Apr 27, 2023 - News

Austin martial arts studio launches LGBTQ+ class

A child practices karate moves.

Students doing Seido karate exercises. Photo: Courtesy of Sun Dragon

A nonprofit martial arts studio in South Austin is offering classes to allow nonbinary students to express themselves.

Driving the news: Recently Sun Dragon Martial Arts and Self-Defense launched its Plus class, geared toward LGBTQ+ students.

  • It's a karate class that also involves discussion time.
Students kicking at a martial arts studio.
Two-thirds of Sun Dragon's students are under 18. Photo: Courtesy of Sun Dragon

What they're saying: "It's not just punching and kicking," Laura Hayden, executive director of Sun Dragon, tells Axios. "We teach stuff like kids using voices, to say, 'Hey, stop that,' 'Don’t sit that close to me,' or 'Don’t bother my friend.' We teach ways to use voices and stand up for each other." ​​

  • "We talk about things that are a little more sensitive, like what does it feel like in school to not be yourself?" Hayden says.
  • "Our mission is to ensure that everyone has access to karate and self-defense so they can end violence in our community," she says. "We want to create a supportive environment so anyone can learn and money shouldn’t be issue."

The big picture: Over the last few years, LGBTQ+ martial arts classes and clubs have launched from Los Angeles to upstate New York.

Why it matters: The National Center for Transgender Equality says more than one in four trans people have faced a bias-driven assault.

  • 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021, per a survey by the Trevor Project, an organization that runs crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ people under 25.

Between the lines: Sun Dragon started in the late 1980s as a space for women to train without the hazing, abuse and exclusion they encountered at other studios.

  • Now, with classes in violence prevention, yoga, self-defense and Seido Karate, the studio accepts everyone.

By the numbers: Sun Dragon has about 100 students ranging in age from six to 70. Two-thirds are under 18 and the majority are female.

  • Its total revenue was $153,000 in 2022, with the majority coming from tuition.
  • The nonprofit offered $12,000 in tuition assistance in 2022, chiefly in the form of discounted tuition.

How to go: Sun Dragon is located at 4534 West Gate Blvd., Suite 101.

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