It all started in the basement of a local family’s home in 1993: Eight friends and family members gathered to try out “this Taekwondo stuff.”
At the time, Ed Ciarfella was a 4th Dan Master Instructor and passionate about sharing martial arts training with anyone who would listen. Those present began training religiously, in time attaining the rank of Black Belt.
At the time Ciarfella was working for Robbie’s Music, his family’s business.
In 1995 Ed and his wife Teresa made the decision to leave that family business and open a martial arts school in the ShopRite Plaza in Warwick.
“This was a very scary proposition,” the Ciarfellas recalled, “because we had two small children, a mortgage and bills to pay and just enough savings to put down a security deposit and build out the space.”
Through hard work and perseverance, United Martial Arts Centers grew and thrived in the community and has been voted Number One martial arts school in the Hudson Valley many times. Several things distinguish UMAC from its competition: a strong emphasis on customer service, thoroughly trained, highly professional instructors, an after-school martial arts program offering pickup from school and a full-day summer camp.
UMAC has always maintained a focus on giving back to the communities it serves. In the past 25 years, UMAC has raised close to a million dollars for charities such as M.D.A., Child Help, Back Pack Snack Attack, D.A.R.E. and LLS. Most recently, UMAC set up a scholarship fund for college-bound students in need of financial help. “The day we opened the doors,” Ciarfella said, “Teresa and I made a commitment to give back to our community.”
Twenty-five years later, that tradition continues. Ciarfella has been training in the martial arts since 1973 and is now an 8th Dan Grand Master (Taekwondo has nine degrees of Black Belt). He presently owns UMAC locations in Warwick, Monroe and Middletown; there are a total of twelve UMAC Locations throughout New York State. “My wife and I are so happy to see our legacy continue; our daughter Master Danielle Ciarfella (5th Dan) operates the Warwick location, our son Master Ed Ciarfella (5th Dan) the Middletown location and Master Jason Bender (5th Dan) the Monroe location.”
The Ciarfellas have also purchased two of the buildings that presently house UMAC locations. One is the 150-year-old church at 43 West St. in Warwick, a unique location for a martial arts school. The venerable structure required extensive refurbishment.Under Master Teresa’s guidance, the UMAC touch was applied and the result was a beautifully modernized building.
The other location, on Route 17M in New Hampton, was an existing martial arts school, but sorely in need of more than a touch-up. Again, Master Teresa took the lead and created a refreshed, inviting space.
Even in these challenging times, UMAC continues to serve its members in the spirit of family and community. Prominently posted in every UMAC facility are these words:
“Our dedicated family provides this community an unforgettable place to connect with your family and friends to have fun and an amazing martial arts experience.
“Our goal is to inspire, guide and educate our students to improve physically, mentally and spiritually through self-discovery, so they can develop a peaceful mind and live with forever happiness.”
For more information, visit www.umacenters.com.