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Here is a list of some frequently asked questions. If you have any other questions that are not addressed below or would like more information, please call or e-mail us at



  1. What are the benefits of training at USSD Martial Arts San Clemente?

    There are many great reasons to become part of United Studios of Self Defense. Besides all of the many great benefits that the Martial Arts offer, USSD Martial Arts students also enjoy many incredible opportunities by being part of such a large organization that they would otherwise not have access to. There are over 160 USSD locations nationwide, and they all teach Kempo as their main style. This means that if you move, you can resume training at your new location without having to pay a registration fee or start over from white belt again. Within the past few years in San Clemente, we have seen several new Martial Arts studios that have popped up and closed down just like that, leaving their students without a place to train or a refund. Since we are part of such a large organization, you probably have a better chance of being struck by a meteor than having us close down on you! Best of all, being part of United Studios gives our students exclusive access to Grand Championship Tournaments, exciting seminars, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like training with the actual Shaolin Monks at the Shaolin Temple in China!


  2. What are the Instructors’ qualifications?

    Chief Instructor Richard Cespedes first earned his Black Belt in Kyokushin Kai Karate in Brazil in 1986. He also has a Black Belt in Jiu Jitsu. Once in California, he achieved Black Belt in Kempo, the main style taught at USSD San Clemente, under the Instruction of Master Richard Black, Master Jack Turner, and United Studios’ founder Professor Charles Mattera. Sensei Richard personally trains and promotes his Instructors until they reach Brown and Black Belt levels, at which time all of their rank promotions are conducted and overseen by Professor Mattera and members of the USSD Board of Directors. To begin Instructor apprenticeship, all future-Instructors must graduate from the S.T.O.R.M. program (Special Team of Role Models) with honors, which follows the curriculum and guidelines of the United Studios of Self Defense Instructor Academy . To learn more about the Instructors, see our Instructors page.


  3. Is my child too young to begin training?

    We have had children as young as two years old begin lessons to help develop listening and basic motor skills, although most children are not usually ready to begin training until they are at least three. However, readiness to begin training depends on the individual child since each child matures and develops at his/her own rate. We encourage parents to allow their child to try out a few group or private lessons before choosing a program to ensure that your child’s Martial Arts training will be a fun and rewarding experience.


  4. How much does it cost?

    Pricing for each individual student depends on several different factors, including the type of lessons you choose and the number of times you decide to train per week. We offer family discounts and discounted rates when you buy lesson packages of five months or more. We suggest that all students try a week of lessons free of charge, at which time an Instructor will explain all of the different programs and payment options to help you choose a program that fits your schedule and will help you achieve your goals.


  5. How long will it take me/my child to reach Black Belt?

    The amount of time it takes to achieve Black Belt varies from person to person. A dedicated adult student can expect to reach black belt within 5 to 7 years, although many factors can affect how long it will take. For example, some people just learn faster than others, while other students may be naturally more flexible or have better balance and coordination, although any of these things can be developed and improved with training. Obviously, those who are more consistent with their training by attending as many private and group lessons as they can and practicing outside of the Dojo tend to achieve Black Belt sooner than someone who takes fewer lessons. And remember, students should not feel pressure to get Black Belt within a certain time frame or before another individual. A Black Belt is only a piece of cloth, after all, and it is what it represents— that the student has mastered the basics of his/her style and grown as a Martial Artist—that matters. What matters most of all is that the student has not just learned some moves but feels that he/she has really earned his rank, and can take great pride in his accomplishment.


  6. Will Karate make my child aggressive or violent?

    Our children’s programs are designed to teach kids potentially life-saving self defense while also instilling in them the important values of the Martial Arts. One of the first things we teach is self-control both in and outside of the Dojo. In the Dojo, kids learn how to control their behavior by focusing on a particular activity or demonstration and following directions; they must also learn to control their kicks and strikes during sparring and partner drills so as not to hurt one another during training. All of our Instructors have “mat chats” with students, both one on one and in group-settings, to make sure that our students understand when it is appropriate to use Karate on others, and the consequences for using it inappropriately. If a student does use his/her skills unnecessarily against another, Instructors will have a conference with that student and his/her family in order to decide what the consequences should be for the student’s actions and how to prevent it from happening in the future. It is, however, rare that our students use the skills that they learn at the Dojo inappropriately. In fact, many parents have enrolled their children in our programs to help them learn to control their aggression and channel it in a positive direction to help them stay out of trouble and be less stressed.


  7. Will Martial Arts help my child do better in school?

    Studies have shown that children who train in the Martial Arts do better in school than children enrolled in certain other sports or activities or no activity at all. Group and Private lessons are run in such a way that children learn to listen, follow directions, concentrate on the lesson, and focus on the drill that they are working on. These become habits that children carry with them in other aspects of their lives, most noticeably in school. Learning self-control, discipline, and respect for others definitely helps improve a child’s overall behavior at school and at home. Although students can be part of our competition and demonstration teams, Karate and Jiu Jitsu are not considered team sports and Instructors focus on each individual’s personal growth to help him become not only the best Martial Artist he can be, but the best person as well.


  8. Why do students meditate?

    In everyday life, meditation can be used to relieve stress, release tension from the body, and improve one’s overall health. In the Dojo, meditation has absolutely no religious connotations. Before all group lessons, students bow to the American flag, their Instructors, and each other as a sign of respect for their country, Instructors, and fellow classmates. They then proceed to meditate briefly as a means of clearing their minds to help them focus on the upcoming lessons. This way, students are not distracted by their lives outside of the Dojo and are ready to work to their full potential in class. At the end of the class, students meditate once more to allow them to reflect on what they have learned or practiced and relax after training and working out.


  9. What is the difference between Kempo and Tae Kwon Do?

    Although some of the basic strikes and kicks are quite similar, the two styles are very different. Tae Kwon Do is more for sport than practical self-defense. It focuses mainly on flashy kicks and point-sparring competitions. In Kempo, our students also have the opportunity to compete in point-sparring tournaments, but the main focus is to teach self defense that is practical for each individual student’s unique size and ability. It utilizes the use of kicks as well as effective striking, take-downs, joint manipulation, and ground fighting (grappling). In other words, Kempo, the main style taught at USSD Martial Arts San Clemente, is much more well-rounded which is what makes it so effective for people of all ages.


  10. Will I have to fight?

    Most students do take part in some form of sparring, but our students do not “fight” in the Dojo, as that would imply that the goal is for one to hurt his/her opponent. Sparring is a controlled fight with set rules, and the goal is first to develop the student’s timing, speed, agility, control, accuracy, and reaction time; and second to teach the student how to apply the techniques he has learned in a realistic situation. It is always conducted safely in a matted area with at least one judge (referee) to keep the matches under control and using safety gear, including foam or leather headgear, gloves, a mouth guard, a groin protector, and other optional gear such as shin guards or knee pads. Students begin with very light sparring and can eventually graduate to heavier contact sparring as they improve and move up in rank. Since each student has his/her own personal goals for their training, it is not necessarily required for all students to spar or compete in tournaments. Talk to your Instructor to find out what type of sparring is right to help you achieve your personal goals as a Martial Artist.


  11. Are there tournaments?

    For our Kempo students:
    One of the great things about being part of United Studios of Self Defense is that there are several regional Tournaments each year. We encourage our students to compete in the point-sparring and Kata events to help hone skills such as timing, accuracy, speed, control, and reaction time; they can also compete in the weapons events. Tournaments are also a great way to help children build self-confidence and learn good sportsmanship in a fun and safe environment. They are well-organized and split up into many different divisions so that students only compete against others of their same age and rank.
    Team San Clemente students compete with students from over 160 different studios nationwide and in 2006 we completed our 5-year goal of becoming the first Dojo to ever win 10 consecutive championships! Although not required for rank promotion, most students choose to compete at the Winter and Summer Southern California Grand Championship Tournaments, held at the Bren Events Center on the UCI Campus in Irvine, for an exciting chance to improve their skills and come together as a team.



If you have any other questions feel free to contact us.
Give us a call at (949) 361-9111 or email us at

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