The Merrill Karate Club recently relocated to a new home at 804 E. First St., formerly occupied by Curves. The martial arts school opened at its new location on Jan. 1, and Merrill Karate Club owner Jon Gartmann is pleased with the more suitable instruction space and the greater visibility for his business.
Mr. Gartmann started as a student with the Merrill Karate Club 18 years ago. He earned a first degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, the Korean martial art he mainly teaches at Merrill Karate Club.
He’s worked other jobs in his adult life – some that paid very well – but his dream had long been to own a martial arts school. A bump in his employment road steered him toward his dream a couple of years ago.
“This has been my dream since I was 14 years old,” Mr. Gartmann said. “I got laid off from work and my wife said ‘go for it.’ The money might not be as good here, but I love what I do.”
Mr. Gartmann had been a partner in the business for four years before taking over as sole owner two years ago. When he took over, Merrill Karate Club had nine students. He has since built his classes up to nearly 60 students. The school’s retention rate is up, with 87 percent of students retained last year.
Mr. Gartmann conducts classed five days a week. He started the Little Ninjas class for children ages 4-7. He also teaches a Junior Warriors class for students ages 8-12, along with an adult class for students ages 13 and older. He also offers a women’s self-defense class.
In his martial arts classes, Mr. Gartmann stresses the principles and code on with the art was founded. As a reminder to his students, the five codes of Tang Soo Do – loyalty to country, obedience to parents, honor friendship, no retreat in battle, and in fighting choose with sense and honor – are painted on the walls of his Do-Jang (school).
“Martial arts is a way of life,” Mr. Gartmann said. “It’s not something you just do twice a week. I stress moral building and leadership. My students learn the five codes and know what they mean.”
The Merrill Karate Club was founded in 1983 with the earliest classes held in an old barn. The martial arts school has moved many times since then, but Mr. Gartmann is looking forward to staying in the current building for a long time.
The Merrill Karate Club can be reached at 715-218-7596.