Not just for kicks: Relocated taekwondo school teaching more than martial art

interviewed by John Osborne  (click here to read the full article)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Last month, Taekwondo United moved to a new location in the Alico Commons shopping center off U.S. 41 in San Carlos Park, but the lessons taught by Master Geoffrey Rackebrandt continue to employ a laser focus on the six tenets of the ancient form of martial arts: Courtesy, integrity, self-control, indomitable spirit, humility and perseverance.

“We use a positive-behavior system to reward our students when they make the right choices throughout the day,” explained Rackebrandt, 32, a fifth-degree black belt who began studying taekwondo at the age of 5.

With more than 100 students ranging in age from 3 to 70 and a wildly popular after-school program that buses in local schoolchildren directly to Taekwondo United’s back door, Rackebrandt said his new 7,500-square-foot “dojang,” or school, is a great place to learn much more than simply how to throw punches and kicks.

“Our aftercare program has a structured curriculum that includes events and contests and team-building exercises, with a lot of the focus on interpersonal communication in today’s digital world,” Rackebrandt said. “We want our students to know they’re martial artists even when they’re not here at the dojang. That they’re still accountable for their actions in the outside world. And because of that, everything here is earned, not given.”

Rackebrandt’s wife, Kaitlyn, co-owner of Taekwondo United, said she doesn’t consider the dojang a business in the traditional sense.

“To me, it’s more of a home where we have 106 children,” said the biological mother of two with a laugh. “And we just started a ‘tiny tots’ program for 3-year-olds, so we might have even more children soon.”

Not surprisingly, the Rackebrandts’ own 3-year-old son, Phoenix, is one of the first students in the fledgling program.

“It helps with his listening skills and coordination, and I think it reinforces the importance of consistency and structure in his life,” Kaitlyn Rackebrandt said. “He even bows himself on and off the mat.”

(click here to read the full article)