Owner nearly invested in pizza delivery franchise

HUNTERSVILLE – Running a martial arts studio is a lot more fun than working in information technology, according to Patrick Carter.

Carter, along with Kris Norris, started a Pro Martial Arts franchise in the southern Huntersville/Northlake area last year. The studio, which incorporates elements of Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido, gives students the chance to improve physical flexibility, strength, balance and coordination through its techniques.

Carter met Norris on a motorcycle ride, and the two agreed the Lake Norman region needed a martial arts studio that could cater to a wide and varied audience of children.

The pair’s first studio opened Oct. 26, 2013, but it won’t stand as the only local franchise for long. They’re opening another in Concord this year, as part of what Carter said is an attempt to help out as many kids as possible in terms of learning martial arts for fun and safety.

That’s the exact motive PRO Martial Arts founder Ed Samane had in mind when he founded the business in 1991. Eighty percent of studio class members are children aged 4-12, said Samane, an eighth-degree black belt who has worked in martial arts for 31 years.

Samane said the franchisees in Huntersville are a good long-term fit for the brand.

“This is an educational franchise that is geared toward keeping children safe,” Samane said. “There’s not been a national martial arts franchise. There’s been a void.”

Carter made sure there was no void in the lake area. When he and Norris – along with chief instructor Ken Hewski, a six-time kickboxing champion and former Guns N’ Roses bodyguard – began classes, seven people showed up.

Within a month, there were 30-person classes with more on the way.

Carter said the studio draws a lot of people from the southern portion of Huntersville, as well as the north Charlotte community.

The franchising process is off to a good start, which Carter said he’s thankful for, since he nearly bought into a pizza-delivery franchise years ago.

“I didn't feel like that was the right fit for me, and this is just more satisfying to do,” Carter said. “It’s a win-win. I like helping out the community, and this is a good way to do that.”

The studio also plans on adding a summer camp sometime in July for students, once schools end the 2013-14 school year.

Norris said there were no concerns about having enough people to fill up classes. The franchise’s unique Armor program, which is designed with the help of law enforcement, teaches kids self-defense from bullies and predators. It’s one way the franchise sets itself apart from other martial arts studios.

“There are some (martial arts) schools that don’t reach out to the people around them,” Hewski said.

“I’ve been in martial arts since I was 4, so this has been a huge part of my life. This has given me an opportunity to give back to the community on another level, and with the Armor program, we’re really finding ways to help out.”