Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do Genesis
Before I made the decision to open my own school, I both taught at another Tae Kwon-Do school and was a band instructor in the Buffalo Public School system(BPS).
While I was at BPS, I actually tried to start a martial arts program there. I could see a clear need for the benefits that a good Tae Kwon-Do program could offer the students. My plan was to set it up in seven schools within the system, and I even offered to run it for free, along with a number of the black belts from the Tae Kwon-Do school. Ultimately, though, they turned me down.
That was really frustrating because the issue wasn’t that the kids weren’t willing to learn Tae Kwon-Do. It was simply the bureaucracy of the administration. In fact, despite the neighborhood I was teaching in, my classes were always top notch. My kids were so well-behaved that I was actually accused by one principal of bribing my students.
While all of this was going on, the Tae Kwon-Do school I was teaching at was beginning to get a little sketchy. So that, combined with the frustration I was feeling at BPS, led me to decide that I was going to be my own Principal and Superintendent from now on.
I was going to open my own school.
I’ll be honest, things were rough early on. Our original building was in a – shall we say – less-than-desirable location. Without getting into too many details, it was an old bodybuilding gym with a pretty checkered past.
But, it had two main things going for it. First, because it was technically a “health club” (un-health club is more like it), the layout was already up to code. So, I wasn’t going to have to make any wholesale structural changes, which was an issue with some of the other spaces I looked at before it.
Second, it was right next to a McDonald’s. At the time, I couldn’t afford to do a proper demographic study. But, one thing they teach you when you’re opening your own school is, if you can, to open near a McDonald’s because they have great demographics!
“What did you do?”
The place was an eyesore, but I had a very clear vision. I could see the potential for this space as soon as I set foot in the building. My mother, though… not so much. She was the first person I called after I signed the lease, and she was so excited to come and see the space her son just bought.
“What did you do?” she said, crying. “You’re nuts! This place is terrible!”
Not exactly the reaction I was hoping for. But, if someone tells me I can’t do something, I have to prove them wrong. So, that was just the challenge I needed.
I spent every day after in the building, stripping the place down and cleaning it out. I’ll never forget how bad it stunk.
Once I got everything out and cleaned up, it was pretty bare bones. I got a chair, and my desk was a plank of wood on two cinder blocks. Early on, I advertised only in local papers and every morning I would jog around the neighborhood and put up flyers.
I literally had people coming in to sign up before I really even had a school. I would have to walk them around the building and point to where things would eventually be. Remember… a very clear vision.
To this day, I honestly have no idea how it ever worked. Recently, I asked one of my original students from back then: “What made you walk into that building? It was the most uninviting entrance I’ve ever seen in my life!”
“Well, I had been to two other schools that didn’t work out,” she said. “You were my last shot, so I thought; what the heck!”
That was Chloe, and she is still training with me to this day.
Honestly, when I was coming up through the ranks, most dojangs and dojos were basement operations, and very bare bones. The advent of the modern dojang/dojo hadn’t hit yet. So, it was still acceptable to not look like an LA Fitness.
But, even still, I would have walked into my place back then, looked at me and said: “Are you nuts?”
Not nuts. Just a very clear vision.
Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, register online or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!