Martial arts is steeped in centuries of history and tradition.
But, as time has gone on, the old way of teaching martial arts has succumbed to the new "sports" Tae Kwan Do schools.
That's not the case in Brainerd. At the DeWitt Martial Arts school, run by master Garrett DeWitt, students learn the old-school way of martial arts.
Students are trained in variations of Tae Kwan Do such as Chung Do Kwan, Kong Shin Bup, Hap Ki Do and weapons. They are also taught an even more important lesson -- to respect one another and the skills they've learned.
DeWitt's commitment to teaching traditional martial arts earned him induction into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame in August. He was also inducted into the World Family Sokeship International Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2000.
The 48-year-old DeWitt is a humble man. His hall of fame plaques are tucked snugly in a closet at home. He has been nominated three times for the U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame and turned them down all three times.
"It's nice to be looked at like I've done a good job," DeWitt said. "But it really doesn't matter that much. There's so many more people out there that could've been nominated other than me. I'd rather have those other people with the notoriety than me.
"If I didn't have the dedication of the other instructors and black belts I would never have gotten this award. Unfortunately, my name is on the school."
Students of DeWitt and his black belt instructors, Karmon Keppers and Todd Dahl, are taught the importance of family and community. Students bow to one another, study the history behind Korean martial arts, and bow to the United States flag before each session.
"I see a change in these people after six months to a year. It seems like they enjoy their job more, their family more and are more involved in the community."
DeWitt Martial Arts School
"We are one of few old school Korean martial arts schools around," DeWitt said. "The students, if they're still in school, have to bring me their report cards and they have to answer, 'Yes sir,' and 'No ma'am.' They follow the rules right down to the last letter.
"These schools are very far and few between. Most of the schools today teach sports Tae Kwan Do and they don't expect a lot from the students. I feel that the more you expect from students the more they'll give."
DeWitt got involved in martial arts 27 years ago while serving in the military. He continued to practice in Mankato, Minneapolis and Cambridge with Grandmasters Il K. Kim and Jung M. Lee.
DeWitt holds a sixth-degree black belt in Chung Do Kwan, the original martial arts taught in Korea. He also has fourth degree black belts in Tang Soo Do and HoShin Sul Hap Ki do.
In November, he and Keppers will test for their first black belt in Kong Shin Bup Hap Ki Do, a Chinese-Korean style of martial arts taught by world renowned Grandmaster Rudy Timmerman in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. It is a nine-hour test.
"If there's 20 people in the world with a black belt in Kong Shin Bup that'd be pushing it because it's so tough," DeWitt said. "At the beginning of the training, 17 people made a commitment to train and only myself and Mrs. Keppers remain."
Prospective students are given a free two-week trial. In that two weeks people figure out if DeWitt's style of teaching is for them. More times than not, students stay on.
"The majority of the people that come here to train are looking for something," said DeWitt. "They find out quickly that the training is difficult. I see a change in these people after six months to a year. It seems like they enjoy their job more, their family more and are more involved in the community."
For the past 11 years, DeWitt has passed his knowledge of martial arts on to students. And, respect has been the centerpiece of his teachings.
"Without the respect we couldn't teach the kids," said DeWitt. "Some of the students fight us on it but after a while it starts clicking. If the students stick around long enough, they do become better people. Being a good martial artist is as important as being an ambassador to our dojang and an ambassador to their family."
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5865.
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