Brooke Sexton has been around martial arts her entire life. Her father worked at the Glendale/Peoria YMCA program in 1997, and now Sexton is focused on something she can call her own: Destiny Martial Arts Academy.
Now with her own academy — located at 13644 N. 75th Avenue in Peoria — she has a higher purpose in martial arts. Sexton is focused on helping people of all ages reach their full potential through martial arts.
Sexton, who was born and raised in Peoria and graduated from Liberty High School, was taught karate by her father for more than 20 years.
“I started karate in 2001 under my father at the YMCA after sitting in the back of his classes. I decided to try and take his classes,” Sexton said. “I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.”
Originally interested in going to school to be an eye doctor, Sexton realized that was not what she truly loved. So, she tried other things for a few years.
“I originally wanted to be an eye doctor, then figured out that I wasn’t big on biology or going to school for eight years,” she said.
“I worked odd jobs and then I realized that martial arts was always part of my passion and thought, ‘Why not make this my career?’”
She earned her black belt in 2006. Since then she has continued to work toward her goal of opening her own academy.
“My father started his teaching in our garage in 1995. Then, after moving furniture around the house and garage, my step mom said he had to move somewhere else,” Sexton said. “The YMCA opened in 1997 and my dad started teaching there.”
Sexton said her father was the instructor through 2012, when he moved out of state. It was then that she took over the YMCA teachings — that is, until now.
“I originally began looking to open my own shop, and being born and raised in Peoria I started looking for someplace in the city to open a shop,” Sexton said. “I wanted to be within a short radius of my students and then found this place. It just felt right.”
When she announced she would leave the YMCA to open her own shop, she received a standing ovation. That, she said, confirmed she had made the right decision.
“I had all of them come with me. They are now students here, except a couple that are injured right now, but they said they will start when they heal,” Sexton said.
After finding a location, she decided to go big. She is starting with 3,000 square feet, but there is room for growth.
“This location just felt perfect from the beginning of my search,” Sexton said.
At the academy, Sexton teaches self defense, physical fitness and character development.
“It all depends on what the kid needs to work on, but we want to teach shy kids get more confident,” Sexton said, adding that respect is emphasized.
“Bullying is such an epidemic right now. I want to help there be less bullies and want to build confidence in kids that are being bullied. I want my students to learn respect and honor through martial arts.”
Sexton said after training, students must learn and recite codes, including loyalty to their country, obedience to their parents, honor and friendship.
But it’s not limited to kids. Adults are welcome, too.
“When they join our academy, they are joining our family and are like family members,” Sexton said.
More than 60% of Sexton’s current student base trains with another family member, which she said helps create “a bond in family relationships like no other.”
Chief Instructor Lucas Aderhold, a two-time Regional Grand Champion, has been training for more than 10 years. He received his black belt in 2017.
Sexton also employs certified instructors Jordan Brown and Steven Brown, second-degree black belts; and Kareem and Salma Sinnokrot, first-degree black belts.
“All of the instructors here have gone through our program and are students of my father or myself,” Sexton said. “I hire from within or students that have been under my training.”
Sexton said the city of Peoria and the Peoria Chamber of Commerce have been a huge help in getting her open. A ribbon cutting and grand opening is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 4.
“We will have raffles, refreshments, seminars, martial arts demos and kids activities,” Sexton said. “Plus, representatives from the city and chamber are going to be here to do the ribbon cutting.
“The chamber has helped with advertising and, with the city, has been the best partner to start my business in Peoria.”
As she prepares for the event, she is also setting her sights for bigger and better things.
“In one year, I would like to see us double our student count and be able to reach out to the community and schools and show the benefits of martial arts,” Sexton said. “Five years, I would love to outgrow our current space and then in 10 years be looking to build my own, larger facility. But I will always be here in Peoria.”
Sexton said martial arts enthusiasts should choose her academy over others “because we are a family atmosphere like no other, where all of our black belts are part of our family.”
She added, “Plus, the attitude and confidence you build here and the respect everyone has for everyone else is like no other.”
For more information, visit destinymartialartsacademy.com.