Every black belt remembers the time when martial arts became a passion. It happened to me at age eight. My brother took me to see a Bruce Lee movie, and to this day I can close my eyes and feel the emotion that overwhelmed me as I watched the screen. At that moment I totally fell in love with the power of martial arts, but it would be many years before I found the physical and spiritual paths to black belt. Once I began that journey, however, the martial arts and the art of teaching became central element of my life.
Bruce Lee gave me inspiration, but the following years were filled with frustration because there were no martial art schools near my home. I finally realized my dreams when I moved to California and had the great fortune to enter Steve Sexton's Hapkido school in Canoga Park. Through Steve's selfless guidance I achieved black belt in 1981 and I became an assistant instructor at the school. In those early years I viewed instructing as a sideline while I remained focused on my personal training. With time and maturity I grew nearer to the spiritual and philosophical center of the martial arts and I began to realize the tremendous personal rewards of teaching. After some months of uncertainty, I decided to completely redefine and reshape my life, and at Steve Sexton's urging, I took on the role of school owner and became a professional instructor of Hapkido.
I named my school "Team Karate Center" because I became devoted to the idea that the instructors and the students should work together, as a team, so that each student can find and create their "individual art" within the traditions of Hapkido. I believe that no matter what individual qualities a student has - natural talents or special challenges - there is profound value in the martial arts for everyone. Consequently, the elementary principles at our school are centered on the teamwork required for all of us - teacher, instructor, student and parent (for our younger students) - to identify and advance this value.
Currently, the school follows a multi-cultural approach that is grounded in function and usefulness. In the basic program we focus on traditional physical skills, and we stress the development of individual responsibility and core character strengths. Advanced students are introduced to an extension of Hapkido that I call Blend. From the very early years my training was based on the concept of "thinking outside the box." I evolved Blend, in this way, to move from style-based techniques to versatile, range-based frameworks. This combines Hapkido with certain aspects of Brazilian and Japanese Jujitsu, American Boxing, Wing Chun and the Filipino arts.
Over the past 20 years my physical and spiritual advancements have been influenced by many remarkable people. I have had the cherished privilege of studying with Grand Master Ji Han Jae. I am, and will always be, indebted to Master Steve Sexton and I continue to extend my personal growth with the generosity of David Meyers (grappling) and Ron Balicki (Filipino martial arts: trapping, stick and knife techniques).
As a teacher, I have always viewed learning as a fun and rewarding experience. I look to this philosophy, within the discipline and tradition of Hapkido, to inspire and motivate the students and the assistant instructors at our school, and I offer the multi-faceted challenge of Blend to give advanced students a contemporary martial art that is filled with unique insight and reward.
"The martial arts training process is a powerful life-defining interpersonal experience that gets to the heart of the matter. It is your opportunity to alter your capacities to accomplish and to stand powerfully as the gift that you are and the difference that you make."--- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/markcox/support