Kick-Starting Success

Kick-Starting Success

Commanding children’s attention can be a tough task. Keeping them engaged, focused and having some fun while teaching valuable life skills is even more difficult. Jeff Christensen has managed to accomplish all this in the confines of his martial arts studio, Karate America Verona, which he opened in 1995.

A twenty-seven-year veteran of American-style karate and a sixth-degree black belt, Christensen became an instructor for the opportunity to pass on to others what karate has meant to him in his own life. Over the years he has built a solid business serving almost three hundred students. And that number continues to grow. “We focus on the students,” says Christensen. “We stay true to who and what we are and what we do. We do well, and we want our students to do well.”

But it’s with the kids where Christensen really excels. In addition to karate, Christensen teaches self-discipline, taking responsibility for one’s actions and attitudes, and to use karate as self defense only. He also takes the time to speak to students in school classrooms about subjects such as bullying. “It’s a huge problem in the schools today. It’s important to let kids know that if they or if someone they know is being bullied, it’s safe to tell their parents and teachers.”

Christensen is also involved with the Ronald McDonald House, sponsoring an annual Kick-A-Thon. Last year, Karate America Verona raised $32,561, bringing the total to $245,908 over the last nine years. “This event is all about team spirit and kids helping kids,” says Christensen. “We are proud to be associated with such a wonderful organization.”

The studio also hosts the largest martial arts tournament in the state, the Southern Wisconsin Open. Thousands of karate students travel to Verona to compete in the tournament twice a year. When asked about the secret to his success, Christensen replies, “We’ve never changed who we are. We just keep doing the right things.”


The vitals

• From DePere, Wisconsin

• Moved to Madison in 1975

• Computer science major, Lakeland College

• Sixth-degree black belt in American-style karate

• Opened Karate America Verona in 1995


The Breakdown

Condolences to the family of Laurie Mlatawou, who passed away recently. Mlatawou was a former co-chair of The Dane County Task Force on Racial  Disparities and was a tireless worker and advocate for social justice in the greater Madison community. Her voice will be sorely missed.

A huge shout-out to the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and CEO Michael Johnson for their efforts to move the achievement gap conversation forward by inviting U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Chicago and Philadelphia superintendent Paul Vallas to Madison. In a community that’s attempting to wrap its arms around this issue, more ideas are needed.

Congratulations to all of the recipients of the 100 Black Men of Madison‘s 2nd Annual Educator and Mentor Appreciation Breakfast. The teacher awardees were selected based on their demonstration of a strong ability to foster excellence in education, and the mentors were selected on their ability to provide guidance and positive experiences to African American students. 

Derrell Connor hosts “Outreach” on NewsTalk 1310 WIBA, pens a column for Channel 3000 and freelances for Madison Magazine.