What Have I Done!?: The First Class


First Class

It’s the Friday before my first class in our first building. The walls are freshly painted. The room has the perfect amount of echo. Everything is immaculate and ready to go for the following Monday morning.  I’m so excited for what is to come that I decide to throw one of the hardest axe-kicks I have ever thrown, pulling my hamstring and tearing a muscle in my leg.

That’s how Master Gorino’s started.

Monday comes and I’m doing my best to hide my limp. I’m pacing around my office getting ready to go out and teach my first class. I kick open the door and it hits me: I only have seven students in a 5,500 square foot building. And, I just gave up a pretty nice, normal job teaching music at UB and in the Buffalo Public Schools.

What have I done?

I had never been a part of a school that started with me. I had only taught at schools that were already established. But, I took a step back and reminded myself of my goals, and that this was only day one of a long journey.

That first group of students was an eclectic bunch, to say the least. We had a little guy who was actually born in Korea, but adopted into an American family. There was the FBI agent, the financial analyst, the two gigantic German brothers, and one of my good friends. We even had the pharmacist from the CVS that our building was attached to sign up, and she brought one of her friends.

When you open your own school, that first class of students is special. You tend to treat them a little more like family than the students who come after. You also take it a little harder when they move on.

I can still remember every one of their names.

Looking out across those first seven students, I remember thinking that, for the first time, I wasn’t teaching for anyone else. I wasn’t teaching something that somebody else told me to. These were my students, and what I  do is going to help mold them. This realization had a huge impact on me. It forced me to reconsider my entire approach to teaching.

The goal is to turn each student into a black belt. So, I had to ask myself:  What do I want a black belt to be? What do I expect out of a black belt? Instead of the traditional way where you start with a white belt and try to train them to get their yellow stripe, then yellow belt, etc., I realized that I wanted to start with the black belt and work backwards from there. That made building the curriculum much easier and gave it real focus.

That was back in 1994, and it is the way I have approached teaching ever since.

I just take it a little easier with the celebratory axe-kicks these days.


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!


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