Martial Arts Studio Finds Right Combination for Growth

MBD Martial Arts set to move to downtown Des Plaines.

One local business has fought through the recession, and is now expanding to a location in downtown Des Plaines. , 1673 Oakton St., will pack up its gear and open up a new studio located at 1508 Miner St. on May 1.

It was a packed house at the small studio on Wednesday night. A group of proud parents looked on as Michelle DeLaRosa, co-owner, led their “Little Dragons,” ages three to six years old, through a class of stretching, breathing and training exercises, and cultural lessons.

Paul Rowland, of Des Plaines, said he has been bringing his son, Donovan Rowland, six years old, to the Little Dragons classes since last summer. He said his son was benefitting from the program by learning responsibility and discipline, and it was a good activity during the winter when kids can’t go outside as much. He said his wife asked Donovan if he would like to take Karate lessons after he became inspired by a movie.

“He was jumping around the house reenacting Kung-Fu Panda,” Rowland said.


DeLaRosa said the new space would give her business more than double the amount of square feet compared to its current location. She founded the business in 2003 and moved it into its first and only location in 2010. DeLaRosa said MBD quickly outgrew its first location, and the expansion would allow her to offer more programs to customers.

While the Great Recession has not been kind to many small businesses, MBD Martial Arts has found a way to remain competitive and in-demand. DeLaRosa said she attributed her business’ growth despite the lagging economy to several factors. First, she said she believed her studio was the most competitively priced in the area, and, second, she said they do not require anyone to sign a long-term contract.

DeLaRosa said many martial arts studios ask customers to sign 12-month contracts.

“When I told my friends I wasn’t going to require people to sign long-term contracts, everyone said I was crazy,” the martial arts instructor said.

DeLaRosa’s bet appears to be paying off. She said many of her students have been taking classes from her for years, some since she began in 2003. She added that since she lived in the community, she didn’t want to make people uncomfortable by forcing them to sign a contract they can’t get out of.

“I don’t want to be arguing with parents,” DeLaRosa said. “I’d rather not have that kind of business.”

Liliana Conley, of Des Plaines, said she has been bringing her son Eli Conley, five years old, to the Little Dragons class for two years. Conley said she was glad the studio was moving because there would be more space and parking.

Conley said DeLaRosa was really good with kids, went out of her way to make the them feel welcome, and did things to make them feel special, such as acknowledging their birthdays.

“She’s like a friend, not just a teacher,” Conley said.

MBD Martial Art’s new location is not in Metropolitan Square. In a previous story .

DeLaRosa said they did consider Metropolitan Square properties when they were looking for a new location, and there was one reason why they didn’t pursue them.

“The rent was super-duper expensive,” she said.

DeLaRosa said the expansion would allow her to offer new programs to students including a Karate summer day camp and an expanded combat fitness for adults program.

DeLaRosa said combat fitness for adults was a combination of kickboxing and calisthenics, between fitness and self-defense.

The studio offers classes in a wide range of disciplines including Karate, Muy Tai and Pankration. Muy Tai is a version of kickboxing. Pankration is a combination of boxing and wrestling, and is the basis for what is seen in Ultimate Fighting on television, DeLaRosa said.

For more information on MBD Martial Arts classes and programs visit its website or call the studio at (847) 297-2788.

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