East Falls instructor uses martial arts to help spur mental growth

Francis Hilario and Hope Janelle Berninghausen of Philadelphia Neighborhoods caught up with a number of Northwest Philadelphia artists for an artist spotlight series this week. Today’s installment features Khalid Newton of the House of Martial Balance in East Falls. 

Among the many types of art found at Sherman Mills in East Falls, like glass making and photography, a different type of art thrives. At the House of Martial Balance, two separate martial arts disciplines are being taught under one roof. 

“It came out of my head as a desire to give someone a true sense of martial balance. That’s why we have the Japanese and the Chinese [elements],” said Khalid Newton, senior instructor at the martial arts school. “We want to create a healing aspect to the martial arts. If the need comes when we need to hurt someone and do damage to them, you should be able to repair that damage.”

The school teaches Chinese martial arts styles such as Tien Shan Pai and Ta’i Chi Ch’uan, and Japanese martial arts styles such as Ichikawa-Ha Goju-ryu and Ten-Chi.

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“The main difference [between the martial arts styles] is the way it’s expressed,” Newton said, “because all martial arts is based on the same principles. The art is the same. It’s just the way it’s expressed.”

The expressions are different due to the environment each discipline grew out of. Northern kung fu styles, such as Tien Shan Pai, use long-range movements because of the open spaces in which they developed. The southern styles feature close-range movements because they developed in closed spaces such as canals and houses.

The school uses martial arts to emphasize that the physical has a causal relationship with the mental.

“[The physical] affects the plasticity of the person’s brain, be it a child or adult,” Newton said. “The more physical [and] the more exhausting it is, the more neurons are being developed in a person’s mind.”

Newton said those neurons may help people with ADHD or Alzheimer’s disease build on their mental capacity.

“It’s that simple,” Newton said. “Just maintain a healthy, active lifestyle where you’re really going out and working your butt off [and] learning a skill and that’s just going to carry you through your lifetime, hopefully.”

Newton said that while House of Martial Balance does not offer programs that aim specifically towards those with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, the school is making efforts to expand its reach.

“We’re trying to initiate some contact with some nursing homes,” Newton said, “and tell them, ‘Look, this is what we have to offer and this is how we would like to help you.'”

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