Former Columbus longtime taekwondo instructor Ken Brooks recently passed away, but those who knew him say he had a lasting impact on the community.
According to Brooks’ obituary, he owned and operated Pulse Fitness and American Taekwondo and Hapkido Academy in Columbus for 40 years. He died on August 6 in Florida.
Marc Beller, who moved to Columbus around 1988 to teach taekwondo, said Brooks was dedicated to his craft. The two instructors were not affiliated with the same company but interacted quite a bit.
“He was like a mentor to me because I was going there to get help… we would kind of join together and let our students compete against each other just for extra training. So he kind of helped me in that aspect. And then I actually got my sixth degree black belt from him in 2004,” Beller said.
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Beller noted that Brooks helped form a taekwondo alliance tournament.
“When we compete we all come together and then the black belts that compete would get points for what they did and then at the end of the year we would recognize them with a medal because they are the ones that get the most points,” he added.
Overall, Brooks’ impact on the community has been tremendous.
“His expectations of his students were really high and they responded very well,” Beller said. “He was quite positive in his directions and they responded quickly; that’s what always impressed me because you always want your students to respond right away.
Beller said he was sad to hear of Brooks’ passing, but not surprised as Brooks had been struggling with medical issues for some time. This year, Brooks had received his ninth degree black belt in taekwondo and a celebration was planned in Columbus in a few weeks.
“He had a big impact on the community and the martial arts community and so will be missed,” Beller said.
Brenda Preister said her daughter, Charli, benefited from Brooks’ class in many ways. Charli took her class in first grade and is now a sophomore in high school.
Charli learned to set goals, to deal with the anxiety of waiting for the belt test and the agony of defeat, to get up and try again when you don’t get there, Preister said.
Her class was supportive but structured, she added.
“He was gentle with the little kids as they learned how to properly buckle up, but also had them do push-ups if they weren’t in uniform,” Preister said. “When it was time to work, it was time to work…but he always let the kids celebrate and relax at the end of each lesson.”
Preister once noted that she contacted him before Charli’s belt test because she was worried Charli wasn’t ready.
“She didn’t consistently break her boards when we practiced at home, and I worried about what it would look like if she failed the testing process,” Preister recalled. “His answer was so sensible and soothing at the same time. He said, “If she tries and doesn’t succeed, she’ll know what she needs to work on and she’ll try again. Either way, she’ll be fine. He reminded me and Charli that not hitting the target on the first try is not failure. It was powerful.
Charli got her black belt on that first try.
Missy Smolek’s son, Colby, was in Brooks’ class for about eight months in 2016 before Brooks moved to Florida. Colby was 8 years old at the time and is currently a full second-degree black belt.
“He really helped instill in him the love and respect for the sport,” Smolek said. “He kind of gave him his foundation in taekwondo. He was saddened when Master Brooks moved away and hesitated to find another instructor, but he continued the sport.
The family kept information on Colby’s progress after Brooks moved.
“He was a great instructor,” Smolek added. “He was very encouraging to his students. He worked them hard and expected a lot from them, which is very important in martial arts.
“He taught here for many years; I couldn’t even tell you how many children he taught. As children and adults, he did taekwondo or other self-defense activities, and he was highly respected and admired.
Hannah Schrodt is the editor of the Columbus Telegram. Contact her by email at [email protected]