Black Business Spotlight: Ross Martial Arts Academy

James Ross with students
Submitted photo

​Black martial arts school opens near George Floyd Square 

Local entrepreneur James Ross is the owner of Ross Martial Arts Academy (RMAA), located at 37th and Chicago Ave. in George Floyd Square. The business opened in March 2022. 

 “The mission and purpose is to better yourself—self-improvement through physical expression, as well as team-building and leadership,” Ross said. “Those are the three main focuses of my martial arts program.” 

Ross was born and raised in South Minneapolis, graduating from Washburn High School in 2001. Years later he dedicated his time and energy to learning martial arts. 

Ross recalled, “Most of my martial arts training was done at the World Taekwondo Academy. It’s been about 15 years.” As a result, he is equipped with a wealth of knowledge and expertise. 

“I’m a third-degree black belt. The biggest thing is consistency, self-motivation, motivation from your coaches—and how determined you are to accomplish something.”

Ross disclosed more about his experience: “I’ve been teaching on and off between different locations within the World Taekwondo Academy. I also taught at Parnassus Preparatory School in Maple Grove. They have a Taekwondo program, which is a part of their phy ed, so I was the program director for that for about three years.” 

Overall, “I’ve been teaching and instructing for at least 10-12 years out of the total time I’ve been training,” he said. Now, Ross is looking forward to opening his very own school. 

He elaborated: “The biggest thing that inspired me was to open up a school in that neighborhood. I have classes for all ages, but my main focus is the youth and just with all the things I’m hearing in the news and the things I’m seeing out in the streets.” 

As a result, he is called to action. “I think the community needs a structured program like martial arts that instills character building, leadership, and team building. That’s the main reason and main purpose of me setting up right there in George Floyd Square,” he said. 

Ross emphasized, “It’s close to my heart—that’s where I grew up. Before the Speedway, when it was Super America, that was my spot that I would walk to as a child. 

“I just have a deep connection with the neighborhood, and I’m hoping that whatever I have to offer can make some type of positive impact within the community,” he said. 

Ross is dedicated to helping underserved and underrepresented individuals. “I enjoy working with kids; I enjoy teaching. And over the years, I’ve learned a lot of different teaching methods to get people to learn.”

Submitted photo Ross Martial Arts Academy interior

He suggests budding entrepreneurs be mindful that starting a business can be costly. “For a martial arts studio, it’s enough to hurt the pockets, but it’s all worth it—it’s reinvesting in your own business. It does cost. It was a financial blow with setting that up,” Ross said. 

The RMAA offers a range of classes. “I have the Little Tigers class, so that’s between four-to six-year-olds. And then we focus predominantly on motor skills, listening skills and confidence,” he said. 

“We have a family martial arts class, which is for all ages. We teach Taekwondo, MMA, street self-defense, and acrobatics. Beginners start with foam weapons, and then they get bumped up to wood weapons as they progress.” As individuals advance, they’ll be able to use nunchucks and swords, he said. 

“And then for the adults, I’m going to be teaching kind of a combination of mixed martial arts and a fitness class, kickboxing class. So, it’s more geared toward fitness, but you’re going to learn self-defense while you’re working on your fitness. 

“I do street self-defense seminars, and I collaborate with different professionals to do different seminars. The average class right now is going to be $100.”

 Ross hopes to start a nonprofit to give back on a larger scale and help “underprivileged” youth in the neighborhood. 

“We also do Olympic sparring, so we do have it set up if there’s athletes that want to make it to the Taekwondo Olympic team. We have coaches and resources to do that. There are national and international tournaments participants can train for.”

Ross shared his keys for success: “Making sure that you’re properly prepared for whatever task you plan on taking on, which means if you have to study or do research.” And “having a strong will and determining drive to be a self-motivator and self-starter” he considers important. 

Ross encouraged youth to “put your family and yourself first. Make sure the family unit is taken care of—and support each other as much as you can throughout your life.” 

“Be confident,” he added, “and take the leap.” 

Ross Martial Arts Academy is located at 3736 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis. For more information visit