“Traditional Taekwondo is our core art. We also have an adult Krav Maga program that is practical, effective self-defense. It’s ‘what do I need to learn to get myself home safely and deal with any sort of threat’,” founder of Polaris Marital Arts, Mace DeVries said.
Mr. DeVries grew up in Crete and went on to Northwestern University on a scholarship, after graduating from Crete-Monee High school.
“In college my girlfriend broke up with me and said that I was a little boring. I was desperate to prove her wrong. And a buddy of mine said, ‘Hey, I do this martial arts thing, you should come try it.’ That’s how I took my first martial arts class.”
Mr. DeVries says he soon realized that the training provided a sense of security and self-reliance that he enjoyed, and that the decision to open his own martial arts academy in Crete was based on the lack of similar activities when he was a child.
The name, Polaris, was chosen for its historical traditions, and the symbolism associated with the interstellar namesake.
“We called it Polaris because it is the one star in the sky that is always in the same space. It’s the North star, it doesn’t move, it’s in the big dipper, and sailors used to navigate by it. It was always something that I thought could help people find the direction.”
Today, that direction has led Polaris Martial Arts to become a popular hub of recreational activities for children, teens and adults, teaching not just how to kick and punch, but also how to deal with a variety of real-life challenges.
“We teach life skills, discipline, respect, courtesy and communication. We believe there are four stages of character development: Structure, emotion, knowledge and legacy. Structure is being able to have a little bit of discipline. Emotion is the ability to control those emotions. Knowledge how to kick, how to block, how to punch. Legacy realizing the impact that they have on the people around them.”
Mr. DeVries says that earning a medal isn’t the purpose of training or winning competitions; rather, it is the process of training and building courage and confidence to be judged by strangers that is the real prize.
“It’s that ‘aha moment’ when they break a board, or do a weapon manipulation and they catch it in their other hand, without it clattering on the floor. That sense of joy where they realize that the work that they put in just paid off.”
This training philosophy has proven popular with Crete area families, many of whom were enrolled as children and are now assisting with the training as teens. Ten-year-old purple belt, Justine, has no difficulty articulating why she enjoys attending Polaris Martial Arts.
“Taekwondo has definitely been teaching me a lot of discipline. I love being here. There are amazing people, amazing friends you can make. Once you hit beginner class, you never wanna go away. It’s just an amazing experience to have, that not every kid gets to do, so you feel really special when you walk in.”
Asked to define the single most important thing Mr. DeVries hopes the children will learn from attending Polaris Martial Arts:
“The ability to understand what grit is. Determination, resilience in a single word. Life is going to come along and knock you down. This happens to us on a daily basis. Can you get back up, can you brush yourself off and be able to go forward?”
Polaris Martial Arts offers Taekwondo and Krav Maga classes in Crete and Frankfort:
Polaris Martial Arts – Crete
1336 Main St
Crete, IL 60417
Polaris Martial Arts – Frankfort
10850 W Laraway Rd
Frankfort, IL 60423