Photography courtesy of Clint Justice

Clint Justice started taking karate lessons when he was 6 years old. The instructors were so intimidating, Justice was too afraid to ask to use the restroom. You can image what happened next. Justice went home that day and swore he’d never involve himself with karate again.

Until, that is, he opened a new martial arts studio, Premier Martial Arts, in Lake Highlands and Lakewood, with six more North Texas franchises on the way.

Justice, a Lake Highlands dad, left his job in the finance industry in fall 2019 and started exploring different franchise opportunities. He settled on Premier Martial Arts, a Tennessee-based company that teaches children and adults techniques from a variety of disciplines, including karate, taekwondo, kick boxing and Krav Maga.

“I have young kids, and I wanted to do something my kids could understand instead of, ‘What is this spreadsheet?'” Justice said. “Premier Martial Arts checked every box for us. It was local, interactive and values driven.”

He signed the franchise documents for the first location in the Lakeridge Village shopping center in March, “the week before COVID hit the fan,” he says. The studio opened for outdoor classes on a 104-degree day in August.

“I was like, ‘Have I made the biggest mistake of my life opening in the middle of a pandemic?'” Justice said. “The cards were stacked against us, but I was blown away by the reception in Lake Highlands. The kids were itching for activities, and they couldn’t do traditional sports.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Classes have since moved inside. Students must wear masks and stay in 6-foot areas that have been taped out for them on the mat.

Justice hosted a grand opening Nov. 19 at the Lake Highlands location and is working on opening the Lakewood branch next year. It will be located between Ace Hardware and White Rock Alehouse near the Garland-Gaston-Grand intersection.

A grand opening is scheduled for late February or early March. In the meantime, employees will teach self-defense seminars to Arboretum Village tenants.

A membership pre-sale period is open now. Students who sign up can begin individual lessons. Group classes will begin in a temporary space in the shopping center once more people have registered.

“In a short period of time, kids are so fired up about doing karate,” Justice said. “Kids who were a little shy at first are coming out of their shells. It’s been fun even in the midst of all these challenges. I’m getting to do something in my backyard.”