By Keith D. Yates
Coming to America
Adam Spicar (pronounced, spy’car) first came to the United States as a foreign exchange student in 1996 and went to high school in Arizona, where he graduated in 1997. He returned two years later to visit his host family and was able to travel and visit several other states in America.
Lucie Stolkova and Adam were what she calls “middle-school sweethearts.” She says she first fell in love with Adam when she was just 12 years old and they met on the school bus.
When Adam came back to America in 1999, she got permission from her parents to come with him. She was only 16 at the time.
“My parents were suspicious of America, but they trusted Adam,” she remembers.
She spent a couple of months attending high school in Arizona, but she admits she barely understood English.
Back in the Czech Republic, students often studied English, but she says it was mainly vocabulary.
“I knew what...
Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, legendary fighter Jeff Smith pulled off a dual goal unprecedented back then and extremely rare even today. He became a world kickboxing champion while simultaneously mastering the martial arts school business! Furthermore, he pioneered savvy business techniques still practiced by current school owners. Read Smith’s extraordinary story and prepare to come away inspired!
By Herb Borkland
In the early 1960s, when Americans were first meeting the Beatles, Jhoon Rhee, the “Father of American Taekwondo,” owned four schools in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. He also regularly traveled around the country to a dozen taekwondo clubs, where he tested students trained by some of his black belts. One such club was located in Kingsville at Texas A&M University, where teenaged Jeff Smith’s mother worked and Jeff delivered daily newspapers.
“One day on my route, I noticed a sign for a karate...
In 1974, Patrick Wrenn was invited by Elvis Presley, Elvis sidekick/bodyguard Red West and Bill “Superfoot” Wallace to help establish what has since been called “the greatest martial arts school of all time.” It’s the 4,300-square-foot, Memphis-based Tennessee Karate Institute (TKI). The original TKI only lasted four years, but, 39 years later, Wrenn has reopened it at its original location as part museum/part school.
Recipient of the Martial Arts Lifetime Achievement Award and Joe Lewis Eternal Warrior, the indomitable 10th-dan Wrenn has continued over the years to teach his Combative Arts despite continuous injuries and ill-health.
Herb Borkland: Where did you grow up, and what did yourdad do?
Patrick Wrenn: I was born in Massachusetts and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. My father was a self-made, multimillionaire real-estate developer.
After college, I went into business for myself importing birds of prey, reptiles and saltwater...
It's almost the New Year, the time for resolutions. Grand expectations. Weight loss. Goal-setting. Making a change for the better and trying to stick with it for the next 365 days.
Then, the first week winds down and the confetti settles. Champagne gets flat. By this time, I can’t tell you how many Facebook posts I see saying things, “Can we just start this New Year over?” Or, “I need a re-do.” And, of course, the standard: “This is the worst year ever!”
Since we have such high expectations for the New Year, we get frazzled at the first thing that goes wrong. We tend to associate the first week of the New Year with how the rest of the year will go. We think, “Why does everything happen to me?”
Having expectations and setting goals is important and you should definitely do it. In fact, if you haven’t written out a list of the goals you want to accomplish, stop reading and do it now! We have all heard that you...
I've been operating a martial arts school full-time for 40 years. I think I may have made every mistake that can be made in this business. The reason I’m still in business, I believe, is because I asked for help. I learned quickly that others before me had already found solutions. In this reality-based column, I’ll point out key mistakes I made in my business career, which are common errors among school owners, both large and small, throughout our industry. Then I’ll share the solutions I applied to overcome them.
In our early years in running a dojo as black belt instructors, we came to work, taught classes and tried hard to manage a business that was our sole source of income. As instructors and owners, we made student progress the priority in the school. While that’s a respectable and sensible idea, it left out a very important pillar of our growth.
I think, in those early years, we were missing a huge opportunity. We basically never showed...
This time of year I always think of my late friend, Ron Lyle. If you know boxing, then you know of Ron Lyle. But I don’t know him from that perspective. I know him from a different perspective that perhaps no one else would have even paid attention to.
World Heavyweight Champion contender Ron Lyle just happened to grow up in the neighborhood where I teach my inner- city martial arts program in Denver, CO. I always wondered who the older black guy was in the back of the room watching me teach classes. He didn’t say anything. He just watched and would emulate my moves as if he was trying to remember them.
When I found out that it was Ron Lyle, who was also teaching the boxing program downstairs, it became a running joke of “who could beat up who” if we both got in the ring. He always smiled and said I would win.
Over the next few years, we would spend many hours during the center’s down time talking about a lot of life, past and...
This month, let’s discuss levity and its role in leadership and teams.
“Levity” is “cheerfulness” or “enjoyment.” As we work and try to manage successful businesses, it’s easy to lose sight of just having fun. Honestly, there are some days when we fight just to get out of bed.
However, there are always moments when some joyfulness and laughter can be found. Even when things seem hard or crazy, you have to be intentional in finding levity. Allow me to share a wild but true story.
In my previous column series, “Pop’s Pearls of Wisdom,” I stated that my parents owned liquor stores and then motels. One day, my dad and I were working the front desk at the motel when he received a call from a customer. The client complained that there was a rat in his room.
We were quite thorough about pest control and cleanliness. My dad was tired from several days of rowdy customers and the previous...
As we exit the holiday season and enter the new year, the media is bombarding us about how the internet is seizing more and more sales from the standard brick-and-mortar businesses.
I am happy to say that my schools are somewhat internet-proof. A portion of our sales do compete with the internet: items like weapons, gear, uniforms, etc. But we have many ways to combat this.
For example, we offer the very best pricing, whenever possible, for purchasing products within the school. We cobrand anything and everything possible, and that becomes the “must-use” products for our students. We frequently offer new t-shirt designs for our student that are only available at the school. Most importantly, we program all product into our curriculum whenever possible.
All that said, my ways of combating internet sales is not the topic of this article. Changing with the times and adjusting to the environment is.
Over the holidays, I went shopping at a...
I‘ve been operating a martial arts school full time for 40 years. I think I may have made every mistake that can be made in this business. The reason I’m still in business, I believe, is because I asked for help. I learned quickly that others before me had already found solutions. In this reality-based column, I’ll point out key mistakes I made in my business career, which are common errors among school owners, both large and small, throughout our industry. Then I’ll share the solutions I applied to overcome them.
When I first started in the martial arts back in the late 1970's, it was common to hear an instructor say to a student, “Only one in 1,000 will make it to black belt.” That statement was a source of pride. It meant that a black belt was to be truly honored. It meant that a black belt wasn’t a common man (or woman); they were elite.
The statement was made with good intentions, but it did irreparable harm!
By Karen Eden
Huey Lewis and the News was a very popular Top 40 band for more than a couple of decades. Back in my radio days, I was backstage when Huey Lewis was coming off from a “standing-room-only” performance. I could tell he was more than pleased with his show; he was literally wiping the sweat off of his face.
Just then, I heard someone make a comment to him.
“I remember seeing you at the Aqua Knot nightclub when you were a start-up band,” said the man.
“Oh, wow!” replied Huey, with almost a look of pain on his face.
Huey wasn’t rude or impolite. But I could never understand why he had such a deflated look on his face when that guy told him that. Until now.
A lot of years have gone by since then. I’ve come into my own as an author of four books and a journalist with over 20 years of writing for martial arts magazines and newscasts.
I’m always honored when someone conjures up...
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