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Business Profile: Martial arts school expands as students spread the word

Jeff and Jade Hockman, partners in Hockman’s ATA Black Belt Academy, have the kind of ying and yang relationship that helps businesses make wise decisions when it comes to taking risks.

The brothers from Centralia opened their first martial arts studio in south Columbia in 1994 and later moved the operation to the West Broadway area. Earlier this year, they opened another school in the south, at Corporate Lake.

Jeff Hockman recently perceived a need for a third school on the west side of Columbia.

“It just seemed like a tremendous opportunity,” he said.

Jade Hockman wasn’t so sure. When Jeff came to him with the proposal for a new site, not much time had passed since the Corporate Lake school opened.
“I pulled out a map when we first started talking about it and took my last 20 new people that came into the school, and I highlighted where they lived,” Jade Hockman said. “I looked and I said, ‘Well, it might pull 10 percent from my school at some point; either that or it’s going to create more of a buzz and maybe boost all of [the schools].”

Although they are both fifth-degree black belts, Jade Hockman says they have different, but complementary, personalities. “I’m more conservative, and he sets his mind to something and just – boom! – he goes after it,” he said.

Jade Hockman was persuaded by his brother this time, and the new school west of the HyVee grocery store on West Broadway opened earlier this month.
While the curriculum and philosophy will be the same as the company’s other locations at Broadway Marketplace and Corporate Lake, the new school has a different décor.

“The industry has gotten away from the kid-friendly red, white and blue,” Jade Hockman said. “Although we still cater to children, the décor has more of a spa feel with black marble stained concrete floors and counters, which truly complement the maples, gold and reds found throughout the school.”

Instructors at Hockman’s have taught the ancient Korean martial art of taekwondo to thousands of students in the past 12 years. The two Hockman’s have an enrollment of about 200 students each and the goal for the new site is 150 students within the next year.

The brothers said they have trained nine world champions and numerous top-10 competitors since they started their business.

Jeff and Jade Hockman both worked at A.B. Chance in Centralia in the 1980s and won silver medals in national martial arts competition. After earning his first-degree black belt, Jeff Hockman received his instructor certification from the American Taekwondo Association in 1989. He and his brother opened their first Taekwondo school a year later in Centralia, replacing his teacher, Jack Wenenn, who had moved to Jefferson City.

The national sport of Korea, taekwondo is one of several Far Eastern martial arts that blossomed in the United States in the decades after the Korean War on the heels of other martial arts such as Karate, from Japan, and Kung Fu, from China.

Jeff Hockman says there have been many changes in the attitudes of the martial arts industry since he has participated. “In the 1980s, it was driven by the kid-friendly Karate Kid movies, but the industry has evolved,” he said. “Now we offer weapons and self-defense. ATA Taekwondo, our organization, has been forward-looking enough to keep traditional values but not get stuck in tradition.

Assuming Jeff Hockman passes the test for his sixth degree next June, he will be recognized as a master of taekwondo and believes he will be the only active master still teaching in Columbia.

Second-Degree Black Belt Michael Rojas will be the chief instructor at the new location. From Colorado, Rojas joined Jeff Hockman’s school as a student a little over a year ago.

Hockman’s ATA offers programs for children and adults. Besides traditional taekwondo for adults, Hockman’s programs include Tiny Tigers, for ages 3 to 6; Karate for Kids, for ages 6 to 14; leadership training; Protech training in such areas as Jiu-Jitsu, martial arts weapons and self-defense; and CardioKickboxing at the Broadway Marketplace location.

Word of mouth is often what brings new students, said Jade Hockman. “The big sister or big brother took classes, and now they’re 17 or 18 years old, and now their 10-year-old brother is in here taking it,” Jade said.

He also has benefited from a nearby performing arts school. “There are a bunch of girls over there doing dance, and that’s starting to be a good thing for me over here,” he said. “We’re getting the brothers, while their sisters are dancing for a couple of hours.”

In taekwondo, both mental and physical development are important, Jeff Hockman said. Hockman’s children’s programs therefore teach life skills such as focus, discipline and confidence. For instance, in children’s classes, stars are awarded and worn on the uniform for improved grades in school; participation in taekwondo tournaments or other sports; and for monthly written assignments, weekly to-do lists or Tiny Tiger coloring pages.

“Taekwondo is more than a sport; it’s a discipline honed over centuries in Korea and adapted for students in this country by the American Taekwondo Association,” Jeff Hockman said. “Anybody at any age or ability level can do it. The goal is self-improvement. If the student works hard and improves him- or herself, the student brings honor to the school.”

The brothers have also helped former students become instructors and open and operate locations in Centralia, Sunrise Beach, Hannibal, Quincy, Palmyra, Monroe City and Fulton.

Although there are other schools in town that teach martial arts, such as the International Martial Arts and Fitness Academy, Connor’s Taekwon-Do and Chajonshim Martial Arts Academy, the brothers say their main competition is other kids’ activities, such as soccer.

There are also other competing taekwondo associations that are not related to the American Taekwondo Association, such as the International Taekwon-Do Federation, World Taekwondo Federation, the World Tae Kwon Do Association and the United World Tae Kwon Do Association.

“It just depends on what an individual is looking for,” Jeff Hockman said. “To support a full-time instructor, you need at least 20,000 people in the community. The [ATA] organization only allows one school for every 25,000 people.”

Established in 1969, the American Taekwondo Association, or ATA, is the world’s largest centrally administered martial arts system and teaches more than 250,000 students at more than 1,000 schools and clubs across the United States.

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