Traditional Martial Arts Academy is truly a family-centric school. Sabumnim and Julie Espy opened their first martial arts school in 2005. All these years later, you will still find Sabumnim teaching classes and seminars, as well as developing and refining our programs, and you will find Julie working with students and their families to ensure their experience at TMAA is meeting their expectations and goals.
Two Espys became three with the addition of Imogen who has been in the school most days since she was an infant. Imogen can be seen almost daily, taking classes and playing with the other kids that come in to train!
James Espy, Sabumnim
Mr. Espy is an Austin native who began his training in 1991. He received a second degree black belt from Grandmaster Wonik Yi. He went on to earn a third degree black belt in Shotokan Karate and Dan Zan Ryu Jujutsu. Beginning in 1995, he studied under Sigung Hasting K. Albo, founder of Mo Min Kuen and Tensai Jujutsu martial arts systems, as well as Head Master of Linkuei, Albo Kali Silat and a Chinese Monkey Boxing style. Before his death in 2008, Sigung Albo gave Mr. Espy permission to incorporate much of his teachings into the Pyon Moo Do curriculum.
Mr. Espy’s most recent training has been in Hwa Rang Do under Kwan Jang Nim Ken Corona of Phoenix, AZ. He currently holds the rank of fourth degree black belt with Master Corona.
All of this training has been supplemented with traditional and modern weaponry training, as well as study of MMA and grappling arts like Brazilian Jujistu as part of Mr. Espy’s effort to translate traditional arts into application for a modern context.
Additionally, Mr. Espy has extensive experience in “internal” arts. He has studied meditation and Ip Sun (Koren Tai Chi) since 1991, received the level of Master in Reiki from Sigung Albo in 2000, and certification in Tuina (Chinese medical massage) and medical Qigong in 2004. He has studied Sheng Zhen Wuji Yuan Gong (Qigong) and Yang style Taiji under Master Li Jun Feng and Chen style Taiji under Dr. Yuxia Qiu. He has also done graduate-level study of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Mr. Espy is an avid student who constantly seeks to improve himself as a teacher through the study of healing and wellness, psychology, social dynamics, religion and spirituality. He approaches his students with a wisdom born of over two-decades teaching experience and academic research, and a sense of humor born of appreciating the absurd.
Julie Espy, along with her husband Sabumnim James Espy, is a founding member of the TMAA team. Julie’s official role in the Dojang is administrator and enrollment director. She is warm and extremely approachable, attributes that will make your introduction to our school a wonderful experience. She will serve as your guide as you learn about our programs and how we can best serve you and your family.
But Julie does much more in her “unofficial” roles within the school. After 10 years of working as an occupational therapist, Julie returned to graduate school to become an acupuncturist. She has spent over 20 years learning and practicing healthcare. This experience has had an enormous impact on the direction of TMAA as an institution. She has been central to our staff acquiring such a high level of understanding in the medical and developmental issues that can challenge the kids in our community. She is instrumental to how staff and families develop strategies for moving past areas of “stuckness”.
Katie Villarreal, Jokyonim (“Ms. V”)
An Austin native, Katie Villarreal has been a student at TMAA since 2010. She earned her 1st Dan Black belt under Sa Bum Nim Espy in 2017. Katie holds a B.S. in Kinesiology and B.A. in Gender Studies from UT Austin, and she has been teaching martial arts full-time since she graduated in 2011. In her time at TMAA, Katie has worked on developing and expanding our Wee Warriors and Fitness programs, and she has dedicated many hours to teaching martial arts classes for kids and adults. Katie is also an A.C.T. certified self-defense instructor, and she teaches a course at St. Edward’s University. Katie is active in the community giving self defense and empowerment workshops for groups such as Girls’ Empowerment Network and Girls Rock Austin. Katie continues to train in stand-up martial arts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and boxing.
Holly joined TMAA in June 2017 as a Wee Warrior teacher. With several years of experience working with children as a nanny, a substitute teacher, and as a teaching assistant in a middle school, she wanted more guidance on how to be a great teacher. TMAA offered her the opportunity to work in a dynamic environment with extensive teacher training. TMAA also provides a culture where she can be confident and instill confidence in others through mentorship. Holly enjoys teaching at TMAA because the classes help give children and instructors healthy and positive learning on the mind, body, and spirit. Holly received her degree in Chemistry from University of Texas at Austin in 2011.
Niki began training at TMAA in 2014 as a student in our Adult martial arts program and Women’s Martial Arts program, as a practical way to keep fit after work. She enjoyed training and helping fellow students during class so much that she was happy to move onto assist with teaching part-time. With a background in leadership and group management from Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets and Aggie ACCESS programs, Niki works on helping with the Pyon Moo Do Kids Beginner and Intermediate programs in addition to her own training. She is passionate about guiding others on their own paths to success and achieving their goals.