Seung-Ni moves to larger quarters, expands programs

TRAVERSE CITY – Most of us have dream job fantasies tucked away, requiring only the gut-wrenching first step of leaving your safe paycheck and insurance plan to pursue. Kevin Shoults, owner of Seung-Ni Martial Arts Academy, took that first step five years ago, leaving his job as an attorney in Chicago to open his own martial arts school on Hastings Street.

This month, Shoults is taking his next leap, moving into a new building in the Meadowlands Industrial Park, near the corner of Hammond and Three Mile. The new building is 6,100 square feet, compared to the 4,800 square feet he has in the Hastings Street location.

"I never want to be so big that I can't see everything that's going on and rotate teaching between classes," Shoults said. "The new building won't be a lot bigger but the space will be much more efficient. We'll have a sibling room for the brothers and sisters who are waiting, locker rooms with showers, and higher ceilings in the gyms."

Shoults began studying martial arts as a junior at Michigan State University. As he moved up the ranks, he began to study under his master in his hometown of Saginaw. During his studies he helped out in the martial arts classrooms and found he had a gift for teaching. However, the real world was calling, so he finished his law degree and began to practice in a Chicago law firm, specializing in casino projects mainly in Las Vegas.

"I was working 80-100 hours a week, shuttling back and forth to Vegas, and my desk was covered with piles of paperwork," Shoults said. "One day I got a call from my master who said, 'If you don't open a school in Traverse City, I'm going to do it.' He had been trying to get me to do it for years. I talked it over with my family and we just did it."

Seung-Ni is definitely a family affair; Shoults' wife and his two sons are often at the school. "I probably still work the same number of hours now as I did at the law firm," Shoults said, "but here I can bring the boys in with me and it's much more flexible."

Classes are a blend of martial arts training and life lessons on work ethic, discipline, and responsibility. "I just get so excited about doing this every day and seeing the students come in. I just want to get in there and get going," Shoults said.

Future plans include expanding the women's self-defense program and corporate team-building programs.

"The women's self-defense program is proving very popular," Shoults said. "We have had large groups of girls from the same high school taking it as preparation prior to leaving for college. We've also had large groups of nurses who have to leave work in the middle of the night."

Self-defense programs can be arranged for individual groups upon request by calling the school. "We don't shy away from showing women how to defend themselves when they are in very vulnerable positions," Shoults said. "It would be a great program for moms, daughters, sisters, friends and aunts to all take together."

Corporate team building is another future growth area and Shoults is happy to create programs upon request.

"We take some of the life lessons we provide to the students every day and tailor them to the corporate environment, adding in some martial arts training for fun," Shoults said. "Martial arts is about leaving your comfort zone, so it is a great tool for people who work in sales or other professions where strong self-confidence is a key to success."

A grand opening is currently being planned for mid- to late-October in the new building. Classes are available for pre-schoolers to adults in tae kwon do and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Class schedules are available by calling the school at 932-4300. BN

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