Robby and Katie Howard recently started Cornerstone Youth MMA as a way to share the sport they love with area children.
“I’ve been involved with MMA for several years now,” Robby Howard said. “After a few conversations with people in the area, it was obvious that this was something that we needed to do. We held our first class a little over a week ago and the response has been huge.”
The Howards have served as youth pastors in the past, and Robby Howard said the MMA lessons are an extention of the couple’s ministry.
“We have a combined almost 30 years in youth ministry,” Robby Howard said. “This is a way to impact children outside of a church. We don’t have to shove Jesus on these kids. We want to live Jesus in front of them, and they will pick up on that.”
The classes are split into two age groups — 5- to 10-year-olds on Monday afternoons and 11- to 15-year-olds on Wednesday afternoons. The MMA lessons are held at Cornerstone Gym, which is at the intersection of Main Street and Hull Road in Sumiton.
Robby Howard said the couple has put together a mixed martial arts curriculum that includes kickboxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu.
He said a belt system has also been implemented as a way to give their students goals.
“With everything we do, we want to teach the students respect, hard work and discipline,” he said. “If we can teach those three things, the rest of the training will come.”
Robby Howard said his plans are to create a competitive jiu-jitsu team from the children who take the classes.
“Once we see who is really into it and who excels, we’ll start talking about doing some tournaments,” he said.
Barry Wilson, a Dora resident whose 6-year-old son Brooks is in one of the MMA classes, said he thought the program was ideal for any youngster.
“As a parent, one of your main concerns should always be who is teaching your child and what are they teaching them,” he said. “I know what kind of person Robby Howard is, and he has a gift for working with children. They’re not teaching kids to fight. They are teaching kids discipline and self-defense.”
Katie Howard said parents will be involved in some of the classes as well.
“We are having a parent day coming up where the parents will serve as the child’s training partner,” she said. “We want this to be fun, and we want it to be something that they can do as a family whether it is here at the gym or practicing what the children learn here at home.”
The MMA lessons have gained popularity so quickly that the younger class already has a waiting list, and the older class is almost full. Robby Howard said the couple is already discussing adding more classes to accomodate more students.
“It’s been such a huge response, so we weren’t expecting this many,” he said. “We have to keep the classes at around 16 students.”
For more information on the classes, contact Robby Howard at 205-527-3196. The current prices are $35 per month for one student and $55 per month for two students.