Hi, I’m Master Austin - the guy writing this story. :)

Hi, I’m Master Austin - the guy writing this story. :)

Master Mel teaching a Kickboxing class in Hawaii. Circa 1996.

Master Mel teaching a Kickboxing class in Hawaii. Circa 1996.

Austin & Garret in the Honolulu Dojo. Circa 1997.

Austin & Garret in the Honolulu Dojo. Circa 1997.

The founding MAFF family. Circa 2003.

The founding MAFF family. Circa 2003.

The founding MAFF Family: Master Garret, Master Mel, Master Austin, and Grandmaster Dave. Circa 2009.

The founding MAFF Family: Master Garret, Master Mel, Master Austin, and Grandmaster Dave. Circa 2009.

Grandmaster Dave and Master Mel.

Grandmaster Dave and Master Mel.

The Story Behind MAFF

Introduction

“MAFF is a special place!” I hear it all the time. When you walk in and take a class, you will know what I mean. It’s a place where people train hard, have a great time, and leave feeling proud of themselves. It’s a place where everyone is treated like family, and encouraged to achieve their goals. It’s positive and genuine. It’s magic.

“How did it get this way?” That is a great question, and I don’t know how else to answer that question other than to tell you our story.

First, let me introduce myself. I’m Austin Curtis - the Operations Director and one of the instructors at MAFF. My family and I established this place in 2002, but before I talk about that, let me take you back to 1995…

When Mel Met Dave

Before she was "Master Mel", my mom was raising my brother and I in Portland, Oregon and working as a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym. She was always an entrepreneur and a go-getter, and at some point, that led her to go out to Hawaii for a business convention. When she returned to Portland, she didn't say much about the convention... but man, she could not stop talking about this great guy named Dave. He was a pilot, a fitness buff, and had some involvement in Karate?

The Dojo in Hawaii

Within a year and a half, Mel & Dave were married and the four of us were living in Honolulu running a Martial Arts studio together. Crazy right? Totally crazy. We were excited about getting our Black Belts, my brother and I trained every day after school. Within a few belts, we were teaching some of the kids classes on our own. Mel began training with us, teaching the "Cardio Combat" fitness classes, and retooling some things on the business side. Together, we built a great school.

The Move to California

In 1999, my brother, my mom, and I tested for our Black Belts - it was amazing! Shortly after the test, we had an outstanding opportunity to move to California where Mel was offered a position to run an internet travel company! We moved to San Diego and began riding the "dot com wave", continuing to teach Martial Art classes out of our garage. Master Dave looked into opening another school in San Diego, but it never felt like the right fit.

Santa Barbara Magic

In 2001, I moved up to Santa Barbara to attend SBCC. I checked out a few martial art studios around town, but it just wasn’t the same. So, you can imagine my excitement when my parents announced that they were going to move the family up into Santa Barbara to start a full time dojo again! The 4 of us were back in action together. All of the doors in Santa Barbara opened up, as if to welcome us to our true home. I got to see my parents risk everything, work tirelessly, and eventually make MAFF a success. Within a year, our dojo was on the map, voted #1 Martial Arts School in the Independent Readers’ Poll.

The Story Continues

A lot has happened since then and our story is far from over. My parents are still very active - teaching, leading, and living their best lives. My wife and I have 3 daughters who are all training, and it’s awesome to see them involved in the family tradition. Of course, I hope they’ll all become instructors one day as well! Master Garret is down in Hollywood making movies and yes, still training. We are all striving toward preserving the family legacy and spreading the Black Belt Culture.