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New martial arts school to focus on bullying prevention

ST. CHARLES – A new martial arts school that focuses on bullying prevention is opening Saturday in St. Charles.

PRO Martial Arts, 2422 W. Main St., Unit 4C, will have a grand opening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with free karate lessons, raffles, board-breaking and a visit from its mascot, Rocky the Rhino.

Owners Bruno and Mary Hilgart said while they teach traditional martial arts techniques, such as kicking and blocking, PRO Martial Arts is more about education. In addition to bullying prevention, the school also teaches predator prevention.

“We’re specifically tailoring it to teach kids how to make bullies irrelevant,” Bruno Hilgart said.

He said their program focuses on teaching self-respect, respect for others, manners, confidence and attitude.

“It builds up their self-esteem, so they can deflect that negativity” from bullies, Mary Hilgart said.

They said the courses are open to anyone, including children who struggle with being bullied, as well as bullies, themselves.

PRO Martial Arts is part of a national franchise that’s based in Philadelphia. Bruno Hilgart said about a year ago, there were only 13 franchises, and now there are more than 50. The Hilgarts, who have lived around the St. Charles area for more than 20 years, said they wanted to start the business because they felt it would be a good way to give back to the community.

“We wanted to make a difference in the local community where our kids grew up,” said Bruno Hilgart. “We know there are a lot of families in this area and schools that are struggling with this issue.”

He said bullying starts as young as kindergarten and can be prevalent all the way into adulthood. PRO Martial Arts teaches bullying prevention through its ARMOR program, which is comprised of 12 weekly lessons on bullying prevention and 12 weekly lessons on predator prevention. Each is a stand-alone lesson, so children can join the program anytime.

Martial arts and kickboxing classes also are offered to adults.

“We thought it made sense to start our first franchise in St. Charles because it’s home,” Mary Hilgart said. “We want to help kids with this ever-increasing issue and make a difference in their lives and their parents’ lives.”

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