Growing up in a bad neighborhood in Puerto Rico, Israel Rodriguez said he could have easily gone down the wrong path were it not for martial arts.
“It got me through everything, man,” said the owner of Wolfden Training Center. “I was smart but I lacked discipline."
Rodriguez's business recently moved from a studio on Amberly Drive in New Tampa to 5807 Ellerbee Road in Wesley Chapel. He also has a location in Westchase.
As a youngster first getting into martial arts, Rodriguez was not like other students.
“I was so poor, I couldn’t afford to pay,” he said while prepping for a class. “So I cleaned floors, bathrooms.”
Rodriguez, 43, studied civil engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, where he competed on the judo team and later became the karate instructor. He honed his craft overseas in Japan and has trained pros, including boxing champion Hector Camacho, COPA America Champion and All American Wrestler Derrick McCoy and Judo Olympian and BJJ Black Belt Frank Cisneros.
“I’ve had results, people on national teams,” Rodriguez said. “I like making a difference in people’s lives.”
Rodriguez teaches a variety of disciplines, including judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, karate, kickboxing and mixed martial arts. He instructs any age and skill level.
On a recent weekday, Rodriguez worked with a trio of youngsters. Two practiced flipping each another — many times — until they consistently did it correctly.
“What did you do wrong?” Rodriguez asked after a poor flip. Clearly, attention to detail and discipline are components to success in the Wolfden.
“He is very good with our children,” one mother said of Rodriguez.
What does Rodriguez see as his philosophy?
“First, it’s education. I’m an educator. I don’t teach martial arts just to teach martial arts,” he said. “For me, it’s not a business.”
Address: 5807 Ellerbee Road, Wesley Chapel