Killdeer’s ‘Karate Kid’

When I moved my family to Killdeer in the Fall of 2012, I had taught aiki ju jitsu and hap ki do for over 22 years at the same location in Springfield, Missouri.

Karate Kids copy


For the DC Herald

However, those programs did not cater to anyone other than law enforcement and military students and their post-teen children who were training for combat. So, I posted our website about the change in February, 2013, up here in North Dakota and with some trepidation, advertised classes to be taught in the dojo in our home which comprised less than 20% of the 900 square feet of mat space that I brought from Missouri. And, with math not being my favorite subject, it never occurred to me that only “little people” would actually fit in the limited space I had in Killdeer. Enter Amber and Mike Schmidt and their 3 children–Marnie (age 8), Tommie (age 6) and Shelbie (age 10).

Coach Schmidt had a reputation for being a tough taskmaster and his wife Amber was one of my daughter’s favorite hair clients, so, I thought how bad could teaching little kids really be? One of my other CQB contemporaries at Ft. Leonard Wood joked that “teaching little kids was actually punishment in some 3rd world countries.” Well, it was a tough adjustment since I don’t run a self esteem program but, rather, a real world, self defense program for unarmed combatives. And, Marnie (the first Schmidt) was a well-groomed “girlie” girl who, when she started, liked spaghetti, My Little Ponies and her Barbies. How was that going to work out? The first few times–some tears with a paraphrasing of the famous Tom Hanks’ line from a League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in hap ki do!” But, she stuck it out and ruled the roost.

Several children (and 20 months) later, there are now three Schmidts who have attained their brown belt with Marnie actually just promoted this past Wednesday to 3rd brown (with her black belt test coming up next summer) and Tommy and Shelbie each holding 2nd brown rank with Tommy’s next test coming up in December. Tommy was actually the second Schmidt who started 2 months after Marnie with Shelbie starting 2 months after that. So, with Shelbie being the oldest, it has been an adjustment being under the command of her younger sibling but, the dynamic duo has worked it out and, on the mat, Marnie is the boss. These three remarkable children are as different as they can be with 10-year-old Shelbie (a 5th grader at Killdeer Elementary) being the studious, quiet child who plays basketball and volleyball, Marnie (age 8, a 3rd grader) and Tommy, the rambunctious “wild man” (age 6, a first grader) who, like his father, loves football and sparring in class. In fact, the “T-bone”, as I like to call him, has one of the best right hands that I have ever seen in my 57 years. More than one older student has felt it connect with their jaw in class.

Also pictured is 4-year-old Adam Brink, who started 4 months ago, and just attained his orange belt. Adam’s interests are his scooter and fishing with his parents having recently opened Ju Ju’s Pit Stop service station across the street from the Killdeer Post Office. My grandfather used to say, “Expect nothing from a child and that’s what you get. Demand excellence and they will break their back to give it to you.” And, these 4 little children have carved out a place in my heart that I never thought I would have except for my own sons 4th dan Luke (a world champion in sparring), 3rd dan Aaron (studying for the priesthood) and 2nd dan Samantha Kershisnik. Don’t tell the kids because it will undermine my authority with them in class. But, heck, they already know that they’ve got me wrapped around their little fingers. Another reason to love living in this town. Congratulations kids!

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