For Master Chris Berlow, birthday parties were the key to jump-starting his business more than a decade ago.
"We do a really good birthday party," the the (UMAC) Briarcliff owner, said. "The kids are disciplined and controlled and having the time of their lives."
Berlow, 41, said parents were impressed with the interactive parties thrown at the center and within a year of opening his facility, he had earned 200 students—twice his initial goal.
"The parents wanted to train with their kids and it just escalated and escalated," he recalled.
In 1999, Berlow and his wife Kathy moved their facility down North State Road to a new 7,400 square foot space and now oversees a staff of about 10 other instructors, all who are former students of the trained Tae Kwan Do competitor.
But for Berlow, a Yorktown native, operating a martial arts facility is not just about "punching and kicking."
"We've made it our mission to help the students in the community live a happier, healthier life," he explained. "We teach them how to become great people and great members of the community and spread those martial arts values to as many people as possible."
Equipped with a teaching degree, Berlow has expanded UMAC's reach over the past decade, offering a variety of classes, as well as after-school and summer camp programs for area youths.
"There's a unique style here," he explained. "Every instructor I have here has been through my program."
Among them is Master Vincent Bellantoni, who Berlow said "has been under me for 17 years."
"He followed me here from where I used to teach," he said.
Berlow believes UMAC has "filled a void in the community," with its well-rounded offerings that target "mindy, body and spirit," for children as young as five through adults.
When the owner isn't teaching black belt classes and managing the day-to-day operations of UMAC, he has plenty other projects going on.
In 2009, for example, he co-authored the book You Have Infinite Power, along with his partners in the company Empowered Mastery Consultants.
"We pretty much go into corporations and help them develop harmony and balance in their lives," he explained. "We are incorporating martial arts values into corporate America."
He has also offered classes at area schools regularly and is the father of five children between the ages of 11 and 17.
Moving forward, Berlow is working on a second book about living life like a black belt and is looking to continue growing his student base at UMAC.
"We have trained them to be great people and they develop a comraderie," Berlow said. "We develop great technique and great friendships."