Our Story


THE STORY of Scornavacco Martial Arts Academy


Brad Scornavacco first learned about Martial Arts by playing around in the backyard with his childhood friends, but it was his intense desire to learn effective self-defense techniques that inspired him to begin formal schooling at Dragon Wind Kenpo Karate on the South Side of Chicago under Lee Wedlake Jr., a 9th Degree Black Belt and first generation student of American Kenpo founder, Ed Parker, and one of the top teachers of Kenpo in the world. If a child wanted to survive the South Side of Chicago, it behooved him to master the art of practical self-defense. Brad and his family also recognized that if a child was going to thrive on the South Side of Chicago, he also needed to enroll in the best schools possible. From Catholic Schools, to a Magnet School for academically elite students, to a private, Jesuit high school in Chicago, Brad developed into a life-long student of ideas, knowledge, reading and art. A near perfect score on his SATs, a fabulous grade point average, and an all-around commitment to stewardship and martial arts earned him a scholarship to Northwestern University, a Top-Ten School in Evanston, Illinois and it is there where he met his future wife (and PhD in Education), Dr. Karla.


Brad continued his Martial Arts training through college both as a teacher and a student. Upon graduation, Brad started to work at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, doing what Northwestern graduates were supposed to do in order to earn money and secure high-power jobs. But his real education and his heart spoke louder, as he made the life-long decision to commit himself to helping others actualize their human potential and he saw that the best way to do this was through Martial Arts training. Majoring in philosophy at Northwestern aided him in this process; his studies afforded him the opportunity to look closely at the philosophy and world-views that underscore the martial arts. Brad engaged in formal studies in logic, critical analysis, epistemology, and psychological development, which provided him with a foundation for how the human brain works as well as how people learn most effectively.


In addition to seeking out the top academic schools that were the best fit for Brad, Brad continually sought out the best Martial Arts teachers. Master Lee Wedlake had left the Windy City for sunnier skies in Florida, but that did not stop Brad from learning directly from him. Brad moved to Florida to train and teach for Master Wedlake as well as to learn from him about management systems for opening and directing a reliable and thriving Martial Arts school.


After a three-year apprenticeship, Brad aimed to fulfill yet another one of his dreams: to move to Colorado and open a thriving Martial Arts school among a backdrop of mountains. He pinned a map of Colorado on his bedroom wall as a visual reminder of his goal, and within that next year he was driving across the country, ready to engage in the next phase of his life. Brad opened Scornavaccco Martial Arts Academy in Longmont, Colorado in August, 1998, and it has been successfully serving families in the Longmont area ever since that opening day. The friendliest school in town with a committed, well-educated staff, Scornavacco Martial Arts Academy has developed into a mainstay (and thriving educational family center) in the Longmont community.


Brad did not stop there. He continued to build upon his martial arts repertoire by training with his friend, Al McLuckie, a Filipino Martial Arts Master, who introduced him to yet another Martial Art that offered Brad something he sought out to learn decades earlier on the streets of Chicago: practical self-defense where there is not just one right way to do something, but a multitude of approaches, the best of which is the one that works for you, not against you. Brad met Vladimir Vasiliev, former member of Russian Special Forces, trainer at the Spets Institute and Chief Instructor in the Western hemisphere of Russian Martial Art, also known as Systema. Since that first seminar, Brad has immersed himself in Systema training, including four trips to Russia to train with Colonel Mikhail Ryabko, and countless seminars throughout the United States and Canada. Brad is currently one of the few senior instructors of Systema in America. He teaches a fortunate cadre of Systema students at Scornavacco Martial Arts Academy (under the name Systema Colorado) in Longmont, Colorado as well as police officers, bodyguards, FBI agents and civilians at various seminars throughout the country.


In partnership with his wife, Dr. Karla, a Harvard University graduate with a PhD in Education, Brad Scornavacco shares many secrets to a good life — “ breathing, fluid movement, self-control, focus, and relaxation. Together, they have created and continue to refine a superior curriculum that teaches the habits of mind and physical acumen to live a life of success. With programs that integrate character development, study skills, and opportunities for parental support, Scornavacco Martial Arts Academy provides the best mentoring in the Martial Arts. Our children will not be bullied (nor be bullies), and each of our students learns and practices a life of achievement, responsibility, courtesy and respect. Brad and Dr. Karla also remember their roots. It was through play that Brad was first introduced to Martial Arts, and it was through a keen awareness of a need for practical self-defense that motivated him to continue. For Dr. Karla, it was her amazement into ways that Martial Arts complements personal learning, especially in terms of one’s commitment to make oneself into a better person, physically and mentally. But it is their families who provide them with unconditional love, and who continue to this day to support them. There is a definite reason why family is so often used to describe the school. Scornavacco Martial Arts Academy: “THE Place That Changes Lives.”

RAVING FANS…Student Praise For Our Head of School

“Do not choose a studio according to the style taught there. Choose the very best teacher you can find, and learn what that person teaches.

A great teacher is the most important element for students.  Mr. Scornavacco is a wonderful man, a talented practitioner, and a caring and gifted teacher.”

-Rabbi Benjamin Sendrow


“One of the most important things to consider when looking for an instructor is the quality of instruction. Brad Scornavacco carries with him the knowledge, professionalism, and positive attitude of a well-schooled graduate. He has the ability to teach on all levels and continues to develop his art and his mind. I have in the past and would continue to recommend him to anyone interested in not only studying under him but growing as a person from him.”

-Curt Farrell


“For more than a year, I’ve had the opportunity to attend many classes where I learned various self-defense techniques with Brad Scornavacco. I have found him to be a teacher who is well versed in the subject of self-defense and who is very effective in assuring that all of his students can experience success. My daughters and myself have enjoyed a greater degree of confidence since taking classes under Mr. Scornavacco’s leadership.”

-Monique Custer


“I am favorably impressed with the level of commitment and dedication that Mr. Scornavacco has towards women’s issues in regards to self-defense, myself having four teen-aged daughters and a wife that have studied under him for the past year and a half. As a Martial Artist, he is one of the most practical and skillful individuals that I have ever witnessed, but what is more impressive is his desire to openly share that knowledge and skill with everyone, from children to adults, as their level of development permits. He is very sensitive to his student’s progress and developmental needs, and adjusts his teaching accordingly, to maximize the learning experience. Mr.Scornavacco’s enthusiasm and love for what he is doing is a great motivational force for all of his students. I would highly recommend him to anyone that is interested in learning the practical aspects of self-defense.”

-Larry Yonashiro


“I have studied under Mr. Scornavacco for three and one-half years. During that time I have come to know Mr. Scornavacco very well and hold him in the highest regard. Of all the martial artists I have met, Mr. Scornavacco is one of the most competent and knowledgeable instructors in his field. More important than his in-depth understanding of karate, however, he has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities and admirable sense of character. It is these things that make him stand out amongst his peers. I have entrusted not only my own education to him but also that of my wife and my six year old son. He possesses the traits that draw the karate students my school has now and keeps them coming back year after year. Over the years I have also had the opportunity to instruct many classes with Mr. Scornavacco. From this point of view I have seen first hand the effect Mr. Scornavacco has had on the students, most notably the children. We have well over one hundred children in our school and every one of them looks to Mr. Scornavacco as an excellent role model. The parents are equally as pleased and credit the success our school enjoys to Mr. Scornavacco.”

-Steve Catapano

“Mr. Scornavacco’s humble yet enthusiastic approach to teaching Karate endeared him to people of all ages and he is a special favorite among the children. He is  an instructor who values  his work and has a deep sense of commitment to his community.”


-Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah



“As the President of our PTA I would like to recommend Mr. Brad Scornavacco as a man of integrity, discipline and positive character. Mr. Scornavacco taught an after school karate class for our PTA for the past three years. During that time, he was always dependable and punctual; traits not found in all of our after school instructors. Mr. Scornavacco was able to fill his class and maintained a high level of participation throughout the school year. I attribute his success to his ability to work well with children, his ability to maintain a high level of discipline, and his ability to make class fun. The children truly respected him and looked forward to his class.”


-Lisa Pockrus

“Mr. Brad Scornavacco has instructed our three children in Kenpo Karate for three years. He always made Kenpo Karate fun and nurtured their interest while holding their attention and respect for him. He has been an excellent role model for them. He relates well to them as he does to all ages including adults and seniors.”


-Dr. and Mrs. Charles C. Dugan

“Thank you very much for your years of instruction to us. You have provided hours of enjoyable and professional guidance not only through direct instruction in class but also through your personal insights in the newsletter columns. The following characteristics are but a few that you have demonstrated in your quest to help us achieve the knowledge, skills, and attitude associated with Kenpo Karate: provided guidance, created conditions that encouraged and stimulated learning, enjoyed working with people, established good personal relations with students, imparted your knowledge to students, had patience with learners. Thank you for all you’ve done for our family.”


-Danielle, Adriana & Matthew Hawkins


“The Bible says to Raise up a child in the way that they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.  I want to sincerely thank you for taking me, in my infancy stage in Kenpo, and raising me in the way that I should go by teaching me the right way, the first time. As I go along and mature in this system of martial arts, I won’t depart from it. If one doesn’t develop bad habits in the beginning, then there are no bad habits to break in the future, and the focus can remain on advancing instead of constantly backing up. I have had the privilege of having you as an instructor in regular class, as well and in Private Lessons. I appreciate the fact that you took the extra time and effort to fully explain all of the in-depth aspects of each of the different moves and techniques to allow me to have a solid understanding of the basics of Kenpo. With this solid foundation, as I advance, I know that I will gain the most from what Kenpo has to offer. I learned a long time ago that if you learn the WHY, the HOW comes easy. I think its fantastic that you’re able to give both. Although to an outsider, the different things in Kenpo may look superficial and just like a lot of different punches and kicks being thrown in the air, there is Great Depth. It is truly a triad of science, art and philosophy. Normally, when something is passed down from generation to generation, things tend to get watered down, and the ORIGINAL WORK OF ART is lost. As I see it, such is not the case where you are concerned. You were blessed to have learned from Mr. Lee Wedlake, that of which he learned from Mr. Ed Parker. The same insight the Mr. Parker had is present in Mr. Wedlake and in you. Selfishly, I wish you were staying, but at the same time, I’m excited for you opening your new school. I know that anyone who has the opportunity to be a student in your school is going to be privileged to have the best training available. If they’ll let you, you’ll help them be all that they can be.”

Again, Thank-You,

-Dr. Mark C. Means



“My son has been a student of Mr. Brad Scornavacco’s for two years. My daughter was also Mr. Scornavacco’s student for a little over a year. Both children loved Mr. Scornavacco’s classes; He always made the classes fun while maintaining order. Mr. Scornavacco has shown himself to be extremely responsible and dependable. I never knew him to be absent from the studio. If he was sick, we would not have known; he was there for class. Even when he broke his fingers he taught all of his classes. These classes were offered every day of the week except Sunday. Mr. Scornavacco also taught classes at a local elementary school in an after school program. He was very involved in community programs, such as teaching at the community college, organizing fund raisers for the Heart Association, offering free Women’s Self-Defense courses, etc. He always taught the children that it is important to give something of yourself back to the community. Each year he organized a Christmas project. One year it was an angel tree for the children of migrant workers, and another year is was for a local home for severely handicapped children. Each Thanksgiving he had a food drive for the local food bank. He did not have to do any of this. It was all done with no thought of reward. He wanted to set a good example and be the role model for his students. In classes, Mr. Scornavacco always stressed using your head rather than your fists. Fighting was a last resort, only to be used as self-defense. Each week a lesson was taught with an emphasis on self-improvement and positive thinking. The kids are required to turn in job lists each month to show that they are behaving at home, taking responsibility for themselves, and keeping up their schoolwork. To be eligible for promotion to a new belt the children must have their teachers and parents sign that they have had good behavior at school and at home. I highly recommend Mr. Scornavacco. He is a very responsible, decent, solid citizen who is an asset to our community.”

-Margaret Vincent

Dear Master Scornavacco, “On behalf of everyone on the State of Iowa Black Belt Association (IBBA) cabinet, I would like to thank you for teaching the Knife and Ground Techniques session at the 2004 SIBBA Symposium. We appreciate you coming so far to donate your time and talents. I hope you had an enjoyable experience and will consider teaching classes at future SIBBA events. Again, thank you so much.” Respectfully yours,

-Holly Bigrall TKD delegate, SIBBA



In March ’97 I was looking for a new school teaching a different style. I was looking for a more hands-based system than what I was currently learning. So this young kid (Brad Scornavacco) came over and offered to help. A week later I watched this young kid teach a class. I found the students to be really sharp but I was really impressed that the instructor truly knew what he was teaching. So many instructors seem to know how and sometimes even when to use a technique, yet you were also able to explain why a technique was used. Later I also was able to observe you teach the kids. I don’t know who had more fun and best of all they were learning. Kids learn better when they enjoy themselves and you are able to combine those two qualities with the children. Teaching children is a special challenge and you have the special talent necessary. Two very impressive parts of your resume are your persistence and your instructor, Mr. Lee Wedlake. You have spent a lot of time getting to where you are and you have had the best instructor under whom I have studied. I regret in your leaving that my children will not have the opportunity to learn from you. I also envy your opportunity and wish you all the best.

Good luck, -Bill Ellerd

“I wanted to take the time to congratulate you on the opening of your new Martial Arts Academy in Colorado, and I wish you great success…You have been an inspiration to me with my training and the times I was discouraged or felt inept you were there to encourage me. Your personal interest and patience with me has meant a great deal to me. I know for a fact that my wife would not have studied as long as she did had it not been for your instructions and help. Good Luck! Your friend & student.”


-John T. Vitale

“Last evening, during my son’s belt promotion ceremony, it was announced that Mr. Brad Scornavacco better known as Mr. Brad was leaving the Karate Studio for an opportunity to move to Colorado. I could not think of a better way to thank Mr. Brad than to write a letter of recommendation for him and anyone needing to know more about him. My 10 year-old son was uninterested in team sports (soccer, baseball, basketball) so we decided to try Karate. Because of Mr. Brad our boy looks forward to Karate classes. Mr. Brad over the past two years has always (1) Been There. (2) Started on time. (3) Was Prepared/Organized. (4) Enthusiastic and Cared about each child. Mr. Brad was the driving force of our studio, and the reason it was voted the best Karate studio in Ft. Myers for the past two years.


-Tom Stegeman



“This letter is intended as a formal letter of recommendation for Mr. Brad Scornavacco who I have known for the last three years as one of my karate instructors at Lee Wedlakes Kenpo Karate Studio in Fort Myers, Florida. During that period of time I have developed a great respect for him through his knowledge of Kenpo karate and his character and integrity as an individual. He sets a positive example for students of all ages by encouraging not only excellence in karate but also in life. These lessons are especially valuable to his younger students, one of which is my son, Jeff. Jeff and I are extremely fortunate to have known and learned from brad. We will both miss him but at the same time are excited about his move to Colorado. We wish him and his future students the best of luck.”


-Jack Garris



“I would like to take this opportunity to tell you my experience with Brad Scornavacco. Let me first say that I’ve been a law enforcement officer for almost 14 years and have been trained by the F.B.I, Secret Service, and a multitude of special operations divisions. What I’m trying to say is I know a good instructor when I see one. During my training in Kenpo Karate, Brad has been my primary teacher. I try to keep it this way, due to the fact that he is very particular about the art and knows how to get his point across. This isn’t only with adults, either. I have a 6-year-old son who is a difficult child to teach. When all his teachers said put him on Ritalin we decided to start him in Kenpo for discipline as well as the art. Since Brad has been working with him he has made amazing improvements at school and at home. I can’t thank Brad enough for his wisdom and patience with my son and all the other children at the studio. I really don’t know how he handles so much adversity all at once and does it without showing any stress towards the class. To top it all off Brad I a genuinely nice person, who has really made a difference in a lot of lives. I will be sincerely sorry to see him go. He was one of the major factors with me in choosing this studio over the many in the area. Anyone can say they know karate and have the ability to Teach, but very few have the many talents that Brad possesses. I’m sure no matter where Brad goes his abilities will produce excellent results.”

-Rich Snyder


“Over the last three years, Brad Scornavacco has been the karate instructor of my two sons Ben (21 years old), and Jonathan (7 years old). When Ben began he was extremely impressed with the quality of Brad’s teaching. He found Brad’s Technique impeccable and was positively influenced by Brad’s ability to motivate him to progress and excel. I have been equally impressed watching my younger son Jonathan’s progress. Not only has he learned excellent technique, but he has been encouraged by Brad to develop a sense of self-discipline and self-esteem. What makes Brad a truly remarkable teacher is his capacity to teach a student a rigorous and highly technical skill and to simultaneously instill the character traits of self-control, respect, diligence and good judgment that are the underpinning of karate.”

Sincerely yours,

-Viviane Chase Wiernik



Education “Mr. Scornavacco is a very intelligent man who is continuously endeavoring to improve himself. He visits bookstores and libraries, reading literature to enhance his knowledge. He and I have had many conversations on human behavior, business administration, and world history, plus many other subjects. He is an excellent, articulate conversationalist. Personality Mr. Scornavacco is able to relate to all levels of individuals without condescension. He is a very pleasant man and an excellent listener. He is always available to hear problems and willing to help people solve them. Because of his demeanor people tend to approach him when they have difficulties. Skills. (Teaching, Instructional and Inter-personal) Mr. Scornavacco is able to teach and instruct effectively to all age levels, from 4 to my 73 years of age, plus mixed genders with many varying levels of physical and mental skills. Over the past 3½ years he has helped bring my expertise to the first-degree black belt level in American Kenpo Karate. I have watched Mr. Scornavacco teach and instruct 4 and 5 year old children with the same dedication that he afforded me, and with excellent results. His students relate to him. Honesty & Integrity I have never known Mr. Scornavacco to break a promise or not live up to a commitment. He has participated in food drives for the needy and has volunteered for community projects such as Self defense for Women, etc. I have loaned him books from my library and they have always been returned in the condition that I loaned them. It has been a pleasure and an honor to know and work with him.”

Yours truly,

-Richard G. Stone.



“For the last four years, I have known Brad Scornavacco while he has been an instructor at the Lee Wedlake Kempo Karate Studio in Fort Myers, Florida. During his period of employment at the Lee Wedlake Kenpo Karate Studio, he has taught karate to my entire family, ages ranging from 5 years old to adults who are in their forties. I have found him to be an excellent teacher, soft spoken and competent. During these four years, I have found him to be of high moral character, and it is without reservations I can recommend him.”


-Dr. Steven R. West


“It has been my pleasure to have known and studied Mr. Scornavacco. It is rare to meet a person with the self-motivation and intensity that he exhibits on a day-to-day basis. During my association with Brad, I have had the opportunity to watch him develop his teaching skills. The knowledge he imparts to his students is well organized, in depth, and an example of his grasp on the intricacies associated with his field of study. I believe he possesses an intellectual quotient well above normal and anticipate him to succeed in whatever enterprise he so chooses. Besides the obvious talents Brad possesses, he is a gentleman and a truly nice person. I therefore can highly recommend him without reservation or trepidation, to any parent or prospective student.”


-Robert J. Brandt