When Emerson Doyle was growing up in South Arlington, he converted the basement of his parents’ house into a small martial arts school, complete with punching bags, sand weights, and a mirror. He invited friends from the neighborhood to come over and train with him, using techniques he leaned from books and movies, including anything written or demonstrated by his hero, Bruce Lee.
By the time he was 15 and his family could afford tuition at a real martial arts studio, Emerson had already taught himself some skills, but was eager to receive professional training from a master martial artist. Training twice a day, participating in competitions, and teaching younger students, Emerson earned his black belt in just two years. As a teenager, Emerson was already teaching tae kwon do 12 hours a day during the summer. He also experimented with a variety of martial arts, including kung fu, different styles of karate, and tricking. He served as head instructor at a local tae kwon do school, where he began teaching tricking to a few select students. After a serious knee injury took him off the mat for a while, Emerson created his own brand of martial arts and opened Creative Martial Arts, the predecessor to Evolve All, on Columbia Pike in the Penrose neighborhood.
He took Creative Martial Arts into local elementary schools, where he taught afterschool enrichment classes. Many of those students followed Emerson back to his studio. So many students joined CMA’s classes that the studio quickly outgrew its space, and in 2013 moved up Columbia Pike to a larger space in Alcova Heights, which he rebranded Evolve All. The new studio offered classes in strength training, yoga, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and added adult martial arts to its curriculum. In 2017, Evolve All moved to its current location at 5818 Seminary Road in Falls Church.
Although he is particularly passionate about the history, techniques, and all aspects of martial arts, Emerson recognizes that not everyone feels the same way. “Martial arts is just a vehicle for students to learn skills they can use anywhere else, like discipline, respect, resilience, and all the character traits that are part of our belt requirements. Our goal is to help students learn those lessons.”