Khalif Shabazz - Master Panther to his students - is a firm believer in the power of martial arts to bring purpose and discipline to a life. It has for his own, and he is using his North Walpole, NH Panther's Dojo on Church Street where he teaches his K-Ryu style martial art to help others, especially young people.
"The martial arts builds your self-confidence and gives you discipline," he said.
The 49 year old began training at age 6. His father was a martial arts instructor in Connecticutt, and he taught Shabazz shotokane karate.
"I love teaching, it's in my blood," he said. "I like to see kids doing something, not just hanging out on the street. I'm trying to put a positive force out there. We talk in classes about not being violent on the street with this."
Following his work with his father, he would later study a number of martial arts, most notably with Master Moses Powell. In his dojo, Shabazz teaches six or seven different disciplines, including his own ever-evolving K-Ryu style, which focuses on self-defense, and a weapons class with the bo staff.
A professional boxer, - Panther was his ring name - Shabazz was successful enough to have some fights televised on ESPN. He still regularly spars at several of the boxing clubs in the area.
He combines his boxing, kick boxing, grappling and other martial arts skills in the mixed martial arts class he teaches. He says he prefers to have his students study one specific martial art first, though, to give them a background before they move on to MMA - a sport who's popularity is exploding worldwide.
Shabazz moved from Connecticut to Brattleboro in 1990, and then to Bellows Falls seven years ago. He had a dojo in Saxtons River at one time, then one in Bellows Falls for a while. After that he taught private classes out of his home before opening the dojo in North Walpole a few months ago.
All of Shabazz's classes have a strong physical fitness element, and he teaches one class that is just focused on fitness. He lives what he teaches, and for years he's been a regular running fixture on the streets of Bellows Falls. His son Isaiah, 16, is one of his students, and helps out at the dojo assisting with younger students.
Shabazz says he has several adult and children students, but has plenty of room for more.
His dojo is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., and anyone interested in classes can stop in and see him then, or call him at 463-1564.