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Warrior virtues

7-5-3 Academy in Fountain Hills promotes kindness

Martial arts studio teaches self-confidence and self-defense

Posted 5/22/24

When Eric McAllister was figuring out how to run a sustainable martial arts school, he began to see a deep need for youth mental and spiritual resilience.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, …

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Warrior virtues

7-5-3 Academy in Fountain Hills promotes kindness

Martial arts studio teaches self-confidence and self-defense


When Eric McAllister was figuring out how to run a sustainable martial arts school, he began to see a deep need for youth mental and spiritual resilience.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, McAllister read of a growing relationship between excess screen time and social problems, bullying, lack of self-confidence and poor self-image.

“I started investigating and the amount of youth that are experiencing depression to bullying to suicide rates under 15 years old is staggering,” McAllister said. “You start tracking things back and reading white papers and case studies about screen time, and these kids are judging themselves based on what other people are liking and writing online, succumbing to social bullying…when people train in martial arts, they become more positive about themselves and what they’re capable of.”

For the last few years, McAllister has developed his martial arts academy with an emphasis on teaching self-reliance, self-image and self-defense.

The meaning behind “7-5-3” is found in the Bushido code that explains the seven warrior virtues, five keys to health and three states of mind. McAllister teaches these ways of the warrior in his studio, combining martial arts with purpose, ethics and mental fortitude.

Holistic approach to fitness

At 7-5-3 Academy, founder and coach McAllister and his assistant coach David Valko focus on providing small-group classes (15 participants or less). The reduced student-to-instructor ratio is to promote quality instruction and achieve sustainable goals without injury.

From private martial arts lessons and Filipino martial arts classes to after-school programs and light saber academies, 7-5-3 provides a holistic approach to self-defense, ensuring clients of all ages walk away feeling well-trained, calm and confident in their ability to protect themselves in real-world situations.

McAllister also focuses on fitness outside of the studio, emphasizing proper nutrition and meal planning. He also likes to establish strong relationships with his students and their families, ensuring the youth are applying what they learn at 7-5-3 into the home and at school.

“We want to teach students how to be calm, how to manage their stress effectively, not just here but especially at school,” McAllister said. “Before kids have a test or get in front of the classroom to do a presentation, planning for that stress and using positive imagery, meditation, slowing the heart rate and focusing on breathing, the student learns to mitigate that stress…we want to help the bigger picture, not just be a band-aid.”

7-5-3 Academy also offers free consultation for new clients to understand their fitness goals.

“I want to know where the client is at in their journey. What challenges are holding them back, physically or mentally,” he said. “We set a goal to achieve it and track their progress as they go.”

According to Valko, the small group classes and personalized goal-setting have allowed 7-5-3 to maintain a consistent membership base with clients returning year after year.

The academy provides a monthly kids’ night as part of the 7-5-3 membership, allowing parents to drop off their students to offer martial arts-themed activities, games and competitions complete with snacks and drinks.


As a small business owner and veteran, McAllister’s journey with martial arts began when he was 10 years old, training through his formative years in everything from Kung Fu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Filipino martial arts, Aikido and more.

McAllister is medically retired from the Army where he spent 18 years, working in special operations, intelligence collection and worldwide counter-terrorism operations. McAllister is no stranger to challenges as he has had a long journey with cancer.

“I’ve run into complications, re-emergence and re-treatment and am still dealing with some aftereffects,” McAllister said. “One of my personal mantras is when you feel like you want to quit or you tell yourself you can’t do it, that’s when you need it the most.”

McAllister is currently a master instructor in the Filipino martial arts style, Pekiti-Tirsia Kali. He is the highest-ranked martial artist in this style in Arizona.

David Valko has a background in project management and software design. Valko provides business and planning expertise at 7-5-3 and as an assistant instructor with 10 years of martial arts experience, Valko also teaches classes throughout the week including 7-5-3 kickboxing.

McAllister and Valko are planning to combine efforts with the Fountain Hills Unified School District to host a martial arts club at the district and are beginning its newly expanded Summer Warrior Course for the youth.

As 7-5-3 Academy expands its capabilities in the community, McAllister and Valko still seek to improve the physical and mental states of youth and adults through positive reinforcement, personalized training and kindness to oneself and others.

“We need to develop that inner strength,” McAllister said. “That’s where the warrior art comes from, being able to navigate these mental challenges in a positive fashion.”

7-5-3 Academy is located at 14835 E. Shea Blvd., Suite C104. For more information, visit 753academy.com, call 480-219-9253 or send an email to info@7-5-3Academy.com.

We invite our readers to submit their civil comments on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org. Cyrus Guccione can be reached at cguccione@iniusa.org.