United Martial Arts Center, Briarcliff Manor

General Excellence Award

When Chris Berlow opened United Martial Arts Center (UMAC) in 1999, it was a risky financial move: He took out a $10,000 loan at 25 percent interest to get started. He found a location in Briarcliff, and he and his father built the space largely by themselves. “The guy who was installing my sign told me he’d be back soon to take it down, because most new businesses fail,” Berlow recalls, adding, “We did take the sign down, in 2008, but just because we bought our own building.”  

Berlow prides himself on training great technical martial artists, but he says that’s only one aspect of the studio’s pedagogy. At UMAC, students learn to live as martial artists, in and out of the school. “Students better themselves physically but, more importantly, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually,” Berlow says, explaining that his goal is “to produce martial artists who are able to apply [the five tenets of taekwondo] in any scenario.” 

Since opening its doors, UMAC has grown to more than 300 students—both adults and children—and last year, with the addition of a new instructor, the school posted a 20 percent increase in revenue. Despite the school’s steady success, Berlow never rests on his laurels. “Every day, I have to earn the right to be in front of my students,” he says. “I do that by walking the walk and living with the values that I teach.” 

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