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Business name: American Tiger Martial Arts
Address: 180 Old Hawleyville Road, Bethel
Owner: “Master Rob” Barghaus
Business background: “I’ve always loved the martial arts,” said American Tiger Martial Arts Owner and Head Instructor Rob Barghaus. “I mean, I grew up in the ‘80s when The Karate Kid and the [Teenage Mutant] Ninja Turtles first came out — I was hooked on those.”
Mr Barghaus remembers how, at a young age, he thought all ninjas were just make-believe. The day his father explained to him that they had once existed and trained in martial arts is when he knew he wanted to pursue the same path.
He began taking classes in all different areas of martial arts, from karate to jiu jitsu, before finding the art forms he was passionate about.
After becoming an instructor in the area, he soon established a name for himself and decided to start his own studio. He opened American Tiger Martial Arts in its original location at 78 Stony Hill Road in January 2011.
Since then, the business’ growth has been phenomenal, Mr Barghaus said. So much so that he found that in order to keep up with the high demand, he needed to expand to a new location. When searching for a new facility, he decided he wanted to remain close to the original space to accommodate his many longtime students.
On May 7, he officially opened American Tiger Martial Arts at its new home at 180 Old Hawleyville Road — just across from its previous location.
Business focus: American Tiger Martial Arts specializes in teaching taekwondo and hapkido. Both are Korean forms of martial arts, but taekwondo focuses on striking and hapkido is a joint-locking art.
Classes are available for students as young as 4 years old, and Mr Barghaus says he currently teaches students that are in their late-60s.
“If there is someone who’s interested and wants to take a class, I pride myself in having the martial arts fit the student and not the student fit the martial arts,” Mr Barghaus explained. “We have students of all ages and abilities.”
Mr Barghaus teaches all 38 available classes each week, with assistance from students that have reached a black belt level, and also conducts private lessons, seminars, and free training events.
“The classes are broken down first by age and then by skill level. We have beginner, intermediate, advanced, and black belt [levels],” Mr Barghaus said.
Beginner classes are intentionally kept small, no more than 12 students per class, and are grouped by age.
Important to know: Mr Barghaus says he strives to make sure each student at American Tiger Martial Arts “is comfortable, happy, learning, and in a program that fits their emotional, mental, and physical needs.”
He encourages anyone interested in starting martial arts to find what teacher and art form works best for them.
“Not all schools and not all teachers are the same…” Mr Barghaus said. “I think it’s good for people to experience all martial arts before they settle on something because it is something that takes a lot of time and investment.”
Seasonal specials: Coming soon in July, there will be a special 6-week membership promotion for students interested in trying out American Tiger Martial Arts.
For $99, the membership includes unlimited classes and comes with a uniform.
Hours: Monday through Thursday, classes run from 3 to 8:30 pm; Friday, special classes and private lessons are by appointment; Saturday, classes run from 9 am to 1 pm; and closed Sunday.
Social Media: facebook.com/americantigermartialartsacademy