People in Your Neighborhood: Meet martial artists Terry Sanchez

For Twins Dragon sports center owner Terry Sanchez, studying martial arts and self-defense methods has been a lifelong passion. At his 7524 La Jolla Blvd. studio the San Diego offers Kenpo, karate, boxing, Thai kickboxing, grappling and fencing. It all started when he was a child, and these days, the sixth-degree black belt from Mission Beach is still learning new styles.

How did your interest in martial arts begin?

“I started with Judo when I was 10, and then I started karate when I was 20, while I was in college getting a degree in psychology and sociology. I continued on with the martial arts, because I learned that my degrees went hand-in-hand with martial arts ... I realized I could better teach people and understand the depth of their needs. 

After three years of doing karate, I started working at the Twin Dragon studio while it was owned by someone who also taught at Muirlands Middle School. A few years later, I bought the business from him. After 27 years, I moved to a location on Nautilus Street and then here seven years ago. I also teach Chinese Tai Chi, which I learned one form of 25 years ago and another form in the last year.” 

What does it mean to be sixth-degree black belt?

“Typically there are three belts: white belt, brown belt and black belt. With the Chinese Kempo we do, there are levels within those belts. So within a white belt, there are white, orange, purple, blue and green. Green would be considered a senior white belt. Within the brown belt, there are three degrees: 1, 2 and 3.

Within a black belt, there are different degrees (depending on which type of martial art you practice). Each degree in black belt signifies a new level. You move through the ranks of degrees through your accomplishments of what you’ve done with your belt. It’s like a degree in academics (high school, college, master’s, etc.).”

Who do you like to teach?

“I like working with everyone, but women and children can be more vulnerable, so it means more to me to give them tools to be more confident and safe. For the children, it’s all about kick-block-punch and street awareness. I teach them how to avoid strangers or bullies. I’m also starting a woman’s self-defense class so they feel confident about who they are as a person and not be intimidated.” 

What has martial arts taught you?

“Martial arts and self-defense teaches how to avoid a confrontation rather than be involved in one. Teaching it has given me the satisfaction of seeing people grow and become confident and sure of themselves.” 

How about fencing?

“In the old days, fencing and sword play would be part of your training if you were in the military or if you were in an elitist group of people. Today, I get a lot of people who come in because it’s mystical to them. It’s something they’ve seen on TV or in movies. But it is an art and it helps with conditioning. Some of the movements in fencing, such as lunging forward and striking, can be done with a hand or a sword. But a lot of people who do martial arts don’t do fencing.” 

What do you do to relax?

“I go for walks, ride bikes and I condition myself to stay in shape. I’m not that old, but I’m getting older, so I need to stay in shape.” 

Do you like karate movies?

“I like them, sure. They give a good insight into the martial arts, but the one thing they tend to get wrong is they portray people who are trained in martial arts as someone that is the toughest person in the room, who doesn’t take any guff from anyone, who will just jump in and fight you and that isn’t always what the enemy is like. Marital arts provides a sense of confidence as a person, so you don’t always have to fight to feel strong.”

- Editor’s Note: Welcome to La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series, which shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalight.com or call us at (858) 875-5950.

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