Art of 8 Martial Arts Studio: Strengthening the Community Through Prioritizing Inclusion | Written by: Lindsay W.

Martello and Janeque Jones, co-owners of Art of 8 Martial Arts Studio, opened their doors in March of 2020, offering Muay Thai a form of Thai Martial Arts, Kickboxing and Boxing classes for all ages. With Martello’s thirteen years of experience training at national and international levels of Muay Thai, their goal is to share lessons of hard work, resilience and inclusion to make a positive impact within Dufferin County.

The incentive to start their studio began after the Joneses moved to Dufferin County seven years ago. Upon seeing the lack of Muay Thai and Kickboxing studios in the County, Martello remarked, “We saw it as a great opportunity…it made sense to operate the business to provide the benefits Muay Thai can bring to the community.” Offering diverse fitness, recreational and competitive training programs to a ranging demographic, Martello says “they see the social, mental and physical benefits they get out of training,” emphasizing the importance of giving back to their members and fostering strong engagement.

“Have to make inclusion the default from the ground up.”

One action taken to promote inclusive spaces is their women’s-only programming, proudly the first in the community to facilitate this. After years of training across Ontario, Martello noticed the lack of opportunities for women to experience Muay Thai similarly to men. Therefore, when establishing their studio, Martello stated, “We made a conscious mandate to identify and remove these barriers present in facilities as best as possible”. By providing an inclusive environment for women to train and compete in a supportive space, Martello highlights how they are, “equipping marginalized sectors of the community with the right tools to navigate the world.” While continually striving for improvement.

Throughout their various youth programing, Art of 8 promotes the integration of mind and body to cultivate a resilient lifestyle, supporting the concept of a “wholesome individual.” Both Martello and Janeque are passionate in “helping youth develop their mental health to where they can navigate challenges”. So, in addition to enhancing the physical aspects of martial arts, their studio offers some alternative programs. Drawing on his experience as a software engineer and architect, Martello hosts occasional coding camps, saying “it challenges kids to develop logical thinking, showing them different aspects of creativity and ability to do different things”. Martello also mentions Janeque’s recent initiative, a girl’s reading club, “providing a safe space for girls to socialize, share stories, and improve literature skills in a judgement free space.” These initiatives stem from their “social responsibility to nurture the youth” according to Martello.

“Serve the County that you live, and you’ll be much better equipped to connect with that community.”

Over the past four years, Art of 8 has supported athletes to competing at provincial, national, North American and international levels, including Martello, who earned a bronze medal representing Canada at the IFMA Muay Thai 2024 World Championships. By supporting athletes striving for these high-level of competitions, Martello hopes to create a ripple effect to help widen local tourism for martial arts in Orangeville and Dufferin County. With this vision for growth, Martello describes their goals to “continue being great at what we do!” by fostering aspirations for both recreational and high-performance athletes.

Martello describes the most rewarding moments Art of 8 Martial Arts Studio has fostered over the years is “Watching our small community of youth grow”. Through their consistent approach to their values and programing, he reflects, “We can admire the slow impact we are having on the community.” He continued, “Kids can build their strength and confidence to move on from Art of 8 and pursue other sports or activities they were too shy to do beforehand.”

Learn more about Art of 8 Martial Arts Studio.