July 23, 2018
Faces of Business

Self-defense key to Jones’ entrepreneurial pursuits

HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever
HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever
Joe Jones is an accomplished martial artist and instructor, but he’s also an entrepreneur who owns a private security firm and real estate in Hartford.
Stan Simpson

Growing up as a New Jersey teenager in the 1960s, Joe Jones was shy, skinny and lacked self-confidence. His mother, Dora, encouraged him to talk more with his father — a tough World War II Army veteran also named Joe.

Mom told her son that his dad once took on three men who were harassing her and knocked them out simultaneously, without ever using his hands.

Little Joe was mesmerized. How could someone beat up three men while having his hands in his pockets? He eventually found out that the Army trained his father in martial arts. Big Joe was not a black belt, but he (apparently) caught on quickly.

At 10, little Joe began taking lessons in self-defense from his father, then later from certified instructors. He eventually earned a black belt in 1969. He is now a 10th-degree black belt.

Joe Jones' love of the martial arts would prove transformative. It became an integral part of his life that he parlayed into teaching, world championship-level fighting, and the martial arts Hall of Fame.

For the last 25 years, Jones has also owned Jo-Ryu Security LLC, which has operated since 2005 out of a spacious 12,000-square-foot brick building he owns on Franklin Avenue in Hartford.

Make no mistake, martial arts is the family business. The security firm is a successful spin off. Everyone in the Jones family is an accomplished martial artist. Joe Jones and wife Mattie's five children all have black belts. The grandchildren are in training.

"Once they start walking we put them on the mat," Jones said.

His private-security business employs about 40 people, including several family members. There is a fleet of vehicles and a couple stretch limousines. Many staffers are licensed to carry weapons. The firm provides security for events, parades, nightclubs, construction sites, large churches, apartment buildings, businesses, schools and corporate executives. There are about 15 core clients.

The key to great security? "Unity and people working together as a group," said Jones, 69. "If one of us is in trouble, we are all in trouble. We back up each other and make the client feel safe."

Entrepreneurial bent

Jones is a man of great faith. His love of God and the martial arts have given him discipline, structure, serenity and confidence. Those attributes embody his business philosophy and instructions to the thousands of students trained over the last 48 years, about 200 of whom have earned black belts.

"Conflicts can be resolved by talking," Jones said. "And being at peace with yourself. The most powerful part of the body is the mind. You have to train it. You have to know that your mind is going to play a key part in your everyday life — and know how to use it in a constructive way. You also have to be honest. Honesty is going to be a factor in anything you do. I like being honest. If I give you honesty and you try to do something different on me, it ain't going to work. You can't beat the truth.''

Jones is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and a sturdy 195 pounds. He is slow-talking, wise, composed and quick with a smile. His grandfatherly demeanor belies the menacing countenance seen in pictures from his fighting prime back in the 1980s and 1990s when he fought at 163 pounds.

When told he looks downright mean in those images, Jones grins. "When in the ring," he said, "I had to let them know."

Outside the ring, Jones is an entrepreneur with several real-estate holdings. He leases parts of his Franklin Avenue building to a law firm, salon and church. Years ago, he owned a restaurant and a variety store in Hartford's North End.

Jones is well-known in the Greater Hartford community, having taught martial arts for 30 years — 1987 to 2017 — at the LP Wilson Community Center in Windsor. His daughter, Shihan Lisa Jones, teaches there now. Jones developed his own style of self-defense, called Jo-Ryu. It incorporates karate, jujitsu and boxing.

He still actively teaches out of a gym he built at the Franklin Avenue building. A boxing program will be added there soon, along with cardio kickboxing. Jones still laments the untimely death of his son Joe Jr. — a New England amateur boxing champ who died in 1985, at age 17, in a motorcycle accident.

As for the future, Jones said he wants to keep on teaching, growing his security business and managing his investments.

And, he adds, "keep God in my life."

Stan Simpson is the principal of Stan Simpson Enterprises LLC, a strategic communications consulting firm. He is also host of Fox 61's "The Stan Simpson Show," which airs Saturdays, 5:30 a.m. and online at Fox61.com/stan.

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