How one instructor ensures his students learn effective self-defense without sacrificing their physical health by training in substandard conditions.
[Sponsored Post] After nearly 30 years of training in various martial arts, Brookings Tae Kwon Do head instructor Mark Anawski has become a big advocate for safety. This fourth-degree karate black belt and third-degree taekwondo black belt has trained in both the International Taekwon-Do Federation and World Taekwondo Federation styles, as well as participated in boxing and football, so he knows a little about combat sports. Also with more than 16 years of experience as a police officer and deputy sheriff in South Dakota, Anawski is certified in defensive tactics, pressure-point control tactics, special weapons and tactics (SWAT) methods, and firearms. As evidence of his proficiency, he trains other law-enforcement officers in many of these subjects. Anawski understands how important safety has become not only in combat sports but also in life. “I need my athletes to be able to go to school the next day," he said. “I need my athletes to be able to go to work the next day." He took over the Brookings Tae Kwon Do head-instructor position from Tom and Diane Buehre in August 2011. When he started, he had just seven active students, but Anawski followed Tom's request to keep it traditional while making the school his own, and enrollment quickly started to grow. “With my law-enforcement background, I'm able to take applications from what I teach in taegeuk [forms and apply them to] basic fundamental self-defense," he said. “I'm able to take applications that we teach law-enforcement officers for real-world situations and [teach you] how to effectively stop an individual safely for you and for them. It all starts with being mentally prepared and being aware."
Shortly after taking over the program, he partnered with a variety of local entities — the Parks and Recreation Department, the middle school, and several day-care centers and home-school providers — to offer physical education classes and teach young people how to address bullying.
“I don't believe you should ever not allow a student to train because he's an introvert or he's awkward or too noisy or he's too wired up," Anawski said. “Martial arts can help them curb that."
In 2012 Anawski also began to host open tournaments twice a year. After renting martial arts mats the first year, he decided to invest in his own tournament mats.
On the recommendation of another academy owner, he found Greatmats.com. The company sent him a number of free samples, and Anawski opted for the Pro Martial Arts Mats Sport 20 mm. “[Greatmats] knocked it out of the park — grand slam! — not just with pricing but also with shipping," he said.
Anawski partnered with another school in Minnesota to purchase 400 of the 1-meter-by-1-meter interlocking reversible mats — 200 red/blue mats for Brookings Tae Kwon Do and 200 black/gray mats for the other academy.
“I can travel with them and take a stack in the back of my truck," Anawski said. “They're lightweight. They're perfect for that."
For a little extra padding, Anawski just doubles up the mats. Now he's able to rent out his mats for other area tournaments.
By September 2015, Brookings Tae Kwon Do had grown to 50 students. Anawski found a 5,300-square-foot, climate-controlled storage unit five months later. He thought it was the perfect location to turn into a dojang. Once he made the purchase, he converted 3,000 square feet of the space into a training area and left the rest as storage units.
His first act after the transaction was to return to Greatmats and order more than 200 Martial Arts Karate Mat Premium 1 Inch in a reversible wooden/black color. The majority of his dojang floor uses the wood-grain design, while the sparring zones are boxed out in black.
“We wanted something that looks natural with our building," Anawski said. “It looks incredible, and they're so nice."
Anawski was particularly impressed by the thick surface layers. “Over time, when things do start wearing out, we're not going to fall into that [center]," Anawski said. “The center density is fantastic. It is exactly what we need. I've been at different schools with mats, and these mats are so comfortable and they clean so well. From start to finish, they've been fantastic."
While he was updating his dojang flooring, Anawski also purchased four 4x10 foot by 2-inch-thick folding Gym Mats to practice hapkido and judo throws.
“Those are incredible," he said. “For the price we paid, the value and the quality, they're outstanding."
Another area that caught Anawski off guard in all the right ways was Greatmats shipping costs. “You've got [other vendors] — I'm sure they're good quality, but I'm not going to drop $1,000 to $1,200 on shipping alone. I'd rather take that money in the value of the mats or save myself that money if I can."
Now, with the help of the Brookings, South Dakota, community and Greatmats, Brookings Tae Kwon Do has seen exponential growth and has its very own ADA-compliant dojang with a welcoming earth-tone Asian-American feel.
“We really wanted to create an opportunity for training for anyone," Anawski said. “The quality of the mats is beyond impressive. They were everything we wanted and then some."
To find the right mats for your martial arts school, visit Greatmats.com.
Photos Courtesy of Brookings Tae Kwon Do
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