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Combining Taekwondo with Community Service 

Picking up trash along the highway and volunteering at the Flagstaff Family Food Center are not your conventional ways of teaching Taekwondo, but for Mechelle Felsted, a fifth-degree black belt, master instructor and owner of Academy of the Martial Way, it is part of the experience.    

“When we go to the soup kitchen, we prepare food, clean shop and the floors. We do this on a regular basis. One of the perceptions of martial arts is kicking and violence, but when you have a positive outlet, then you can be at peace,” she said.   

“I really like going to the food bank and helping people who don’t have food,” said Cedar Bontrager, 11, who trains at the academy with his brother, Griffin, 14, and his father, Derek (who started training 18 months after his children joined). “Picking up trash along the highway is fun, too.” The trash pick-up team is called Eco Warriors. 

“Our mission statement is to reach out by serving others,” said Felsted. “This studio is a character development center, and we’re really here to instill the tenets of Taekwondo: self-control, integrity, indomitable spirit, perseverance and courtesy. When we take care of others, it will come back to us. Punching, kicking and breaking things is really fun, but we look for the whole experience.” 

Patti Gibbs, a writer and homemaker, started taking her grandson to the studio and was so impressed with Felsted’s teaching that she started training. “That was over three years ago, I’m now working toward my black belt. The word ‘can’t’ is never used here, this is a very positive environment,” she said. “My personal best and confidence has gotten better every year. The respect and discipline that Mechelle instills is phenomenal. She works hard and she is an amazing teacher. The kids love her.” Gibbs also assists with teaching children’s classes.  

Felsted moved to Flagstaff in 1990 and, along with a partner, started Academy of the Martial Way more than nine years ago. She took over the business as sole owner six years ago and has been training for almost two decades. “We train not to hurt, but train to run away. Walk away from a fight. Run with honor. Because working on making ourselves better, you are a much calmer, peaceful person.” 

Believing that every woman has a right to defend herself, Felsted hosts free self-defense seminars for the public at various times during the year. “I teach seven techniques to save their lives. I want every woman to have this gift.”  

“Stranger danger,” is another program Felsted developed to help children learn about strangers and bullying. “We help children learn about strangers and what to say to protect themselves.”  

Academy of the Martial Way has also branched out to provide children’s summer camps with training in bullying and abduction prevention, Taekwondo, strength building games, focus and discipline.  

Originally from the state of Washington, Felsted has three children who are all black belts. Her daughter, Kallie, also works at the studio. FBN 



By Veronica Tierney, FBN 

The Academy of the Martial Way is located at 2708 N. 4th St., Suite E-1 in Flagstaff. For more information, call 928-890-9090 or email 





Photo caption: 

Mechelle Felsted teaches Taekwondo to all ages, including self-defense classes for women. 

Photo by Veronica Tierney, Fresh Focuses Photography 


Felsted calls her studio a “character development center.” Students are involved in community service at the local food bank while also training in martial arts. 

Photo by Veronica Tierney, Fresh Focuses Photography 



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