EXETER – The arts were on display on Saturday. Martial arts.
Galli’s Fighting Chance School of Self Defense, a martial arts training school and tactical self-defense training academy, recently renovated and moved into the former Showcase Theater on Tunkhannock Avenue in Exeter.
Sensei Len Galli held a grand opening/open house to show off the facility.
Galli said the new 5,000-square-foot facility is more than double the size of previous studio on Roosevelt Street in Exeter Park where the business was housed for the past eight years. The school started in 1993 with about 900 square feet on Luzerne Avenue in West Pittston. There are now eight professional instructors, including Galli’s son and daughter, on staff.
The renovated property has a long history. Nestled next to Fox Hill County Club, it was previously a mining equipment store, a roller skating rink, a dance hall, a restaurant and, most recently, the Showcase Theater.
Galli started renovations in October and got the place up and running in 62 days. He said the work included new walls, new electrical and plumbing, new heating and air conditioning, reinforced flooring, new insulation, windows and door.
“It was an eyesore for a long time and we wanted to give the community something back,” Galli said.
He said in addition to his regular classes for children and adults, he will be offering a free 2-hour, self-defense class for women on Feb. 23. He said the name of his business, Fighting Chance, originally referred to an escape rape program he taught.
“It’s designed for women to fight off an attacker,” he said. “Very useful.”
The school also provides anti-bullying programs to area school groups and he recently began a “Little Dragons” program, which encourages 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds to get into martial arts.
“We’re finding out that when we see kids that are 4 or 5, they don’t have any coordination skills,” Galli said. “The only thing that’s coordinated on them is their thumbs from playing video games.”
But Galli stresses his school does not produce bullies. There’s a strict rule that if a child starts a fight at school, they’re thrown out of the program.
“We don’t encourage fighting,” Galli said. “We encourage self defense and physical fitness.”
In addition to the main marital arts studio, the complex has a large matted room for Brazilian jiu-jitsu. That martial art is a combat sport and self-defense system that emphasizes grappling and ground-fighting techniques.
Galli has been active in martial arts for over 30 years. He works full time as a police officer for Exeter Borough during the day before his karate school opens. Galli himself holds a sixth degree black belt master’s rank in Tang Soo Do, a Korean form of karate, a second-degree black belt in Nihon Goshin Aikido, a Japanese martial art, and a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Rocco Yanora of Wyoming knew a few of the instructors and brought his granddaughter, Ella Biscoto, 7, to tour the facility.
“It’s a nice place, I was hear years ago,” he said. “I have my granddaughter with me. She’s interested in getting into martial arts. She’s in dancing already and she wants to do this too.”