October 17, 2018
50° Mostly Cloudy
  • (L-R) Robert Van Valkenburgh, Dwayne Bowie and Matt Van Valkenburgh started Kogen Dojo because they wanted to offer a one-stop shop for martial arts that is active in the community.
    Photo by Dylan Roche
    (L-R) Robert Van Valkenburgh, Dwayne Bowie and Matt Van Valkenburgh started Kogen Dojo because they wanted to offer a one-stop shop for martial arts that is active in the community.

Kogen Dojo Teaches Modern And Traditional Self-Defense For The Whole Family

Zach Sparks
View Bio
June 8, 2018

Self-defense, fighting in the ring, health and fitness — there are many reasons someone would practice martial arts. Kogen Dojo co-owners Robert Van Valkenburgh, Matt Van Valkenburgh and Dwayne Bowie opened their Severna Park facility in June 2017 because they wanted to offer all of those benefits in one place that was safe, fun and family friendly.

“Of all the martial arts schools in Severna Park and Anne Arundel County as a whole, none are focused on self-defense as its own thing,” Robert said. “They might focus on the sport of martial arts or have martial arts for kids as an after-school program. But none focused on self-defense in a way we thought would be beneficial for our wives and kids.”

At Kogen Dojo, people of all ages can try multiple disciplines through classes or private lessons. There is something for everyone.

While all three co-owners practice and teach Gracie jiu-jitsu, Bowie is the lead instructor for that discipline while Robert is the Taikyoku Budo (Japanese jujutsu) head instructor and Matt is the Muay Thai (kickboxing) head instructor. The dojo also offers Taikyoku Kiko (qigong), a meditative movement practice for increasing strength, health and overall well-being.

Taikyoku Budo merges classical grappling and striking methods with a modern sensibility. After getting his black belt in Korean hapkido, Robert sought to do sparring in a safe way. That’s when he discovered Taikyoku Budo.

“Our focus in Taikyoku Budo is maintaining traditional roots, but constantly testing our techniques and principles through sparring and cross-study of other more modern martial arts,” Robert explained.

Useful as both a martial art and a means of getting fit, Muay Thai is a powerful striking art that incorporates punches, kicks, elbows and knees with clinching, throws and sweeps, creating a well-rounded system.

“Muay Thai gets people in great shape,” said Matt, an Army veteran who has also competed in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “I enjoy training and teaching people the art, the culture behind the art, and the history.”

Gracie jiu-jitsu focuses on practical self-defense for everyone. Bowie said it also builds camaraderie as students spar with the same partners daily.

“We teach them to be better than themselves yesterday rather than being better than their partner,” Bowie said. “… Your enemy is outside the gym. Everyone in the gym that’s working with you is really there to help you get better.”

Bowie experienced that dose of reality himself after returning home from Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the Marine Corps, Bowie was involved in MCMAP, a combat-oriented martial arts program. After learning that a fellow Marine was versed in jiu-jitsu, Bowie visited a dojo.

“I had been to war and back and been taught to defend myself with MCMAP,” he said. “I come back to a civilian gym and get choked out by a woman. I don’t think I was properly prepared.”

While self-defense is a practical reason for learning martial arts, Bowie highlighted the disciplinary benefits as well. He cited one instance where a boy was hitting other kids in school. The boy didn’t take to jiu-jitsu, so he tried Muay Thai. “He stopped hitting kids in school and started getting more focused,” Bowie said.

Conversely, his sister did well in jiu-jitsu but not Muay Thai. Kids with special needs also find martial arts to be a valuable experience.

“You can see the progression,” Bowie said. “We get a lot of kids with motor skill problems, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), even autism from severe to minor, so I find that it does take a longer time for the learning curve but they get there.”
Robert, Matt and Bowie are active at the dojo, but they also have a hand in the community, participating in and sponsoring events like the Severna Park Fourth of July Parade and Burgers and Bands for Suicide Prevention.

“We want to be the community martial arts school in Severna Park,” Robert said. “There are schools that have been around longer than us. There are bigger schools than us. None of that really matters to us in the sense that we just want to be the most involved in the community — in all local events and with charities.”

Added Matt, “We’re just happy to be a part of the community. Everyone can train and really benefit from [martial arts].”

Kogen Dojo is located at 549 Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in Severna Park. Members of RockWell Fitness are eligible for a discount at Kogen Dojo and vice versa. For more information, visit www.kogendojo.com or call 410-507-8160.

“The possibilities I see now are even broader and better than what we first envisioned,” Robert said. “We started with a set of values: to provide traditional and modern self-defense, to be the Severna Park martial arts school. … It has led to all of these relationships that are still growing and have created more opportunities.”

Sidebar Ad

Faces of the Voice

  • Larry Sells
    Vice President, Sales and Development
  • Dylan Roche
  • Zach Sparks
    Assistant Editor
  • Dianna Lancione
  • Lonnie Lancione
  • William Nauman
    Creative Director
  • Colin Murphy
    Sports Editor
    @ArVoiceSports / @ColinAJMurphy
    @SPVoiceSports / @ColinAJMurphy
    @PVoiceSports / @ColinAJMurphy
  • Brian Lancione
    V.P., Operations

Latest Tweets

Events Calendar

Request an Advertising Quote

Please do not add dashes. (ex: 4106479400)
Do not enter anything here.
Search Articles
Search Authors
Search Blog