It's been 33 years.
February 27th, 1987 was my first martial arts class.
Over three decades that I've had the privilege of learning about martial arts, business, and life from Grand Master Chae T. Goh.
It is almost impossible for me to fully account for the overwhelming impact he has had and continues to have on my life.
But why does my story matter to you?
I'll tell you...
When I started at Dragon Gym, I wasn't just new to martial arts, I was a little kid. I had no idea how the path of martial arts would affect my life.
I (and my parents) started in the same place that many of you probably did. No experience with "Tae Kwon Do", no knowledge with what to expect and shopping around from school to school.
Earning a black belt was such an abstract and impossible concept, but somehow Grandmaster Goh made it real. There was something different about Dragon Gym, immediately we felt welcomed.
Of course, we still really didn't have a clue of what was going to happen.
My parents were lucky to find a steady and trusted teacher for their son. I was lucky to have found what would be a lifelong mentor.
He didn't just teach me martial arts techniques. Over the years there were so many practical lessons on teaching, managing, success, family, and life. But, the most impactful was the idea of influence. As martial arts instructors, we have a unique ability to influence people in the community. And, that's a heavy responsibility.
It may sound weird, but I don't think I had a real concept of this until I became a parent myself. As weathered adults, we take for granted all of the influences (positive and negative) from childhood and continuing today.
We tend to think of ourselves as self-made and fully-made, especially when we've reached some level of success. But, when we have kids and see how vulnerable they are we realize how much was done for us and how much could have been done against us.
And then, we're thankful we made it this far. Because of the help we've had and in spite (and also because) of the mistakes we've made.
And, every day we tell ourselves we didn’t come this far to only go this far.
None of knew that this would become a lifelong pursuit, let alone a career.
Grandmaster Goh showed me how one can develop the idea of a GOOD LIFE.
How to CREATE it and MAKE IT HAPPEN.
It requires a commitment to yourself. And the ability to make decisions that others regard as strange.
My experience has proven it time and time and time again.
I worked as an engineer for several years. Many (most) doubted my decision to leave that profession. But, an engineer is really just a problem solver.
So, in a real sense, I'm still working as an engineer, just with different technology. And, I derive great joy solving problems and providing solutions for this community.
I've been able to build a good life for myself and family through my experience with Dragon Gym. I'm grateful for the colleagues, teachers, students, and parents of DG for the last 33 years.
I'll close with this.
The great lesson of Dragon Gym has been the idea of influence, how we can impact the community and maybe even society.
How can we be that "thing" that shapes our surroundings and transforms them for the better?
Over the last few years we've crystalized that into our motto:
"Be the Coffee"
President, Dragon Gym