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History of Oneonta Taekwon-Do

Oneonta Taekwon-Do was started in December of 2004 not from a desire to open a school, but from a desire to practice Taekwon-Do.

After more than a year without training at Grandmaster Kim’s school in New York City, I was restless and frustrated.  I had spent my first year in Oneonta looking for a place to train.  I visited every martial arts school in the area but nothing compared to my training with Grandmaster Kim.  I pursued a local health club who informed me I could teach classes there, but there couldn’t be any sparring.  I spoke to the YMCA who already had a karate program.  The colleges didn’t seem to have any interest.  Months of practicing on my own in the park, in fitness classrooms, and in my house left me needing a training partner.

Do-Jang number 1

At the time, I was renovating a house which contained a large, square living room with hardwood floors and I realized it was a sufficient training studio.  
All I needed was someone to show up.  In desperation, I ran an ad in the local paper:

Taekwon-Do black belt looking to practice.  Any experience level welcome.  Please call 431-8810.

I didn’t care if it was a beginner or a 5th degree black belt.  One person responded to the call.  Brian Davis had earned a yellow belt a few years ealier from an instructor he regarded very highly.  Unfortunately, the instructor had moved away from the area.  “I’ve always wanted to get a black belt, so I had to call”, said Brian.

One class led to 10 and 10 led to 30 and it was time for a promotion test.  The workouts were fun and sweat poured from both of us as we used a sheild and a focus pad as well as punching pads to follow the SJ Kim curriculum and class schedule.  We trained 3 days per week, religiously, at 8:30 or 9am.

Do-Jang number 2

In May of 2005, the house was sold and the do-jang was moved to Brian Davis’ garage in Laurens.  Training on commercial tile laid over concrete floors, there was little room for error when we slipped or fell.  However, this was a huge upgrade as we now had a freely hanging heavy bag to kick!  We even began our sessions with “Face the imaginary flags, char-yut, kyung-net” in order to do our best to stay true to the tradition.

By the time he was nearing his green belt, it occurred to me that Brian wasn’t getting what he needed or deserved.  He was missing the joy of seeing a new white belt in class, the instant gratification of recognizing all that he had learned as the new student fumbles through the first set of movements.

Do-Jang number 3

It was about this time that Brian had been working hard to convince Fred Schwed to train with us and my chiropractor, Dr. Haney, was looking for a tenant to sublet a studio in the front of his new office building.  We agreed to monthly rent of $100 with permission to train at 12 noon, three days per week.  Fred Schwed

2006 school picture

was on board and so was Melissa Paddock.  Melissa had never done anything like it before, considered herself “clumsy”, and had recently lost 100 pounds by simple calorie restriction and modest exercise.  Her quick progress, positive attitude, and success was inspiring to me and we were sad when she decided to relocate away from Oneonta.

At this point, Dr. Haney was having an open house and asked us to give a demonstration.  About 20 people were in house to watch as Brian (a blue belt) and I did some board breaks and even some sparring.  After the demonstration, a man came up to me and begged me to train his son.  “We don’t have a children’s program” was my response, but he was very insistent so I decided to give the young man, aged 12, a shot.  Owen McCabe was quiet and respectful, followed instructions, and never missed a class.  By now, we were too large to be practicing in such a small space.  Fred and Melissa were approaching blue belts and there was no room for sparring in Dr. Haney’s studio.  Crashing into the walls was upsetting to his clients so I began calling around to find another location.

Do-Jang number 4

We moved to 99 Main Street, and leased space from the Orpheus theater for lunch classes three days per week at $100 per month.  Peter Clark, the owner of the building, requested we “stop jumping” after our 4th or 5th class to which we politely responded that we couldn’t and we had a lease.  However, the writing was on the wall that this was not a good home for us either.

Do-Jang number 5

A dance school opened up at 217 Main Street and had free studio time during the day.  Again, we leased the space for $100 per month and were thrilled at the enormous space, the hardwood floors, and the main street location.  I built a website and made flyers to invite new students to join.  Hanna Cobb found the website and called because her son Kristian had recently been to a Taekwon-Do camp and loved it.  Kristian started at the age of 12 and proved to be mature, respectful and willing to learn.
During this time, a few people came and went: Antonio, Jason, and a couple of others I can’t remember.  As winter set in, the small furnace and struggling dance school owner left us without heat.  Training temperatures dropped to the 60s, the 50s, and finally the 40s before Brian Davis began bringing in a salamander 30 minutes before class to bring the space up to a reasonable temperature.  Issues with the plumbing coupled with the dancers disgusting refusal to unclog or clean toilets made the location even less enjoyable.  Still, the location was very rewarding to us as we finally had in fact become a school.

Do-Jang number 6

I returned to Pete Clark and begged him to find me some space in town.  One of the managers took me over to a maintenance storage basement underneath the
Autumn cafe and asked me if it would be sufficient.  For just a couple hundred more per month, I was able to combine my business office and my do-jang into a single location.  But, I wanted it be a real school with padded flooring, signage, and equipment.  Almost bankrupt from the collapse of the real estate market, I managed to somehow convince the city of Oneonta to loan us money and give us a grant to improve the space and buy equipment.  The application was time consuming but was finally approved and by the time the mats arrived, walls had been knocked down, patched, and painted.  At this time, the school began to grow, but I could no longer afford to pay the rent or my own mortgage.  A consulting opportunity came up that required me to commute to southern New Jersey during the week and for 5 months, Brian Davis ran the school.  By this time, we had grown to almost 20 students enrolled.  We had belts of every color in the class and we started offering classes at 5pm and 6pm to satisfy the demand.

In January of 2010, with the help of Theo Carbone and Priscilla McCabe,

2010 first children’s test

Oneonta Taekwon-Do launched a children’s program.  10 children were enrolled, almost over night.  Most of the children have since moved into the adult class.  As the lease term was drawing to a close, the dream of having full sparring classes (where more than 2 people could spar at once) was very powerful and motivating.  A former fitness center down the street had gone into foreclosure and sat vacant, calling me in my dreams every night….


Do-Jang number 7

In 2011, we moved to 55 S. Main St.  We worked with several instructors to support the Mind-Body-Spirit slogan.  We offed other classes such as Yoga, Tai-Chi, Qi-Gong, Belly Dance, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Zumba fitness.  It was a fun and exciting time in our school history with many lessons learned and many black belt promotions.  Ultimately, it made more sense to focus solely on Taekwon-Do so we reverted to Taekwon-Do only in the summer of 2013.


Do-Jang number 8

In March of 2014, the school moved again.  This time to 203 Main Street.  The prominent location has proved highly valuable to recruiting new students and the convenience of Main Street has been truly helpful to adults and children alike.  We have experienced unprecedented growth during this time and the reduction in rent and utilities costs has made the school more sustainable.  The new location offers changing rooms, showers, and several choices for parking.

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