LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Life in west Louisville has been hard, to say the least, for Aesha Holder.

"Everything kind of started when me and my sisters got separated from our mom, and then everything just started going downhill from there," Holder, 22, said Monday.

Including when a friend, Darius Miller, was shot to death outside this Walgreens in 2013.

"A lot of drinking and partying," Holder said of what she called an escape. "I just got caught up in the life."

So when she heard Arabian Federation Martial Arts was taking over the old Family Dollar on South 28th Street in the Parkland neighborhood, the mother of two saw it as a new beginning.

"I'm glad that I did come here, because I got a sense of direction from Grand Master Khalid," Holder said.

Khalid Raheem opened the studio after teaching mixed martial arts on Dixie Highway for decades. He recently moved back to west Louisville to give kids hope through martial arts and after-school tutoring. 

"I want the children to get something that I know works," Raheem said. "The respect, confidence the inner peace, concentration, self-discipline, control mind and body."

He now has 73 students and counting, all paid for through donations, fundraisers and out of Raheem's own pocket. 

"We have a lot of children or families that come that don't even have food. If they wasn't in our program, they wouldn't eat," he said. "They're struggling. They've been working for so long, they can't see the light anymore."

But thanks to the program and a small army of volunteers, that light is a little brighter.

"If I didn't come here, there's no telling where I'd be at right now," Holder said. "I would probably be locked up."

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