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Larchmont Studio Offers Anti-Bullying Campaign

LARCHMONT, N.Y. -- Diana Petrocca said she's already noticed a difference in her son, Joe Joe, after just four classes at Excel Martial Arts, which is offering all schools and organizations free demonstrations of their anti-bullying and anti-abduction skills curriculum.

"He's focusing and paying attention and following direction," said Petrocca, a Mamaroneck resident who enrolled Joe Joe, 4, in the Little Achievers program. "He loves it, he looks forward to coming."

Diana and Joe Joe attended a birthday party held at Excel Martial Arts and, after talking with other parents and the instructors, she immediately signed Joe Joe up for the Little Achievers program, which is for kids ages 3 to 5.

Joe Rivera is the master instructor and owner of the Palmer Avenue karate studio, which has students from 3 to 70 years old.

"We have classes that are tailor made for each level of specific groups," said Shihan Joe Rivera, master instructor and owner of Excel Martial Arts.

Rivera opened the school with his wife China Fuentes-Rivera in March. In May, they held an anti-bullying demonstration at Most Holy Trinity School, which can be seen here .

"They train them how not to fight and explain how to de-escalate situations," said Chris Lanza, events coordinator for Excel Martial Arts.

Between 40 and 50 students from kindergarten up to sixth grade met in the gym for the after-school program, where Rivera led the group in some basic self-defense maneuvers.

"The program has had a really strong benefit," Rivera said. "We find that most kids who do martial arts, obviously they don't get bullied because they know how to protect themselves, but then also they don't become bullies."

The studio will hold an open house on Aug. 15, where parents can sign up for free lessons, which Lanza said allows kids to find the best fit for them.

Kim Vetere signed up her two daughters, Jessica, 3, and Samantha, 6, for the Little Achievers program, a six-week introductory course, in June.

"My youngest has a hard time listening and paying attention, so this is a good program for her," said Vetere, a Larchmont resident.

Rivera already has several anti-bullying and anti-abduction demonstrations scheduled at schools in the Bronx, where he has two other studios. He hopes to do the same at schools in Larchmont and Mamaroneck for the coming school year.

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