The Fighting Schmidts

Killdeer (in fact North Dakota) now has its first three black belts in Korean Hap Ki Do and, they are all in the same family.


By DC Herald Staff

In order of promotion, Marnie (last June), Tommy (August) and Shelbie (October) Schmidt have each passed a rigorous written test and proficiency skills test and, after careful examination, each had the requisite 26 months in rank, at lower grade, to promote to uncertified black belt. Marnie will actually have passed her 6-month probationary period and test for her first dan (degree), junior grade, on December 16th with her siblings soon to follow. Mom, Amber, couldn’t be prouder, “It started as a birthday gift to Tommy when he turned 5, I asked who wanted to go with him and Marnie jumped at the chance.” States Attorney Pat Merriman, who has taught the class since 1990, started the new program up here in Killdeer in the Spring of 2013 because Amber was one of his daughter Samantha’s first hair clients and, he suggested that Tommy wait 2 months until his older sister passed her yellow belt (2nd kub) test.

Amber continues, “Shelbie said she was NOT going to do martial arts but, 4 months later, she wanted to join too.” Healthy sibling rivalry. Merriman laughs at the memory, “These 3 kids couldn’t be any different from each other. Marnie is a real ‘girlie girl’ while Shelbie is a quiet, studious tomboy and Tommy…well Tommy is the original North Dakota wild man.” In particular, Amber’s concerns for her children’s safety have been voiced before in Killdeer, “My husband Mike and I wanted something for our kids to learn so that if and I mean a big ‘IF’ they would be in a situation where they had to protect themselves or someone else they would have the means to do so. Killdeer 2 1/2 years ago had a lot of new faces in town and you hear stories from others towns close in the area that have ‘bad things’ happening to little kids-teens and we don’t want that to happen to our kids or anyone’s here in town.”

Amber is lavish in her praise of the program, “Martial Arts is helping the kids learn respect, discipline, leadership skills, team work and accomplishment. Mr. Merriman asks the kids a lot ‘what am I teaching you here?’ The answer is not what most people think, he isn’t teaching you to fight first, BUT how to not fail under pressure and how not to put yourselves in situations you can’t control and if you are in a situation-you will hopefully be able to escape without harm to yourself.” Typical children, Mom continues, “It has not always been easy going to class, the kids don’t want to go some nights but we keep going because I believe that this is a gift and it’s a gift that they will have all their lives.” Mr. Merriman is humbled, “At first, there was some crying and stuff. I was used to teaching soldiers and police officers for almost 30 years, so, to paraphrase, ‘There’s no crying in ju jitsu!’ and with the little guys, it was new ground and, sometimes, I joked it was punishment for some previous crime I committed.” But, the program is modestly thriving now with the sponsorship of the Killdeer Masonic Lodge who allows the kids (and the small adult class) to hold sessions at their building (80 Central Ave. right next to the American Legion Hall) each Monday and Wednesday night commencing at 6 PM.

“I get there at about 5:30 to turn on the heat and lights, the kids show up at about 5:45, it’s like herding cats for a few minutes and we get the mats down and the class started at 6 PM. I act gruff but, the kids see through it and have a ball. Marnie is my assistant now, and, between her and Shelbie, they keep the others sorted out.” Not to say that the program is only for children, “The adult class is still small but, we start it at 7 PM and, it kinds of grows and contracts based on folks’ work schedules,” says Merriman. Marnie, who loves to ride horseback, wants to be a pediatrician or OB/Gyn when she grows up says, “It will help me be a good doctor and leader.” Shelbie smiles shyly, “It’s the smartest decision I ever made”. Tommy, or T-Bone as Merriman calls him, is even more direct, “I’m going to play in the NFL. A guys has to learn to hit, and take a hit, if he wants to play football.” With the 3 Schleppenbach children (Owen, Ivy & Coy), 2 Joki kids (Kendall & Trygg), and Reilly Kluver, the children’s class has plenty of room for more attendees too. If you’re interested, Mr. Merriman suggests that you either give him a call at 764-7052 or, just show up on a Monday or Wednesday night. Congratulations Schmidts!

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