If you're looking to both get fit and learn the discipline of the martial arts, there's a new place to go: the Kaizen Karate Academy and the CrossFit Dover gym in west Dover.
Located in the Enterprise Business Park, it is a joint venture between karate instructor Patrick Preece and fitness trainer George Dobbins. The company has been training students since January, but will hold its formal grand opening event at 5 p.m., Thursday, with Gov. Jack Markell in attendance.
Operating separately, but in adjacent spaces inside a former warehouse, the two not only stress fitness but also take a family approach to achieving a healthier lifestyle.
It's not unusual for a husband and wife team to be working out under Dobbins' watchful eye or to have parents and children practicing together on the mat at the karate academy.
"I teach families, that's the big distinction," Preece said. "I like to have families train together because families stay longer and they get a lot more out of it."
Dobbins, who has worked as a fitness trainer for most of his adult life, sees his work as a mission to help.
"I certainly enjoy fitness and being fit," he said, "but at the same time I believe in service to my community."
For Preece, the Japanese word "kaizen" is the perfect name for the school. It's a philosophy he shares with each of his pupils.
"It means 'incremental improvement,'" he said. "We want our students to be a little bit better today than they were yesterday."
Preece got his inspiration for martial arts training from the original "Karate Kid" movie, but didn't really take up the challenge until he was in college.
"I never thought I'd be a karate instructor," he said. "I was enrolled at the University of Delaware, taking law classes. But I found the right instructor and realized I wanted to do what I loved instead of doing something where you just make a lot of money.
"The great thing is when you do something you love, you don't mind going to work," Preece said. "This is a full-time job, but it doesn't seem like it."
Preece, who had served as a chief instructor for karate Chief Master John Godwin for 11 years, said he and Dobbins decided to work together about a year ago and started searching for an appropriate building to house their businesses. With financial help from the Delaware Economic and Development Office, they renovated a section of a 40,000-square-foot motorcycle parts warehouse, turning it into a well-lit, spacious state-of-the-art training center.
While there are several good karate schools in Dover, Dobbins and Preece feel their combined businesses sets them apart.
Page 2 of 2 - "What makes us unique is our partnering," Preece said. "Some people aren't looking for just martial arts or just a good workout. We're like a one-stop shop for your fitness needs."
At CrossFit Dover, Dobbins stresses teamwork, with small groups of students working together to encourage each other. Classes include information on proper eating and nutrition as well as workouts with free weights. There's even a bit of jogging or running outside when the weather is good.
For Preece, martial arts is not just a skill but a way of life that teaches character development for younger students and stresses hard work, discipline and dedication. His pupils learn how those traits can be used at home, in school and in everyday life.
"We have a community here where we all push each other and strive to be the best that we can be," he said.
Both CrossFit Dover and the Kaizen Academy are open Monday through Saturday and offer classes in the morning, afternoon and evening. Classes in each are tailored to each student's skills, allowing Preece or Dobbins to spend as much time with them as needed.
In addition to their formal grand opening Thursday, Dobbins and Preece will hold a Health and Fitness Expo from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. There will be free karate, Cross-Fit and Zumba demonstrations as well as a free 2:30 p.m. karate class for youngsters. A number of local vendors, nutritionists and physical therapists also will be on hand.