Former Merrill martial arts instructor receives national recognition
Jon Gartmann, former owner of the Merrill Karate Club, was recently inducted into the Legends of Martial Arts Hall of Fame for extraordinary dedication to the martial arts. He also received an Instructor of the Year award in Tang Soo Do.
Gartmann was nominated by his peers for the instructor of the year award. The board of directors of Legends of Martial Arts selected him to receive the extraordinaty contribution award. The board includes such martial arts masters as Billy Blanks and Cynthia Rothrock.
Gartmann said the recognition came as something of a shock to him.
“That people even care about what I do is kind of nuts,” he said. “I go and do what I do. I love to work with kids and expect the best out of them and I expect the best out of myself as an instructor.”
At the awards ceremony he was able to meet many martial arts celebrities such as Rothrock, Eric Kovilouski, Frank Shamrock, Art Camacho, Hwang Jang Lee and many others.
Gartmann also recently received a letter from Action Martial Arts Magazine, notifying him that he has been selected for an award by the magazine for excellence in the instruction of martial arts. He has been invited to the awards ceremony in Atlantic City in January.
“To me it’s really kind of crazy that people even know who I am,” he said. “My students are amazing. When people ask me what kind of instructor I am, I let my students answer that question for me. I have the ability to work with great kids. They win the tournaments and the championships. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Gartmann, 31, started teaching at Merrill Karate Club when he was 12 years old. At 17, he became a partner in the club and became the sole owner at 21.
“I did it full-time for 10 years,” he said.
Earlier this year, Gartmann accepted an invitation to move to Texas and teach martial arts with the Kickstart Kids program.
Kickstart Kids was started in 1992 by Chuck Norris and George Bush. The program has 40,000 students in the state of Texas. Gartmann is training to take over a new school in Georgetown, TX. Kickstart Kids is taught in middle schools as a physical education class.
Gartmann has received an offer from Kickstart Kids three years ago after meeting one of their lead instructors at a tournament in Ireland. At that time, he wasn’t willing to leave Merrill Karate Club and declined the offer.
“It wasn’t the right time,” Gartmann said. “With everthing going on at Merrill Karate Club, I felt the school and students needed me there.”
In June of this year, Kickstart Kids approached Gartmann again. After thinking it over, he asked his friend and fellow instructor Adam Salazar if he would be interested in taking over Merrill Karate Club. Salazar was excited about the opportunity and Gartmann and his family headed to Texas.
Gartmann credits his Merrill Karate Club students with getting him the job with Kickstart Kids. Their performance at the Ireland tournament made an impression on Kickstart Kids.
“My students got me the job,” Gartmann said. “They impressed the right people.”
Teaching martial arts has always been Gartmann’s passion. He still enjoys competing. While at the Hall of Fame event in Pennsylvania, he participated in the International Martial Arts Games, taking third in the world for traditional forms. However, his priority will always be teaching.
“It’s more important for me to be seen as an instructor than as a competitor,” he said.
His work with Kickstart Kids is especially rewarding.
“I get to work with kids that really need a good mentor,” he said. “It’s an awesome opportunity to work with kids.”