Teaching Life Skills thru Kenpo Ju-Jitsu

My Y Story: Dan Casey


When YMCA Martial Arts Instructor Dan Casey asks parents why they are interested in enrolling their child in his martial arts classes, 90% of the time it comes down to some version of instilling confidence or discipline in their child and 10% of parents want a physical activity and exercise program. “The foundation of my program is building structure, developing discipline, following rules, all while building self-esteem and confidence and having fun doing it.”

Dan has been studying Martial Arts for 30 years. His YMCA class is called “Little Dragons Martial Arts” and is geared toward younger children, ages 4 through 7, with a maximum of 12 kids per class. “This is an entry level Martial Arts class, taking students from White Belt through DragonSkin Belt. The focus of the program is confidence, self-esteem, discipline and a little personal protection. Students learn that fighting is wrong, but they also learn that you don’t need to let anyone hurt you. “

His classes run for 8 weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from  4:00 to 4:30pm at the Merrimack Y. “New students earn a White Belt within their first two classes. The first thing we teach families, students and parents is how to be a student, Martial Arts culture and protocol. “We start with our bow.  It’s how we show courtesy and respect and also a promise to yourself that you will do your best.  A promise to your teammate or partner that you won’t try to hurt them”, Dan said. “Every session ends with a belt ceremony where students are promoted to their next rank. They begin with a white belt, and then promote half belts at a time (white to white/yellow, for instance), and can earn about 10 ranks.”Dan Casey

Over the years, Instructor Casey has trained more than 1,000 children and adults at the YMCA in Martial Arts, specifically Kenpo Ju-Jitsu and holds Third Degree Chief Instructor Certification. He’s taught several families at the Y who have trained together, moms with their daughters and dads with their sons. He enjoys the family Martial Arts environment of the Y.  He also owns and operates Leadership Martial Arts Academy in Merrimack, working with students ages 4 into their 60s.

Speaking about his years as a Y member, “I just connected right away at the Y. I come to the Y for my workouts. I like the people. I like the diversity. The Y is like a melting pot.”  he said. “The Y is for everyone.”

Dan’s children have been active with the Y, also. Benjamin, age 3, and Jackson, age 6, have attended the Y’s Early Education Center for preschool and summer camp. Jackson is in Y Academy.  And they have both taken YMCA swimming lessons, “a life skill that all kids need to know,” he added.

Parent Testimonials:

“Instructor Casey’s martial arts class was perfect for Naruto. From his first class it was obvious he would do well. He learned discipline and focus, drive and hard work. It made him more confident and the attainable goals he set each term were beneficial not only in the studio, but also at home, as they were designed to be. Instructor Casey was someone Naruto looked up to, and respected very much. Instructor Casey even took the time to do a class via Zoom during the times when the pandemic was present. Naruto’s accomplishments at home, at school, and in the studio were all recognized and celebrated. There were many times Naruto would be excited to show Instructor Casey a new accomplishment, whether it was tying his own belt for the first time, or showing him a video of a presentation he did for his church. Instructor Casey is a gifted instructor and we are very grateful for him!”  – Sarah Sutherland

“Dan is a fantastic instructor and as a parent I am so impressed by his class. Bianca had been asking for almost a year to take martial arts and this September she was finally old enough. By the end of the first class I knew this class was going to be a great fit for her, within the first couple of classes Bianca was asked to stand up and speak in front of the class– as everyone knows Bianca is not shy at all however this is a tall order for a 5-year-old and she whispered no ‘Thank you.’ Eight weeks later and she voluntarily stood in front of the class and belted out the student creed solo!! We see improvements at home and couldn’t be prouder- better eye contact when she’s talking to us, better listening and every once in a while we will even catch her respond to us with a “yes ma’am, yes sir!”

She started as a white belt and has had 2 belt ceremonies- she was a yellow stripe and just last week we watched her belt ceremony and she is now a yellow belt. – Jaclyn Hancock

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