Robert Gifford saw an opportunity to combine gymnastics and karate into one center in Missouri City after seeing the rapid population growth in Sienna Plantation.
As new families continued to move into the master-planned community, Gifford opened the Sienna Gymnastics and Karate center in 2013 to offer residents an activity destination for their children. Gifford said he opened the gymnastics and karate center to teach self-defense to children as well as provide beginner gymnastics classes.
“A lot of young couples are coming in and moving to [Sienna Plantation], and they have a couple of kids,” he said. “It’s all young couples and this is perfect for them because they can come in and bring their daughter to gymnastics, and they can bring their son to karate.”
Gifford has more than 30 years of zen do kai training and uses his experience to teach students basic and advanced self-defense techniques. Zen do kai is a specific martial arts practice that emphasizes various self-defense principles and techniques.
Gifford said he centralizes his classes to give young students self-confidence as well as the skills to defend themselves.
“You feel like you’re really doing something right,” he said. “It’s really rewarding when you watch a kid come in who’s insecure and then two years later, he walks out very confident.”
Sienna Gymnastics and Karate also provides recreational gymnastic courses that are intended to introduce students to the sport. Gifford said the center does not offer advanced courses or house a competitive team due to space and equipment restraints.
However, once students advance through the gymnastics program, Gifford said he refers them to his Sugar Land Gymnastics Karate Center, which he opened in 2011. He said the Sugar Land center is intended to house advanced courses led by a professional gymnastics trainer as well as competitive teams.
When he created the center’s gymnastics curriculum, Gifford borrowed a practice from his martial arts training to distinguish the center’s gymnastics program. Gifford has implemented various benchmark tests for the center’s gymnastics program that are geared to test student skills and abilities. He said the tests are intended to recognize students for their accomplishments and to help motivate them to keep moving forward.
Gifford said his gymnastics philosophy is not a traditional sport practice and is mirrored to reflect how he teaches martial arts.
“In the land of karate, when children take their belt tests, it’s a big deal [because]that provides them motivation to keep going,” he said. “When I jumped over to the land of gymnastics, there was no pat on the back, [and]I thought that was a bad way to inspire and motivate your kids.”
Sienna Gymnastics and Karate
4545 Sienna Parkway, Missouri City
Hours: Mon.-Tue. 9-11 a.m.,
Mon.-Thu. 4-7 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-noon