With the support of his family, friends, and organizations such as St. Louis-based The Mission Continues (www.mission continues.org), which provides fellowships to wounded veterans who engage in service, Smith opened Anthony’s Martial Arts Academy in Blytheville, Arkansas, last May. He teaches martial arts to people of all ages, including disadvantaged youth, and now has three locations.
“I had 15 students when I first opened,” recalls Smith. “About five months later, I had 90.” Today, Smith trains about 185 students ranging in age from 5 to 65 in arts such as tai chi, tae kwon do, and others. “I use martial arts as a character builder,” says Smith. “If you’ve got it on the inside, then it’s going to come out on the outside.”
His students have received countless lessons in patience, bravery, and awareness, while Smith got something even greater: a renewed sense of purpose. “I thought I was doing the martial arts to keep myself going,” he says, with a lighthearted laugh. “I was trying to figure out what my purpose was, and people around me said, ‘Dude, you’re doing it.’”