Black-belt taekwondo instructor Ken Parks is looking for a few good castaways. They’re the folks he had in mind when he opened Red Rocks Alternative Martial Arts, South Jeffco’s newest dojo that’s a little less Stephen Oliver and a bit more Napoleon Dynamite.
“The ‘alternative’ person gets lost. I kind of sit around the herd and just look for the ones who fall off,” Parks said of the traditional martial arts experience. People who don’t quite fit the mold will be right at home in Parks’ quirky mixed-martial-arts studio across the street from Southwest Plaza, he said.
“If you’re trying to get to the nationals, you’re not going to have any problem. There’s lots of (people) who would like to train you,” said Parks, who interrupts himself frequently with a youthful staccato chuckle. “It’s the people that are a little beaten down that I’m looking for. It’s amazing what they can accomplish.”
Though Parks welcomes just about anyone into his studio, which shares a space with the Soulfully Driven Dance Company, he’s dedicated to working with the blind and specifically aims to teach people who may need more guidance than a typical instructor might provide.
“I want to help everybody. I want to share knowledge with children, whoever wants to join,” said fellow instructor and student Timothy Rose, a Bear Creek High graduate who has two Junior Olympics titles to his credit. “It’s a good environment.”
Student Bruce Stoddard hopes to thrive in that environment. The Littleton resident, who is blind, laughed sportingly about his currently low skill level. He has been working occasionally with Parks for more than a year.
“It probably gives you more confidence and freedom to continue on and try to enjoy life,” said Stoddard, as he tethered Belle, his restless golden retriever helper dog in training, to a small punching bag on the floor.
Part of the $50 monthly tuition includes anytime access to Parks, who freely gives out his cell phone number. He makes himself available around the clock for people who may just need to talk. A big part of martial arts training lies in building confidence, something Parks said he seeks to foster.
“My mission is to give people what they need as quickly as they can have it,” he said. “A lot of people come in, and they don’t give a damn about a black belt. They want to go to the mall without getting hurt.”
Others join Red Rocks simply to get in a good workout, he said. And the emphasis of his program, like that of many traditional martial arts, is to balance physical training with refined mental discipline.
“One thing I like to say to people who train with me is, ‘You’ll need two things here: You need a broom and a black belt. … If you can’t serve, you should move on,” he said. “That’s why we put the name ‘alternative’ in there. It’s for people who are looking for what isn’t out there.”
And despite the unusual atmosphere at Red Rocks, students still should be prepared to put a lot of effort into their training, Parks said.
“Anybody who trains with me is no weakling,” he said. “You just have to work really hard to be strong.”
Red Rocks Alternative Martial Arts
9132 W. Bowles Ave. 303-986-3073