Welcome to Defense-Wise Martial Arts Fitness Center

Where every student matters!!!

16 Ferry Street, South Grafton, MA 01560

"Come join us for a free trial Karate class"

Testimonials to Defense-Wise Martial Arts Fitness Center

Here is a selection of testimonials describing what our students and parents have to say about Defense-Wise Martial Arts Fitness Center. After reading these testimonials, you will agree, this is indeed a place:

Where every student matters!!!

I want to tell you how much I like doing karate at Defensewise. I go to a group class and family class. I like karate because it is really exercising. You also get a lot of time before going to the next rank so you can learn more. I really like family class because you get to do karate with your parents. And the senseis are really nice. It's the best karate class ever!

Ben Ben Miller
age 7

We discovered Defense Wise Martial Arts Fitness Center through a Girl Scout sponsored mother/daughter self defense class. Katie was hooked right away. She had previously been interested in gymnastics but was looking for a change. Now a Junior Leader and second degree brown belt, it’s hard to believe that we were introduced to Sensei Deb over four years ago.

Defense Wise is an exceptional school for martial arts, but it is so much more than that. Skills like self-discipline and respect for self and others… these are life lessons that we will always be grateful for. Martial arts is a lot of work and demands much discipline, but Sensei Deb also finds a way to make it fun. New techniques and forms are being practiced and perfected while at the same time there are Halloween parties, obstacle courses, and demonstrations before Paw Sox games. The instructors at Defense Wise encourage the students to reach their potential through consistent effort, while forming lasting friendships at the same time. As Katie has her sights set on earning her black belt, we will forever be grateful for the skills that Katie has learned, not only the physical benefits of martial arts but also the reward that comes along with hard work, discipline and effort. We highly recommend Defense Wise!

Katie The Egan Family

Hey Sensei Deb,

RE: The Birthday team......

1)Cindy told me MANY of the parents made it a point to remark on how mature, enthusiastic, organized and respectful the team was last Saturday. Some of the parents have their kids enrolled at other martial arts schools as well. They said that they could tell that this team had a lot of respect for this dojo, and EVERY member of the team made it a personal priority that each partygoer was having fun.

2) Cindy and I went to a few kid's birthday parties at other Martial arts schools and even we felt that there was a noticeable difference. At other schools, sometimes the enthusiasm is there, sometimes not as much, but I always got the feeling that the young helpers were 'going thru the motions'. At Christian's party, the focus of this team was to make it fun for everyone (i.e.they CARED, and it's hard to fake that, people can tell) with just the right touch of firmness when certain kids were out of hand. (Sensei Rick said this group of kids was one of the best behaved he's seen...I'd hate to see what he considers 'PROBLEM!' kids.) The team handled this large group like pros!


Hi S Deb,

I wanted to thank you again after class last night and for a terrific year. I realized last night as I was driving home that I started my studies just after the new year in 2015 and that I had just completed 1 whole year. It's been a great year. You and all the sensies do a terrific job teaching the art. I recall learning captured twigs and thinking how difficult the technique was and wondering if I was really going to be able to learn all these foreign concepts. But with guidance of you and the other sensies, the art has not been the impossible challenge I was concerned it would be. In fact quite the opposite, it has really been a lot of fun to learn and one of the things I really look forward to each week.

Also thank you for working with Ben and in particular the family class. Not only being able to watch Ben progress through his studies but to actually be a part of them has been a unique opportunity for me. He has progressed so much over the last year as well. As I watch some of the other parents work with their older kids, I envision that being me and Ben someday (in the not too distant future). As a parent it's these experiences that I'll keep forever.

Have a great holiday and happy new year.

-Joe Miller

Hi Sensei Deb,

Matt and I both want to thank you for all you do for not just duke, but all the kids. You have such a gentle way to foster respect and keep all students on task but also maintaining the fun in the sport.

You are wonderful and we feel very lucky to be able to take part in Defense wise karate!

Happy holidays,
Love the Mead Family

I am a Major in the United States Army Infantry and have been committed to the Martial Arts in one form or fashion for the last twenty years of my life. I hold a black belt in Kuk Sool Won and have served as a primary instructor at my former school. I have also trained extensively in the Modern Army Combatives Program (a combination of Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing) over the last ten years as an Army Ranger. The martial arts have served me well in every way; as a traditional art, an excellent source of physical fitness, a sport, and a practical means of self-defense.

Having moved all over the country, I have seen many different styles and trained in many different schools. Upon arriving in Grafton my sons had come of age to begin training. I wanted for them to share my same passion for the arts and I visited many schools to find the right balances between discipline and fun, training and play, and competition and friendship. Defense-Wise is hands down the best school in the area if you are looking for the same!

Sensei Deb accomplishes everything you should hope to find in a Karate dojo. My boys (6y/o and 4y/o) have learned discipline (maintaining their place in a group setting, waiting their turn, following instructions, focusing their infinite energy!) Secondly, they have had ingrained in them an honest work ethic (both in terms of belt progression and achievement awards, they always know what is required to achieve their goals). They ask me daily to let them practice their new techniques and to help them remember the different forms, stances, and blocking sets. Lastly they have developed the love that I have hoped they would for the martial arts (every Tuesday and Thursday my 4 y/o asks me 100 times if he has Karate that night!). While it has provided all that I was looking for in the case of my young children, I have had the pleasure of observing her older classes as well.

Defense-Wise truly prioritizes the value structure and leadership expected of a martial artist. Sensei Deb always has the older kids helping her in different ways at demonstrations, tournaments and in daily classes. This demonstrates two things: the “Junior Leaders” are first capable of leading and motivating their successors, and secondly that they genuinely love their school and want to pass on their lessons to the next generation that will fill their shoes. Defense-Wise is that sort of, “family!” The military has re-assigned our family and we will be leaving Grafton shortly. One of the hardest parts for us this time (our 8th move in ten years!) is to leave the team at Defense-Wise. I look forward to the day when my boys can send a photo of themselves wearing their black-belts back to Sensei-Deb and her team at Defense-Wise… where it all began!

The boys Tim Leone
A very thankful parent.

We have been with Defense Wise for over a year now, and couldn't be happier. My son had taken martial arts through another school for a year prior to coming to Defense Wise, but their policies were a bit inflexible for us. After he finished his contract, we stopped martial arts lessons for awhile so I can research our options. Three of my girlfriends had kids enrolled at Defense Wise through different levels and capacities, they all had such positive feedback and so we tried a class, and enrolled in their trial program. It turned out to be the perfect fit! My son has gained so much knowledge, confidence and ability. He LOVES coming to class, and is always striving to do his best. He has moved up the ranks and has set his own goals for the coming years. He has also participated in a few tournaments now, and looks forward to them in the future, too.

Sensei Deb, Sensei Rick, Sensei Ann, Sensei Maria, and all the staff at DW genuinely care about each and every child. The lessons they impart on their students go beyond martial arts, they are lessons and attitudes that will help them do well in life as they get older. The DW staff are truly martial artists, their 'business' goes beyond dollars and cents. They help each and every child strive to achieve their best and help them achieve a confidence and self-belief that they can accomplish any goal they set their mind to. We are happy to be part of the DW family and are grateful that we have found such a wonderful martial arts school. Thank you to DW for all that they do for the students, the parents, and the community!

Alice Vo Hughes

Dear Sensei Deb,

I really love Defense-wise and I am glad you allow me to be such a big part of it. You really do a wonderful job running the school. It is easy to see how much heart and soul you put into it as you go out of your way to help all the students. You put thought into everything you do here; it's easy to see that it is much more than just a business for you. You always try your hardest to be fair to all, while also doing your best to uphold the integrity of the school and the Martial Arts that you teach. It's a tough balance in the age of political correctness, where everybody gets a trophy. I think Martial arts is a great activity and I love being part of a place, where disipline, respect, and physical fitness are still taught. These days if kids are not good at sports they sit around and play video games all day and I think that a school like yours performs a great service to today's youth. I have seen first hand through my children how disicpline and respect have been erroded from public schools.

So thank you so much for doing this; for running Defense-wise so I have a place to go, grow in the art, and help kids while I'm at it. You are a great person; very thoughtful and caring, and I am proud to be a part of Defense-wise.

Rick Ledoux, instructor at Defense-Wise

Karate at Defense-Wise

My son started karate at another school where he was in a small, specialized class in that school because he is autistic. There he seemed to hit a wall at the Orange belt level and started to dislike going to class, so we discontinued karate. I had heard good things about Defense-Wise and we decided to give it a try, even though they did not have a special program for kids on the autism spectrum. When he started here and had to participate in a large, regular class I had some concerns. Those concerns proved unfounded. He was able to quickly learn the different techniques/forms taught in this school and then advanced two more belts. The teaching method and processes used in this school, the quality and dedication of the instructors, and the social interactions between the students as they help and work with each other have really made a difference in him. Being autistic, social interactions and learning by copying others is difficult for him, but the instructors and other students have really helped him in that area. In fact, he recently entered his first tournament and is very proud of his first trophy.

I am sad to say that we are moving away from Grafton, but even though it will require us to drive about 40 minutes each way to continue my son's classes at Defense-Wise, we have every intention to keep coming. I know that my son will continue to grow and build meaningful relationships here, and yes, he now loves going to karate classes.


Dear DefenseWise,

You have much to be proud of! Your NIA Dancing, Qigong and Tai Chi instruction programs have paid big health dividends in helping to maintain my breast cancer survivorship status. The connection between the presence of chronic inflammation and cancer development is well-established in medical literature world-wide. As part of my prevention strategy I engage a licensed lymph drainage expert to help keep my lymphatic system status detoxified. The study of lymphatic drainage of various organs is important in diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of cancer. The lymphatic system, because of its physical proximity to many tissues of the body, is responsible for carrying cancerous cells between the various parts of the body in a process called metastasis. The intervening lymph nodes can trap the cancer cells. If they are not successful in destroying the cancer cells the nodes may become sites of secondary tumors. Last week the heath dividends stemming from three course offerings you support proved without a shadow of a doubt they are working together to keep me healthy. The proof was in my drainage session's results. For the first time there was zero inflammation and no tissue holding! I had much residual swelling and plenty of fat after my Chemo and Radiation protocols were completed. I weighed 149 lbs. Now I weigh 114. My Body Mass Index is now perfect for my height.

You'll never know how grateful I am to you for hiring such knowledgeable holistic instructors and allowing all attendees to reap on-going health improvement and longevity supporting benefits.

THANKS for being a keystone for enabling my journey forward!

Jan Bunting

Karate at Defense-Wise Martial Arts has been a wonderful experience for our daughter, which actually comes as a bit of a surprise. She’s never really been very athletic, and only grudgingly suffered through a stint with gymnastics, but she absolutely loves karate and has already earned her purple belt. In fact all of the kids seem to love Defense-Wise and are excited and happy even when they’re doing pushups. Sensei Deb and all of the other instructors are truly gifted at teaching kids the fundamentals while keeping the atmosphere fun yet disciplined. It’s not just blocks, kicks, and punches that the children are learning, although it is amazing to see them whip through their blocking sets. They’re also learning respect, control, and responsibility. Our daughter has made her bed (one of her responsibilities outside of the dojo) every day since she received her yellow belt.

We’re so happy to have found Defense-Wise and hope that karate is something our daughter will keep with her for life. It’s great to see how excited she is to be learning new moves in preparation for the next belt, and how proud she is when she’s earned it. It’s also great to know that our daughter is exercising her mind as well as her body in class and gaining more and more self-confidence. Thank you Sensei Deb, and all of the other instructors for the valuable training and fun that you provide for our daughter.

Ella Jenn and Dan Cray parents of Ella

Defense-Wise has been a positive influence for our children, reinforcing discipline and respect, while developing our children in martial arts. The instructors are top-notch...caring, kind and considerate. They are all dedicated to the development of each and every student. Expertise of the instructors is carried through all levels of the school, introducing martial arts to children through mastery levels. Defense-Wise is a warm, friendly, family-centered studio enriching the lives of so many individuals and families. We highly recommend Defense-Wise to anyone looking to enrich their lives.

Kostiw children Chris & Lori Kostiw
parents of Brian and Allison

As a mother of three with children aged 5, 7, and 9, Defense-Wise has provided everything that I could ask for in a martial arts studio: dedicated and caring instructors, organized and developmental weekly sessions, and a welcoming, family-centered atmosphere. From the first minute Sensei Deb met my children, I knew I had found the perfect place for them to learn and grow. This studio consists of AMAZING instructors with expertise in introducing and teaching martial arts to children. The values of discipline and respect for oneself and others are consistently woven into every session. I cannot think of a more worthwhile activity to enhance the development of my sons and daughter. Defense-Wise easily provides the compassion, challenge and support for any child to succeed!

Hearn childrenMichele Hearn
Sutton, MA
Mother of Sam, Jack and Katie

I found this gem of a martial arts club purely by chance reading the Grafton News. I had over 18 years of martial arts training in Wing Chun and Lau Gar while living in the UK, but had not found a club or system in several years of looking that was one I wanted to be a member of and train with the instructors. Defense Wise was a very different story. I went to watch an adult class to see if the Kenpo system was going to suit me and, more importantly, to take a look at how the instructors and students interacted. Sensei Deb is a very impressive martial artist and teacher. She has a cadre of black belt instructors working with her that are all equally impressive in their ability to transmit their knowledge and passion for Kenpo to the growing number of eager students. After watching Sensei Deb at work, and then speaking with her at length about Kenpo, I knew I had found a place to train again. The hard work and effort that the instructors pour into each class is such an enjoyable experience you are left wanting to carry on at the end of each training session. The instructors care about each student and are there to help everyone get the most out of Kenpo and the learning experience.

The Dojo is also very impressive with many of the instructors and students all lending a hand to complete the extensive renovations that were carried out to create a very welcoming space for training and learning.

I would highly recommend Defense Wise martial arts to anyone looking to explore the rich and fascinating art of Kenpo. This is a truly impressive place to train!

SteveSteve Moysey
Grafton, MA

My family and I have had the pleasure of being involved with Sensei Deb for the past 7 years. Both of my daughters started karate in their Kindergarten year and continued to progress through their brown belts. My youngest daughter, Laura, who is now almost 10 and ready to take her test for 2nd Degree brown belt, has set her sights on becoming a black belt. Laura's aspiration has been made possible by Sensei Deb's amazing dedication to each and every one of her students, along with the help and support of her loyal team at Defense Wise. As a mother, I am extremely comfortable that all measures have been taken to ensure the safety of the students and am extremely impressed by the level of respect that is shown not only by the instructors, but by the students for their instructors and fellow students. I would not hesitate in recommending Defense Wise as the best Dojo in the area.

TownsendsGillian Townsend
Shrewsbury, MA

I wanted to be good at something that people would recognize. I wanted to be seen in public and have everyone I see recognize me. I wanted to become the next greatest martial arts master. That’s why I went to Defense-Wise Martial Arts and Fitness Center.

From the start, they treated me with respect, allowing me to return the favor. Each and every Sensei cares about each and every student, which is one of the key factors that has allowed me to grow stronger. They emphasize four major messages to each student: effort, honesty, respect, and control. They present kindness to the students, and the students obey the rules in return. No harsh punishment- just a nice cycle that keeps everything running smoothly.

From the second I walked into the dojo, I knew that it would be a great experience. The dojo looks like it came from a magazine; it’s perfectly clean and simply set up, but provides the perfect amount of room for training. The teachers are always offering words of support and encouragement, which makes for a positive atmosphere. They allow us to play fun games that give a fun approach to the “Ed Parker’s American Kenpo Karate” program. This school is a place where dreams, like mine, take flight. This is a school where each and every student matters. This is a school where anyone of any age can master the art of karate in time.

JacobJacob Phillips

My 2 children, a 14 year old boy and a 10 year old girl, along with my 2 step daughters and my husband both study Kenpo karate at Defense Wise Martial Arts. My husband, children and I, live in the Western part of Massachusetts. On Thursday afternoons, my 2 children and I commute from East Longmeadow, MA to South Grafton, MA, to meet up with my husband and step children for karate lessons. My husband and his 2 children have been studying karate with Sensei Deb Ripsz for many years. My children have tried karate in the past, but couldn’t find a studio that they enjoyed, until I met my husband and Sensei Deb Ripsz. My children started lessons in fall of 2007. They both have earned their purple belts. My husband has his black belt and is now an instructor at Defense-Wise. All of the instructors work very well with children. They make it a fun, but also serious, experience for the children, with no stress or pressure. The children love studying at Defense-Wise Martial Arts. My son has told me that if couldn’t study karate at Defense-Wise, that he wouldn’t want to study karate anywhere else.

Derryl Bohaboy
East Longmeadow, MA

My son is 4 ½ years old and has Autism. I have often thought of karate because of the need of focus, direction and discipline. Recently there was an article published in the Telegram & Gazette about the benefits, so I figured I would give it a try. He has been attending class at Defense-Wise for 2 months now and loves it! It is so nice to see his enthusiasm in karate. It is a small class with a lot of experienced instructors so he gets individual attention. He has already received a “Best Blocks” patch and a stripe on his belt. The best part is seeing the smile on his face after each class. Now my daughter also wants to join.

HigginbottomCindy Higginbottom
Grafton, MA

My painfully shy son started taking Karate lessons with Sensei Deb at a young age. Through her professional teaching of Kenpo skills/discipline and her kindness, the confidence my son gained has spilled over to successes in school, sports, and in friendships.

Sensei Deb motivates students to complete short and long term goals in their daily lives. She honorably holds them accountable not by physical rewards, but by her praise. My son respects her praise, which is a testament to her positive influence.

MichaelLori Zarrilli
Westborough, MA

Being a female of 50 something years, that walks and hikes alone, I thought it would be a good idea to take a women's self-defense course. When I heard of one being offered at Defense-Wise, I decided to go there and learn more about it. What I found was a clean, roomy, refinished and well lit dojo. A childrens' class was in session and I was impressed by the friendliness and patience of the instructors and the rapport between them and their students.

I signed-up my friend and myself for a free trial class. At classtime, the instructor/owner gave us the option of learning some extra defense moves used in Karate. I had never done anything like that previously, nor did I ever picture myself doing martial arts. By the end of the class, I felt really good. Not only did I get a great workout, but I learned some basic self-defense moves (Karate). I was pleasantly surprised, and hooked! I would recommend going to Defense-Wise (and have) to anyone, of any age, male or female, that is wishing to add exercise, both mental and physical, self-defense, and new friends to their lives.

Grafton, MA