I’ve been training in Taekwon-Do since 1984 when I was four years old, after my dad asked me if I wanted to go to class with him (who doesn’t want to hang out with DAD when you’re four?!). He gave me my uniform and said, “Get in class!” I responded with a “Yes Sir!” and have been training ever since.
In 1995 successfully I earned a spot on the U.S. Jr. Taekwon-Do Team which was the beginning of a long, successful and well traveled competition career. I’ve competed in 15 different countries, been a member of eight U.S. Taekwon-Do teams winning numerous medals and won the World Championships in South Korea in 2004.
At the age of 18 I began running a second location for Karstadt Taekwon-Do and have had the privilege of being able to teach Taekwon-Do for a living!
As I’m sure some of you can relate… it was a very scarce living for a while, but I was convinced that there was a way to not just be great at Taekwon-Do, but to great at running a school that produced high caliber students and made tons of money! So I began my search for how to pull that off.
My father and I joined martial arts industry associations, read books, bought tapes, participated in coaching programs, spoke with and studied highly successful instructors in different martial arts and studied successful marketing strategies that worked in nearly every industry they were used.
The problem we kept running into was that most of the successful school operators we met had a curriculum that they could mold to fit their business model and you can’t do that if you are truly teaching ITF Taekwon-Do. They could change their requirements, group things together, change patterns around, get rid of certain things and do whatever they needed to do with their curriculum so they could make money inside of their particular business model.
Imagine a student learning Do San as a white belt and Chon-Ji as a green stripe! That’s the degree to which they would change up their curriculum.
Another one of our problems (which you may have as well) was that we were looking for the silver bullet (not the beer), we were looking for THE answer, THE way to run our school. Over many years of trial and error (and tens of thousands of dollars) educating ourselves the hard way we said, “SCREW IT! Either we take what we know and create as system that works, or we get another job.”
Over the next two years we took our school that was averaging $8,000-$10,000 per month with 80-100 students to averaging $$18,000-20,000 per month with 80-90 students. Now we’re at work on getting the student count up to 200 and multiplying our income!
Personally, I am married to my beautiful wife MaryAnne (yes that’s a capital A, not a typo) and we have three children – Ava (1), John David (4) & Tyla (15).
On September 7, 2012 I was blessed with my daughter and third child Ava who was born happy and healthy. I, on the other hand wasn’t so lucky.
The night we came home from the hospital with Ava I began having chest pain and pressure along with sharp pains down the left side of my body. I thought I was having a heart attack. I woke up my exhausted wife to tell her that my dad was picking me up, that I was going to the E.R. and that I’d call her with updates. Not the best news to drop on your wife right after getting home from the hospital.
In the E.R. they couldn’t tell what was happening. All my tests came back normal, they chalked it up to stress, gave me a few prescriptions and sent me on my way. Over the next several months I continued to have severe, disabling pain that would randomly show up in different areas of my body, migraine headaches, numbness, extreme fatigue, vision problems and many other symptoms. I couldn’t train, I couldn’t teach and I could barely take care of the kids. I was stuck at home.
After several months of doctors, specialists and test after test I was told that I have fibromyalgia.
So after living an extremely active life, competing at a world class level, winning many medals including winning the World Championships in South Korea in 2004 and completing workouts like P90X and Insanity, I was physically back to square one.
I couldn’t work and spent most of my time fatigued and exhausted on the couch. Everything hurt and it took everything I had to do daily household activities and to take care of my three kids.
On New Year’s day 2013, I declared that my life would not continue to go this way. I had to do something.
I just got in action taking walks around my neighborhood. I started back on Shakeology (a great meal replacement which I stopped taking when all this started) and began working out at home with Tai Cheng which is an at home Tai Chi dvd workout.
I began slowly coming off of all the medications that I had been prescribed (with the help of my doctor of course). I wanted to get rid of everything that had side effects that were as bad, if not worse then the constant, burning and aching and pain I felt all over. That meant I got rid of all but two of my medications. The prescriptions I still have, I use sparingly. I’d prefer not to be drugged up if possible, and you can’t care for 3 kids on heavy medication.
Taking the Shakeology was the first thing I took that made a noticeable difference in my energy level during the day.
In May of 2013 I began working out, rehab-ing, (whatever you want to call it) at the Evo Ultrafit gym here in Phoenix.
What I discovered was that it didn’t matter if I laid around all morning, or tried to workout all morning, the fibromyalgia pain hurt just the same. The good news was that now, if I’m going to hurt, at least I know I can workout a little, do some patterns and sparring, and at least enjoy something I love again.
So, against all the doc’s orders, I decided to go participate in the UITF Open World Championships in London that August. It was a great experience, won two bronze medals, but physically was a complete disaster afterwards. I felt great being in the ring again, I just paid for it dearly with pain, fatigue and sleeplessness later.
I think there’s a song about that. The lyric goes something like, “I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was!”
There is a silver lining here.
The silver lining is that I’ve had the time to figure out what I want to do about the number one thing I’ve been bitching about for years regarding the ITF. I may have even bent your ear about this (Nashville IIC anyone?).
My big complaint was that they do a good job of putting on competitions, instructor’s courses, and managing certificates, but do next to nothing about helping me as a business owner to grow my school.
It seems obvious to me that the individual schools and clubs that make up the organization are the foundation of that organization. Without them there is no organization. Therefore it would benefit the ITF to focus on having a strong foundation by making sure they have instructors that are skilled in both Taekwon-Do and school operations. I’m sure the ITF wants me to be successful, they just don’t do anything to support it.
The closest thing I’ve seen is the kid’s program that the ITF (Trajtenburg) has been rolling out for what seems like years now. And unless you spend thousands of dollars to travel to one of their seminars to learn about it, you can’t get the book to implement in your school. Like most instructors out there, I’ve already got a program for 4-6yr olds and 6-12 yr olds.
So I decided to take my own advice.
I tell the kid’s at the Taekwon-Do school all the time, “No Blaming, No Complaining and No Excuses!” When you actually take that on (and you should) all that’s left is being responsible for whatever the situation is and doing something about it. So I did something.
I created 1 TKD.
No matter what I’m dealing with physically, I can always make a difference with my knowledge and my experience. Having fibro has actually provided me the opportunity to make a difference with Taekwon-Do instructors around the globe in a very short period of time.
You could say that if it wasn’t for the firbromyalgia, I’d be busy running my school and you wouldn’t be reading this now!
I still have a great deal of pain and fatigue. I rarely, if ever get more than 2-3 hours of solid sleep. But I’ve adjusted my life to what seems to be a new normal and will carry on!