Let’s Move Quad Cities celebrates the spirit and determination Quad City area residents take to promote movement and fitness. We welcome guest blogger, Jai Johnson, a national Karate champion, martial arts instructor and owner of Jai Johnson’s Karate Center. For 24 years Jai has practiced his art and shared his love for Karate with students of all ages and has awarded thousands of belts to deserving students. By day, Jai is the safety and security manager at Unity Point Health – Trinity.
Karate Kid Makes Good!
By Jai Johnson, Jai Johnson’s Karate Center
Ever since I could remember, I had a fascination with Karate. My first exposure to it was at the movies; Bruce Lee, The Karate Kid, The Last Dragon…I loved it all. But, just because it looked good on the big screen, didn’t mean it was the path for me at the time. I was a very passive person growing up and had a couple of failed attempts at beginning Karate lessons. I tried a couple of lessons, but I found it too intimidating to stick with.
When I entered junior high school, I struggled to fit in. Most of my friends began to give in to peer pressure, which made us go our separate ways because I chose not to participate in those types of activities. I started getting bullied at school. It got so bad that I didn’t want to go any longer. I would fake illnesses to miss school and would take different paths to classes to avoid running into the bullies. Needless to say, my grades suffered and the emotional suffering was unbearable. Teachers wouldn’t address the situation and my parents didn’t know what to do.
From timid and shy to confident
It finally came to the point that my parents felt the only way to stop it was to physically fight back. They “forced” me into taking and sticking with Karate lessons this time. The result was unbelievable. I went from a timid, shy, picked on individual, to someone that believed he could accomplish anything. The assertiveness was noticed by everyone and I never feared going to school, or any bully, ever again. I had found my niche. Over the years, I won numerous National Karate Championships and hundreds of tournaments. But even with all of the trophies, the biggest reward I received from doing Karate, was the self-esteem and empowerment that came with the art.
I opened my first Karate school in 1990 just out of high school. My parents were entrepreneurs, both owning businesses most of their lives. So, this seemed like a natural choice for me to go into business for myself. I could take something that I loved to do and possibly make a living at it. At just 18 years old, I was willing to take the risk.
In 1990, I opened in Milan, IL with a 700 square foot facility and zero students. We moved to Moline, IL in 1994 to a 6,000 square foot facility and now have over 200 karate students and a thriving fitness and boxing program. With so much negativity in society today, the best part of teaching Karate to kids is being able to help them develop the skills necessary to become good young adults. Self-control, discipline, respect for others, and improving self-esteem are taught in every class. As far as adults are concerned, it’s great to watch them achieve their personal goals whether it’s fitness related, learning self-defense or just an interest in the art itself.
Over the years, we have promoted thousands of students to different Karate ranks and over 50 black belts of all ages. I know it sounds cliché, but I really believe training in Karate will change your life. It can have a positive impact on your physical and mental development at any age. There are numerous fitness benefits and learning self-defense is something everyone should do.
Learn more about Jai Johnson’s Karate Center
3112 Avenue of the Cities
Moline, IL 61265