being injured,” Salas said.
“However, many more of our students take time off from class due to injuries from outside activities than from injuries from jiujitsu,” he said, noting his own son competed in Chicago last weekend — and won two gold medals — despite dealing with a twisted ankle sustained in an indoor soccer game.
“The floating floor system helps to reduce student fatigue during training, reduces the chance of injury from poor technique, reduces the impact on the body from good technique, improves the student footwork because they have confidence in landing safely, improves student decisiveness and makes it more likely that they will try less forgiving actions. All around, our floor is really a huge benefit for the students in safety and performance.”
Salas said he was overwhelmed by the groundswell of support that resulted in the new floor and relocation.
“They raised the money and did the entire installation. We didn’t have to hire a single contractor for the job,” he said.
It helped that one of those volunteers, Andy Griswold, is a professional carpenter and father of one of the school’s more accomplished young students.
Even though a quarter of the donations for the floor were made anonymously, a plaque posted in the training room recognizes many of those who made the project possible.
Among the acknowledged donors are Conservancy Court owner Tim Bach, as well as the owners of eight different martial arts schools in Wisconsin. Several of those owners take advanced instruction from Salas.
Other donations came from as far away as London and North Carolina, and one gift may have even come from the North Pole — it was signed Santa Claus.
The Saukville studio is the third location the academy has had in the past three years. Each time, the school outgrew the space it was using.
Salas has a hard time not breaking out in a broad smile as he surveys the new setting.
“What the new place offers that the Port location didn’t have is space. Not only were we able to install the floating floor, but we have two bathrooms now instead of one, which is huge,” he said.
“Along the walls we were able to add benches and cubicles, which may be common in kindergarten classrooms but were something new for us. We never had the space before.”
The academy was first located on the west side of Franklin Street in Port Washington, then moved across the street into a storefront at the corner of Franklin and Washington streets.
“The owners of our former locations were great, but they had to live with the limitations of the age of their buildings,” Salas said.
The abundance of parking space available at the retail center is a great boon, too, he said.
“We haven’t had time to put up our sign yet, but people are starting to find us. We seem to be getting new students every day,” Salas said.
The academy has about 75 students, pretty evenly split between adults and children.
“We have a lot of room to grow,” Salas said.
Although the school’s focus is training in martial arts, he said, its relocation to Saukville should prove to be a shot in the arm of the local economy.
“Classes usually run an hour or so, and that gives parents a lot of time to go to the Sherwin Williams paint store, the Walmart or the Piggly Wiggly grocery store,” Salas said.
“When we announced we were moving from Port, the people from the real-estate office next door said they were going to really miss us. I thought that was sweet, but what they meant was they were going to miss the parents who would stop in and look at listings while they waited for their children to finish our classes.”
Salas is a former police officer and training specialist who is well-known as a martial arts instructor and competitor. He continues to lead quarterly defensive tactics classes for law-enforcement officers.
In the world of martial arts competitions, Salas is a 12-time medalist with the International Brazilian Jiujitsu Federation and a 14-time North American Sport Karate National finalist.
As he is working with students, Salas repeatedly stresses that it is never the goal in a match to injure an opponent.
“We teach more than fighting, more than self-defense, and more than fitness,” he said.
“We strive for perseverance and focus in our training, honor in our behavior and compassion in our relationships.”
SEAMLESS PROGRESSION ACADEMY installed a new floating floor after moving from Port Washington to Saukville’s Conservancy Court. Above, instructor Benjamin Salas sat on the padded floor while talking with students during a morning session. Photo by Mark Jaeger