Master Kim Masters Opponents

No pain, no gain. It’s a saying that’s nearly been used to death, to the point where one may cringe when it’s mentioned.  Sure, that unpleasant facial expression may be one of tiredness from hearing the cliché.  Or, the grimace may be one of experience, drawn on the physical durability that’s been humbled through trial and tribulation. The latter is not simply somewhat befitting of Master John Kim, but one he can certainly relate to and speak freely on. The martial arts instructor took some time to meet with Why So Blu this past week, discussing his fighting history and abilities as well as those of his students.

At 30 years old, you may think Kim is too young to have the experience he does.  Indeed, 30 is far from old, yet the owner/operator/instructor at Kim’s Martial Arts in Fairview Park, Ohio has packed a book’s worth of experiences into his life thus far.  Kim’s oldest uncle left the familiarity of his home in South Korea back in 1967 to start life anew in the United States.  It was soon after that another uncle and Kim’s late father made it a point to settle in the land of opportunity as well.  The eldest uncle founded a martial arts school in an unsuspecting suburb of Cleveland that Kim’s father eventually took the reins on in 1970.

J.Kim: I was strongly encouraged to follow in my father’s footsteps.  I’m grateful that I was because it made me the person that I am today.

WSB:  Have you taken over the school today?

J.Kim:  I have.  My father passed away about ten years ago.  I was helping my brother run a school and my father was still in charge of this school.  After my father’s passing, I ran the school full time here in Fairview.  When we started, it was sort of a very traditional program.  and now we’ve built it into all these different kinds of things were doing here; tae kwan do, judo, jiu jitsu, hap ki do, and we even have a cardio fit kickboxing class.  We have about 150 students right now. 

WSB:  Do you have a specific martial art that is your specialty?

J.Kim:  When I was 3 years old, I started in group class with judo and then I later got into tae kwan do, so I’ve been doing both since I was 3 or 4 years old.  When I turned about 17 or 18, I had to make a decision.  I figured, well you know, I wanted to excel at one.  I chose sport tae kwan do and started doing some local level competitions.  I competed to the junior, but then got real serious about it as an adult.  I won a majority of local level tournaments at tae kwan do, then moved on to state and regional and became a national team member at the age of 20, and was on the U.S. National Team on and off for about four or five years. I tried out for the Olympics in 2004 and was an alternate that year. It was good, I got to represent our country outside of here in Korea, Dominican Republic, Canada and a few other places.  It was a great experience for me.

WSB: Can you talk about how the level of skill increases from going around the United States and competing against other Americans to when you get to that Olympic level and are competing against guys from other countries?  Did you notice a significant increase in skill if any at all?

J.Kim: You know, I did notice a significant increase, because when you get to the national level of competition, in America, we fight as a hobby, at least tae kwan do.  When you get to the international level of it, they’re fighting for their livelihood.  They’re fighting to put food on the table.  So, you know, it’s much more intense.  When they win a major tournament, it takes care of them and their families.  It pays the bills and pays their mortgage.  They got a lot more riding on it.  That’s one thing I’ve noticed.  When you fight them, you leave there knowing you were in a fight.  Part of fighting in the U.S. is more passion-based.  You do it for the love of the sport.  The majority of the fighters in America have side jobs or other jobs so you lose a tournament, that’s fine, you go home and train for the next one.  It’s not really like that in other countries.  But yeah, the level definitely gets higher and more intense, but competition is competition.  It’s all about getting in the ring.

WSB:  Are you the sole teacher at your school?

J.Kim:  Four our traditional program, I am the sole teacher.  I do have some assistant instructors.  For the mixed martial arts program, I am the main coach.  I do have an assistant coach who work with the strength-conditioning side of it and backs up what I say.  We’re growing and we got some new people in there and one voice isn’t enough sometimes.  His name is Matt Linnivers.  He does the Synergy Strength System.  That’s his forte.  He works with all of our athletes. 

WSB: What is the Synergy Strength System?

J.Kim:  Synergy Strength System is his program.  We’ve combined the two.  I have Kim’s Martial Arts, my traditional school and I’m kind of starting to establish Discipline House MMA.  Discipline House has been on the wall since 1968 that my dad and my uncles had started.  It’s kind of catchy so I’m trying to, everything that’s the competitive side, I’m doing Discipline House MMA.  I’m doing my Discipline House sport tae kwan do program.  I’m doing Discipline House judo and jiu jitsu too.  Then we build on the Synergy Strength System.  That’s Matt’s business.  That’s what his livelihood is.  He does put a great deal of time in with our fighters and athletes.  When you see our shirts, you see Kim’s on the front, Discipline House on the back, and Synergy Strength on the bottom back. 

WSB:  In terms of the different fighting styles offered at your school, when you’re working with your students that have hopes of competitng, how do you gear them up for going in the ring?  Are there styles that have a certain weakness or strength against other styles?  For instance, does tae kwan do have a certain weakness against boxing or Greco-Roman wrestling?

J.Kim:  You asked the notorious question, what’s the best martial art?  There’s no right or wrong answer.  I mean you have to be very well-rounded.  At our school, fortunately I’ve had the opportunity to fight with kicking and punching and also grabbing, throwing, and ground techniques, so our amateurs are, I’d like to say, are very well prepared…on the amateur level.  You get to pro and everyone is pretty well-rounded.  But I’d say all of our amateur fighters can throw-kick from long range, can box from inside, can defend takedowns or shoot takedowns or they can handle themselves on the ground.  So we practice everything.  Our conditioning is great.  I’m really, really firm on whether they go in there or not.  I want to make sure they’re prepared.  The number one thing for me is their safety. 

Master John Kim and student/MMA contender Dave Van de Velde

WSB:  Speaking of that, how do you treat your students that are just there as a hobby versus those that are out there to compete?

J.Kim:  Well the ones that are just there for the hobby, they can kind of come and go as they please.  They warm up with everybody.  We only practice about two hours a night.  If they’re competing, that’s when they work with Matt Linnivers during the day.  They (competitors) really have two-a-day’s, the other guys don’t.  They (non-competitors) can come, if class starts at eight, they can come in at eight, go through the warm-up, go through all the drills and they can leave at nine.  But the majority of them, it’s just a great team atmosphere right now.  Even the guys out fighting, they’re sticking around.  They’re opting to spar.  You think they wouldn’t want to, but these guys, they’re truly trying to better the team.  They’re like, “Heck yeah, if I can be a body and let them beat me up for a couple a minutes, if it helps them get to the next level, then great!”  We do sort of separate them though.  When training starts getting intense and as we prepare for a fight, they do kind of split.  One group will go down on one side of the room and the fighters will go down the other side of the room.

WSB:  That night in Elyria when your school went four and oh, were you there and what was your reaction?

J.Kim:  Yeah, I was there.  Actually I think I was more nervous than they were.  I put my heart and soul into this program, into them.  As each fight went on, it kind of reminded me of competing.  I think I seemed most excited at the end, but to me that was kind of like the gold medal match.  In tae kwan do, you fight four or five times each day.  You know first fight was good, second fight was good, third fight was good, fourth fight was like “God!  It’s over!”  We actually had six guys there that were supposed to fight, but their opponents didn’t show.  As far as the outcome, I was nervous about it, but I wasn’t surprised.  I know how hard these guys train and I mean, I’m putting them through workouts that I did as an Olympic-level athlete, and I know that they’re amateur athletes right now.  If they’re making it through the training and the workouts I was doing at that level, I’m confident that many others are doing it at that amateur level.  When they get to the pros, that’s going to be another thing.  But, I knew the outcome was going to be good as long as they stayed focused and didn’t make any mistakes.

WSB:  Finally, what is the ultimate reward for you as a teacher with your students progressing up the MMA ladder?

J.Kim:  The ultimate reward?  I guess everybody would love to get in the UFC someday.  That would be great.  The ultimate reward would be to just have my fighters succeed to their expectations.  I got a couple guys that are more serious about it than others.  Whether it be with UFC, whether it be with Strike Force, or with Rocktagon MMA, I just want them to be the best that they can be.  Hopefully some day they can be the title holder in one or everyone of those divisions or leagues. 

WSB:  Okay, one more question.  MMA, like the UFC, is absolutely huge these days.  If it had this kind of power in terms of the entertainment world and athletic world, say ten years ago, would that be something you would have been interested in pursuing?

J.Kim:  Ha!  I was just talking about that the other day.  If I was twenty years old, or even seventeen at the time and making my decision of “well do I want to grapple or do I want to kick or punch somebody,” and the option of MMA was there, I would have done it whole-heartedly.  I still think about doing it now.  I was messing around with my guys and I got to let ’em know who’s boss every once in a while so they still listen to me (Ha!).  I wish I was a few years younger.  I kind of argue with my wife about it.  She doesn’t want to see me get hurt.  I don’t know.  It’s not over.  I’m thirty years old.  I still might try it, but most definitely, if I was twenty years old, I’d be in there with these guys.

For more information on Kim’s Martial Arts, please visit their website at: http://johnkimmartialarts.com/

For details on the league in which Kim’s students compete, please visit Rocktagon CageStars MMA at: http://www.cagestars.com/


2 Responses to “Master Kim Masters Opponents”

  1. Sean Ferguson

    Cobra Kai! Sorry I couldn’t resist! 😀 Nice job!

  2. Gregg

    Ha! Thanks