Q&A with American Karate Studios co-owner Judy Anderson O’Neill

Since the 1970s, Judy Anderson O’Neill – co-owner and director of American Karate Studios in Newark, has been instructing men, women and children of all ages in the martial arts.

For her dedication her work, O’Neill was inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame this past May, capping off a lifetime of achievements in the martial arts.

We sat down with O’Neill for a Q&A about her life, her accomplishments and her goals as she continues to teach at AKS.

Name:  Judy Anderson O’Neill
Hometown: Fair Hill, Md.
Occupation:  Co-Owner/Co-Executive Director of American Karate Studios in Newark, Del.

How did you first become interested in Martial Arts?
I was in my senior year at the University of Delaware working towards my B.S. in Physical Education.  I had a skills class requirement that I had to fulfill so I took a self-defense class.  That really piqued my interest.  The instructor introduced me to his instructor, Jim Clapp, who owned the American Karate Studios (AKS).  I started training with Jim and really enjoyed it.  I’d always been very competitive, playing field hockey and lacrosse, throughout high school and college.  I began to compete in local, regional and national karate tournaments, fulfilling my competitive nature.  Eventually I went on to become co-owner of AKS with Jim and currently teach our Senior Leadership Team, Dyna-Tots (a program for 3 ½-6 year olds) and Fitness Kickboxing.  I also conduct personal safety seminars for women as well as anti-bullying seminars and stranger danger programs for children.  I currently hold a 7th Degree Black Belt in Kenpo and a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Modern Arnis, a Filipino Stick Fighting art.

Why did you focus on the styles that you've come to master?
Kenpo is the primary style that was taught at AKS when I began my training.  Jim would bring in outside Grandmasters for seminars.  He brought in 10th Degree Grandmaster—Ed Parker—in the 70’s, who I was promoted under to my 1st Degree Black Belt.   Jim also brought in Filipino 10th Degree Black Belt Grandmaster Remy Presas, who I trained with extensively.  We produced instructional videos in Modern Arnis that are still available on YouTube and sold internationally today.  I also trained with 10th Degree Black Belt Jujitsu Grandmaster Wally Jay.

What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment in Martial Arts?
Being able to teach thousands of people—men, women, teens and children—the martial arts and seeing the profound influence it has on their lives is huge.  As a result of this, I would have to say being inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame this past May is certainly a memorable accomplishment.  I am the first woman martial artist in the country to have been inducted into their state’s Sports Hall of Fame.  Last year I was inducted into the Interrnational Modern Arnis Foundation Hall of Fame—also the first woman to have been inducted.  Other notable accomplishments include having pioneered karate programs for young children.  It’s a model that has inspired others across the country to do the same.  Also, having produced and starred in the Modern Arnis instructional videos with Grandmaster Presas certainly ranks up there. 

What, if any, are your future goals?
It’s important for me to continue to emphasize the benefits of the martial arts for people of all ages.  I’ll continue to promote the school and our programs, hoping to teach more people about how training in the martial arts can have a profound impact on their lives.

What advice would you have for young women with an interest in Martial Arts?
Get started today!  The self confidence that comes with knowing self-defense is empowering for any young woman.  Self-defense training is a skill that every young woman should have.  In addition the training improves physical fitness on all levels, leading to improved athletic abilities with any sport.  The self-confidence developed through training also helps people resist the negative peer pressures that are so prevalent in our society today.  The ability to develop focus, awareness and concentration carries over into every aspect of their lives—socially, academically, physically and emotionally among others.  With a strong character development program, which we emphasize at AKS, young women will find themselves better people, knowing that they have developed respect for themselves and others, compassion and empathy, and many other traits that help prepare a people for their adult lives.