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Kristin Sokol
Shane Myler and Ernie Reyes Sr. demonstrate their 6th degree black belt physiques.

WEST JORDAN — Dozens of students at the West Coast World Martial Arts school are on pins and needles anxiously waiting to train with their martial arts hero and ninja movie star Ernie Reyes Jr. this Friday.

“It’s not good to be a big fish in a small pond,” said Becky Barton, a parent at the school. “Being a part of this school gives us an opportunity to learn from renowned experts like Ernie Reyes Jr.”

The Bartons live in Mapleton and drive to West Jordan to be part of the West Coast World Martial Arts school. “We choose to be part of this school over any other because of these kinds of training opportunities.” Barton’s 11-year-old, Tim, already has a second-degree black belt.

Students from martial arts studios all over Utah are expected to come join the event.

“It’s a big deal for students to see something different and new. It inspires them to work harder in their training and to see the possibilities their training can bring,” said Alison Myler, who runs the school with her husband, Shane.

Reyes is the founder of the West Coast World Martial Arts Association. The Mylers' West Jordan studio is one of nearly 40 West Coast World Martial Arts studios across the country. “I don’t think Ernie Reyes Jr. has ever come to Utah before,” studio owner Shane Myler said.

Reyes' vast experience as a martial arts expert led him to Hollywood where he and his fight choreography have been featured on an international level, including a leading role in the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie.

Shane Myler has a sixth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and the West Coast World Martial Arts system. He credits Reyes and his martial arts as one of his life-long inspirations.

“Martial arts was always my one stabilizing influence in my life. I grew up in an unstable home where we moved around a lot, but the one thing I always had was martial arts,” Shane Myler said. “It kept me disciplined and focused on respect for health and life. I never got involved with drugs because of the discipline I learned from Tae Kwan Do.

“I started doing martial arts when I was 9 years old, but I knew Ernie Reyes Jr. for years before that. I was a huge 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' fan as a kid. When I met Ernie for the first time in 2006, I was totally star struck,” Shane Myler said.

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Reyes rarely makes appearances like this one, so the Mylers have opened up this opportunity to meet Reyes to anyone interested in learning from one of the world’s foremost experts whether they have experience in martial arts or not.

“We’ll be hosting workshops during the day for current martial arts students at any studio and we’ll have free lessons Friday evening taught by our instructors and Ernie Reyes Jr. for those who are interested in trying out martial arts,” Alison Myler said.

More information can be found about the event here or by calling 801-282-KICK.

Kristin Sokol authors TheVocalSokol.com, a blog dedicated to helping women stay happy mostly by doing fun things.