Instructors pose with students during the most recent belt test at Poway Martial Arts, 13246 Poway Road. (courtesy of Poway Martial Arts)

Poway Martial Arts reaches 35 years

By Terry L. Wilson

Poway Martial Arts is celebrating 35 years in business and looking forward to the next 35. This “mom and pop” family owned karate school has earned a stellar reputation as being a family friendly, fun place to train and workout under the direction of head instructor and school owner Barry Barker.

“Poway was the perfect location for our school,” said Barry’s daughter Jessica. “This is a place where people come to raise their families and that’s who we cater to because we are a family owned and operated business. I think because we aren’t a big chain and because we are a local mom and pop karate school, we fit nicely into the Poway lifestyle.”

The entire Barker clan was raised in the dojo (karate school) studying Kenpo Karate. Each family member had to earn his or her stripes one kick and punch at a time. 

“I have five children. Three of them are black belts, but my two older kids are still working toward that goal,” Barry said. “My oldest son is a boxing coach and karate instructor in Lubbock, Texas. My younger son, Jordan, is a fourth-degree black belt and my daughter, Jessica, is a second-degree black belt.”

Barry describes himself as a “karate nerd.” The karate bug bit him at a very young age, after watching Bruce Lee as Kato in the TV series “The Green Hornet.” Years later, after receiving a black belt, Barry took his first step toward achieving his ultimate dream career.

“On October first of ’84 I opened my first school when the ‘Karate Kid’ (movie) first came out,” Barry said. “I wish I could say I planned it that way, but it was just dumb luck. I was working as production manager at National Pen Corporation inMira Mesa. I’d work there from 7 in the morning until 3:30, then I’d open my school and teach till 9, home by 10, then start all over again.”

This regimen went on for two years, and by his third year Barry was making enough money to quite his day job, open his third location and teach karate full-time.

What began in a humble 600-square-foot garage has morphed into a massive 7,000-square-foot training center offering something for everybody and every age: Kenpo Karate for kids and adults. This program is infused with a variety of martial art skills that include jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and wrestling. 

“We also have a state-of-the art boxing club for men, women, teens and kids,” Barry said. “Classes are available for people of all fitness and skill levels from beginner up to expert, including kid’s fitness boxing classes. We offer popular bag work and exercise classes called Fitness Boxing, where the focus is on taking your fitness to a whole new level. We also have more instruction-based classes with contact drills, along with sparring and fight training for those interested.”

After 3½  decades of teaching and training scores of students, Barry has decided it’s time for him to hang up his ninth-degree black belt and pass the legacy on to the next generation – in this case his daughter Jessica.

“Jessica got married, moved to Washington, D.C., and was running a martial arts school there,” Barry said. “I hired her to come home and run ours. She grew up in this school; she’s the perfect person to take over.”

“I started here when I was 5. I feel like I was born into the martial arts,” Jessica said. “I have a massive education in Kenpo Karate in addition to what is required to run the school as a business. I’ve always known that I was going to make a career out of teaching martial arts someplace. That was my calling in life. I feel humble and grateful that I can do all that here at the school I call home.”

Barry Barker has written three books and produced 15 videos about the martial arts. For information on Poway Martial Arts, call (858) 486-1003 or email