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Community Highlights: Meet Hezi Sheli of Israeli Martial Arts Academy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hezi Sheli.

Hezi, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I started The Israeli Martial Arts Academy in 2009 with the goal of helping adults, teens and kids learn how to defend themselves in the most practical manner possible. We teach our students how to get stronger physically and mentally and to never give up no matter what!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When I came to the United States, I had two suitcases and $2,000 in my pocket. My initial plan was to work at the Israeli consulate for a couple of years and then return to my home country, Israel. However, plans don’t always work out as intended. I met an incredible, beautiful, smart, charming woman who turned out to be my future wife. After we were married, I decided to open the Israeli Martial Arts Academy. I knew that my enhanced knowledge of self-defense and specials ops military experience could help make a positive impact in my community. Some of my friends thought I was crazy for opening a martial arts dojo because there are already so many in the area, I told them that what I do is different from other martial arts studios (with respect to other gyms). I love what I do and I believe that I can help others and that is why I know my gym will succeed!

The gym has grown consistently by 20% for the first ten years as our name and reputation gained popularity in the community. However, the pandemic complicated everything, as I’m sure it did for others. Thanks to our loyal students, we were able to stay in business. We have not quite recovered from the hit we took from COVID, but we are well on our way. It has been our students and community that believe in what we do, which has enabled us to keep the doors open. For this, I will be forever grateful.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Our gym was opened for one and one purpose only, to teach people how to defend themselves in the event of a violent altercation. Our system Krav Maga was developed and combat tested in Israel to ensure maximum practicality and authenticity.

We apply the same training methods used to train the elite units of the Israeli special forces; and work closely with the top black belts in Israel to ensure the best quality of training for our students.

The Israeli Martial Arts Academy teaches the original reality-based MMA (“mixed martial arts”), combining and seamlessly integrating aspects of Krav Maga, Karate, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Kick Boxing and Hisardut (Survival training) together to form effective responses to street threats.

The system looks to educate and develop the individual so that they have both the skills and the mindset to defend themselves and use this unique elite Israeli self-defense and offense techniques against vicious and violent assaults – Defeating Violence with Honor.

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
I have met many individuals on my journey. However, there are three mentors who have made a direct impact and influenced me the most:

The first is my grandfather. He emigrated to Israel with nothing. However, through sheer perseverance and willpower, he managed to build a beautiful family and a thriving, successful business. When I was a kid, I would come to him for guidance and direction. I knew as a child that I would operate my own business as a result of learning from my grandfather.

The second is my martial arts instructor, grandmaster Dennis Hanover from the Dennis Hisardut Ju Jitsu system. Without him, I would not be involved in what I do. He gave me a love of martial arts, the strength as a young child to fight for myself and to never give up. He taught me how to deal with bullies and prepared me for my service in the Israel Defense Forces.

The third is my officer in the IDF. He taught me how to be a better person and a stronger fighter. I truly learned what it means to fight for something greater than myself due to his mentorship and values he instilled within me. He is a born leader who made a positive impact on everyone around him.

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