At the midpoint of life, Stanley Crump, 55, has walked many paths, as a business consultant, hip hop dancer, restauranteur, real estate investor, reality TV cast member, and karate champion.

The latter set him up for his current incarnation of Crump Inc. as the after-school care impresario of Howard County. Or at least of his corner of the county, at the wide-angle intersection of Montgomery and Waterloo roads.

The Okinawan Karate Dojo in Ellicott City – there is now also a second dojo in Catonsville – is sandwiched between Zeka Cleaners and Bella Mia Pizzeria in a low-slung strip mall built into a hillside that gives the dojo a daylight-basement level where some 40 elementary-school age children attend its after-school care program.

The program is among many in the county licensed by the state’s Division of Early Childhood, but as a martial arts school, the dojo is a rare bird among the group. Acquiring a license from the state requires, among other things, taking face-to-face orientation training, submitting an extensive application that includes background checks for staff, and inspection by fire and health department officials. (The World Champion Martial Arts Center in Laurel is one other facility on the state-licensed list in Howard County, and the county has more non-licensed facilities that offer programs during the school year.)

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Stanley Crump chats with students in an after-school program at his Okinawan Karate Dojo on 6/13/24 in Ellicott City, MD. (Eric Thompson/for The Baltimore Banner)
Stanley Crump chats with a student in an after-school program at his Okinawan Karate Dojo on 6/13/24 in Ellicott City, MD. (Eric Thompson/for The Baltimore Banner)

“I knew the Howard County market would respond,” said Crump, who started offering the service six years ago. “We never added ‘child care’ to the name. We are a karate school, and we’re a good karate school. That’s what feeds the success of the child care part of the business. They [parents] know we’re doing good karate correctly, and therefore their sons and daughters want to come here and have a structured engaging environment.”

The dojo is a hot ticket among the parents in the area grade schools.

“There are a lot of options, but the good ones are hard to find,” said Ali Shrestha, whose son Nirvan attends Phelps Luck. “We’ve already registered for next year. The spots fill up if you don’t get in early.”

Maryland is rated among the bottom 10 states in the country for access to after-school care, according to Ellie Mitchell, director of the Maryland Out of School Time Network.

“We have pretty high demand and lots of waiting lists,” Mitchell said. “We also have very high parent satisfaction with programs their kids are in and very high support for them. Unfortunately that does not translate into our state funding.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The coordination of care “happens in a million ways in a million places,” Mitchell said. “We would like to see more coordination at the state and local level.”

Until then, much of the coordination is left to private operators like Crump who arrived at the idea somewhat accidentally.

Crump was raised in Westchester County, New York, and attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He majored in multinational management and economics and for fun danced hip hop competitively. His first job took him to Boston. There, on his way to meet friends for happy hour, he encountered a dojo that taught a variety of karate from the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Fans of the “Karate Kid” franchise will recognize the Okinawan strain. Much of what was depicted, especially in the original movie, is accurate Crump said, including the techniques of “wax on, wax off” and “paint the fence” drilled into young Daniel LaRusso by Mr. Miyagi. Okinawan karate emphasizes defense over offense, and taking the high road, avoiding a fight rather than starting one.

As Crump ascended the karate ranks – he said he holds a 7th-degree black belt – he became a serial entrepreneur. He and his wife moved to Maryland to help a group of investors open a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Among the investors were Jay-Z and Diddy, Crump said.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The restaurant never opened, but the Crumps bought an ice cream parlor and invested in real estate, purchasing 25 homes in Baltimore. He also worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a consultant.

All the while, karate remained an integral part of his life. He entered and won competitions, gaining the notice of a grand master, Kiyohide Shinjo, nicknamed Okinawa’s Superman, who became Crump’s Mr. Miyagi.

About 20 years ago, by then a father to young children, Crump started giving demonstrations at elementary schools. Parents asked him to give lessons, he said, so he started teaching out of his house – this is the traditional Okinawan way, just as Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel from his house. In 2006, as his pupils multiplied, Sensei Stanley Crump opened his first dojo in Ellicott City, a small space he has since left.

His personality and reputation propelled the business, eventually reaching former NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, whom he taught twice a week. Busch would fly in for his lessons between races just to be trained by Crump.

“I’ve been bringing Kurt to the attention of the karate principle that when you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies so be prepared,” Crump told USA Today in a 2014 article. “The toughest thing for him is blocking out the distractions of media, transportation between the two races, potential crashes, etc.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Around that time, with his notoriety as an instructor growing, he decided to focus on identifying his true purpose, which he concluded to be martial arts and “building relationships.” He decided to “trim all the fat,” and quit his day job, sell his real estate holdings, the ice cream shop, and focus on the dojo.

It and Crump made an appearance in the 2020 season of “The Real Housewives of Potomac,” when one of the wives made a visit to enroll her son in classes. The same year, as a gym owner of color, he was interviewed by Men’s Health about the role of race and class in creating what it referred to as “fitness deserts.”

Students of Stanley Crump's Okinawan Karate Dojo follow direction by instructor, Sensei and 3rd degree black belt Rob Wilkie, on 6/13/24 in Ellicott City, MD. (Eric Thompson/for The Baltimore Banner)
A student of Stanley Crump's Okinawan Karate Dojo stands awaiting instruction during a class held on 6/13/24 in Ellicott City, MD. (Eric Thompson/for The Baltimore Banner)
Students of Stanley Crump's Okinawan Karate Dojo run around before their class begins on 6/13/24 in Ellicott City, MD. (Eric Thompson/for The Baltimore Banner)

As more local children enrolled in his classes, adding the element of child care seemed a logical next step to Crump. (He has three children of his own, the youngest 16, all with black belts. So does his wife. A family of “ass kickers,” he joked.) The after-school program became an additional pipeline for students, and a growth opportunity for the dojo.

For parents, finding reliable and affordable child care in the hours between the school bell and the end of an adult workday is a perennial challenge in Baltimore’s suburbs and beyond. According to Jodi Grant, the executive director of Washington-D.C.-based Afterschool Alliance, about 25 million kids in the U.S. who need after-school care do not have access to it.

Grant and other advocates from all over the country met with members of Congress Tuesday to brief senators on the shortcomings of the current system and to ask for an increase of $750 million in the federal funding stream for after-school and summer learning.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Grant said for every child enrolled in an after-school program, four more are waiting to get in. According to a survey commissioned by the Alliance, the care deficit is at its highest ever, and the unmet demand is even higher for Black and Latino children.

Some states and cities also provide public funding for after-school care – California is cited as a model with $5 billion in funding – but many are falling short.

The children in the Okinawan Karate Dojo’s program range in age from 5 to 11. Their families pay anywhere from $350 to $750 a month for up to three hours of after-school care a day. (He said he offers discounts and scholarships to some families.) The dojo’s staff, some of whom have or have had kids in the dojo, will pick up students at school. Karate instruction is included, although not all the children partake. Snacks, crafts, games, homework, and free play are also part of the program, but Crump hopes every child in his care also embraces karate.

Students engage in an after-school program within one of the educational spaces at Okinawan Karate Dojo on 6/13/24 in Ellicott City, MD. (Eric Thompson/for The Baltimore Banner)
Students engage in an after-school program within one of the educational spaces at Okinawan Karate Dojo on 6/13/24 in Ellicott City, MD. (Eric Thompson/for The Baltimore Banner)

He opened his Catonsville dojo last summer, and will also offer after-school care there starting this fall, opening up another 40 or so slots.

“Let us show you what a real connection with a positive mentor can do,” Crump likes to say about the value of his school. He has a few opinions about the state of American childhood, among them that kids are allowed to have “too much autonomy too soon, not enough structure … too much time with technology.”

At least some parents welcome the visceral experience of karate-centric after-school care.

“I’m all for that,” said Eric Szabo, whose sons Rex and Jude attend the program. “Get my kids dirty. Get on the ground. Roll around.”

“Kid have lost some social skills and confidence,” Crump said. “Be humble, have some respect, be fearless, and be brave under pressure. Those are the things we’re trying to teach. These same kids are going to grow up to have kids.

“This momentum that we have here makes sense as a possible cure. So, if we continue to dig in and do it better and better, I think we’re always going to be around.”

Stanley Crump, owner of Okinawan Karate Dojo, stands for a portrait in the training space of the upper level in his dojo on 6/13/24 in Ellicott City, MD. (Eric Thompson/for The Baltimore Banner)