Karate studio still kicking

Published 8:28 am Friday, February 20, 2015

On a chilly February evening at the Bogalusa YMCA on Avenue B, Stacy Busby led his adult class in the martial art Tang Soo Do.

Before beginning class, Busby asked his students to sit down and close their eyes.

“Forget your stress,” he told them. “For the next hour, nothing outside this room exists. Forget your problems and your worries and just do your best for the next hour. Whatever you’re fretting or stressing about doesn’t have to rule your life. The greatest thing you can realize is how to tone it down. Focus it into something meaningful.”

Busby, who recently received his sixth-degree black belt through the Atlantic-Pacific Tang Soo Do Federation, knows a great deal about turning loss and stress into a positive. One year ago, on Feb. 8, 2014, he lost his studio, which was located on Alabama Avenue, to a terrible fire that started in a nearby tire shop. The same fire claimed two buildings and damaged four, one of which had housed Busby Family Karate for more than 20 years. According to Busby, the building had not only been a place of business, but it had also been his home. He and his wife, Anna, a nurse practitioner, lived above the studio for five years when the studio first opened. Busby had seen dozens of students cross the studio’s threshold over the years and watched as many earned black belts of their own. The loss, Busby said, was a terrible one, all starting with a phone call.

“It was a quarter to 7 in the morning,” Busby recalled, “and my son-in-law called me. He was on his way to his grandmother’s, and as he passed by that way, he saw the flames. He called us at the house, and we went to check.”

Busby and his wife arrived on scene shortly after, not expecting the severity of the fire or the difficulty in extinguishing it.

“I didn’t think there was much to it before we got there, considering the fire department was right next to it. I called 9-1-1, just to see if someone had called in, but they were aware of it and were sending someone over. I was one of the first ones there,” said Busby.

The fire department had the blaze contained before noon, but what was left of Busby’s studio by then was water soaked and badly damaged.

Lee Mizell, who studies kickboxing and karate under Busby, said, “It was horrible. We all miss the old studio because it was kind of a home for us to practice. Master Busby had to go through a lot to recover from it after the fire.”

Thankfully for Busby, the fire damaged the building, but not Busby’s business. His students, some of whom have been enrolled in his school for years, followed Busby as he attempted to find a new location. He was able to resume classes two weeks later.

“First we were in this metal building up on Highway 21. There was plenty of room for everyone, but there was no heating or air conditioning. It made it very difficult for everyone to practice and exercise in that environment. It just didn’t work for us,” Busby said.

After a few months, Busby relocated to the local YMCA, and the studio has been located there ever since. The room, with its bright yellow walls and wall-to-wall exercise mats, is a new start for Busby and his students. It’s not the same home they knew on Alabama Avenue, but it’s given the studio a fresh start.

Of the change, Busby said, “I miss the old studio, but this place is doing well. It’s working out. Even if I do go back over to that lot one day, I’ll still keep something going on in this building, as well. This is a good environment for the students, and we’re doing well.”