SOUTHFIELD — Jalal Dallo's students call him “Sifu.” The traditional Chinese term is used to refer to a highly respected martial arts instructor. A sifu is not only your teacher, but also your father. “Si” means teacher and “fu” means father.
Dallo training one of his students.
Dallo, an attorney, is the owner of the Southfield-based Dallo Martial Arts.
The business opened in October, but has already earned a reputation for being student-centered.
“I want to raise a generation of leaders who become successful in any career path they chose,” Dallo said.
He has been training in and teaching martial arts for almost 20 years and is passionate about being an influential mentor to his students.
The Oak Park resident also works at his Birmingham-based firm Dallo Law. He practices immigration and criminal defense law.
Dallo Martial Arts trains students in the most effective ways to help them get or stay in shape; learn a discipline; express themselves; learn self-defense and engage in a healthful activity that is good for the mind, body and soul.
Its programs can get you in shape; reducing stress levels; help you defend yourself on the street; give you more self-confidence and even give you techniques that can save your life or the lives of those you love.
The professional staff works closely with students to guarantee they succeed and progress in the arts and the special focus on students distinguishes Dallo Martial Arts from other schools.
Instructors continuously work on improving students’ skills.
“I call our place a student-centered school, so it is not about who the instructor is,” Dallo said. “That is less relevant; we are going to provide great instruction. The thing is we provide personal attention to everybody. We keep notes and track of how all our students are progressing.”
Dallo has been practicing martial arts since he was 9-years-old and holds several ranks in martial arts. He trains in, and is certified to teach, the arts of Wing Chun kung fu, Lee Jun fan gung fu, Jeet Kune Do concepts/kickboxing, kali, Silat, Muay Thai and Boxe Française Savate.
He has trained under legendary instructors including Sifu Francis Fong, Ajarn Chai Sirisute, Professor Salem Assli and others.
Dallo also competed in several kickboxing competitions; fought nationally for the University of Michigan and earned “All-American” in boxing by the National Collegiate Boxing Association.
Dallo said the discipline aspect of martial arts makes people organize and structure their lives in a way that will have them begin to make wiser decisions.
Martial arts can also influence one’s mental, physical and spiritual development.
"Martial arts can help you express yourself,” Dallo said. “And when you can express yourself, you can feel more confident about yourself. You become who you are. When you are becoming who you are, you realize what you want to do in life. A lot of people might suppress it. They don’t know how to express themselves. Martial arts is a way for you to move and express yourself; and as you do that, may be it gives you confidence in yourself to know who you are."
Dallo taught and trained at a martial arts school in metro Detroit for about 20 years; but when it closed down he felt obligated to open one up, so the students from that school would have a place to turn.
He thought about opening up his own martial arts studio over the years. He said he had the idea in the back of his mind when he taught at the school that later shut down. When it did, he said it left people without a place.
"I said I have to do something,” Dallo said. “I felt obligated and I also felt like it was the perfect time."
Many of his former students are now training at Dallo Martial Arts.
Instructors personally take time to talk with students about fitness and getting in shape. This includes conversations about their diets and about trying to eliminate high intakes of carbohydrates, sugar and salt.
"We actually do talk to the students a lot about what their goals are to get fit and be in shape," Dallo said.
He said instructors play a crucial role in the success of students and recounted a conversation he had with a student one day. The frustrated student didn’t know what he wanted to do with his martial arts training.
“I told him if you really want to get more out of this then you need to take personal responsibility,” Dallo said. “You need to make it a part of you and he got that and we had that conversation and his life has completely changed."
Dallo said the student reminds him of that conversation once in a while, telling him he’ll never forget that day.
Dallo Martial Arts’ professional staff brings years of training and experience. The school’s operations and instructor manager, Nick Cavilino, has been training in the arts for 15 years.
People of any age can take martial arts lessons. Dallo has students ranging from 2-years-old to 60-years-old.
He also wants people to know they should not be discouraged from practicing martial arts if they have a physical disability.
"Martial arts is for everyone," he said, adding that one student is in a wheelchair and another has multiple sclerosis.
Having a dedicated and committed staff makes both running a business and practicing law manageable for Dallo.
He has a paralegal and associate attorney who work with him at his law firm.
"You have to build a good staff, but it starts from the top because as a leader, as the owner of the business, they look at everything you do,” he said. “They look at what you do. They look at how you act. They look at how you treat clients. We are a team; and we work together as a team and we come up with solutions together as a team."
Despite his busy schedule, Dallo still makes time to give back to the community. He is working with a group of Chaldean attorneys to help provide aid to displaced Iraqi Christians. He has also worked with the charitable group Adopt-A-Refugee that assists needy Chaldeans.
"I'm really proud to be Chaldean,” Dallo said. “I would like to do what I can, so I am involved with the Chaldean church and the organization of attorneys who are trying to help our people back home.”
Dallo said the school is an opportunity to give back to people and improve their lives, because he knows firsthand the impact martial arts has had on his life.
"I know for me martial arts provides a structure and a discipline,” he said. “So a lot of the decisions I made in life, I would always ask ‘would a good martial artist instructor do these things?’"
To contact Dallo Martial Arts, call 248.223.7000 or visit www.dallomartialarts.com. The school is located at 29864 Northwestern Hwy. Southfield, MI 48034.