As a child, Julie Elrod was bullied; she says those experiences fueled her interest in self-defense and martial arts — and they help her empathize with students having similar problems.

"I didn't want to go to school," she says. "Which gives me good insight into kids having trouble today. We have a zero tolerance policy towards bullying. "

Part of the AAMA student creed states, "I will use what I learn in class constructively and defensively, to help myself and others, and never to be abusive." The Elrods highlight this, emphasizing their discipline as self-defense, not an offensive sport.

For Kami and Wyatt, growing up at with martial arts has been both fun and educational. "I started as soon as I could walk," says Kami. "We've been with it for our whole lives. My parents told me if I wanted to do something different — like ballet or other sports — I could do that. They were supportive of other things, but I always came back."

Sign up to receive our free daily email newsletter: Columbia Today

Today, Kami and Wyatt run AAMA's kickboxing program and are actively involved in running the school. But that doesn't mean Ron and Julie have any plans to retire.

"It's never been just a business," says Julie. "It's our life."

For that, the Elrods' students are grateful; they hope the family works together for many years to come.

"They're just amazing people," says John Miller. "They work as well together as a family as they do as a business. It shines through."

Types of Martial Arts

"Martial Arts" is a broad term encompassing a variety of practices. "Martial arts are usually either self-defense or sports-oriented," says Kami Elrod, explaining that her family teaches a mixed martial arts approach called taijutsu, a broad term describing Japanese, self-defense-oriented martial arts. The Elrods' take on taijutsu draws heavily from the Japanese discipline of ninjutsu.

Some of the more commonly taught martial arts:

Judo: A Japanese martial art in which the goal is throwing or taking the opponent to the ground.

Jiu Jitsu: A Japanese martial art in which an unarmed person defeats an armed opponent with either no weapon or a small weapon via pins, joint locks and throws that harness the attacker's energy.

Karate: One of the best-known martial arts in the U.S., karate has roots in Okinawa and focuses on striking techniques, especially hand strikes.

Krav Maga: Newly popular in the U.S., krav maga is an Israeli hand-to-hand combat system using grappling and striking for self-defense.

Kung Fu: A blanket term for Chinese martial arts that includes a wide range of styles.

Ninjutsu: The martial art famously practiced by the Japanese shinobi (or ninja), ninjutsu incorporates weapons as well as the strategy and tactics of guerrilla warfare.

Tae Kwon Do: A sports-oriented Chinese martial art that often includes slow movements and is associated with health benefits.