GRAYLING –  Inside the AuSable Martial Arts Academy there is a banner hanging, listing the tenets of Tae Kwon Do: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control and indomitable spirit.

Owner and instructor Matt Morgan says this what Tae Kwon Do and other martial arts are really about.

“We teach kids to be courteous. If I say hello to a child coming through that door, it is expected that they stop and talk to me, not just mumble something and keep walking,” says Matt.

Matt believes the martial arts are all about how to treat others and how to keep self-control. Most people think it is about fighting. Matt acknowledges the art is about self defense, but even more so about building confidence, so there is no need to fight.

“My job here is to build others up – whether it’s a child that walks into this school, or a teenager or an adult. I have an adults class where what we talk about developmental skills they can take out into the community on their jobs.

“With kids’ classes I’ll have have a child lead the exercises, lead the stretching. Why? Because that’s building leadership skills up. If I can get these kids up in front of people at an early age, getting in front of their peers, getting in front of their parents, do you know how much confidence that’s going to build in them down the road?”

More than one of his students agrees with Matt’s assessment. Middle school student Michael Andrew King II proudly acknowledges, “Some [kids who were bullying] said some really mean things about me. They hurt me bad mentally and physically.  Now, since I’ve gotten to Tae Kwon Do, the next time I see them, I am going to tell them, ‘I know what you did to me, but it’s never going to happen again.’”

Helping others has played a huge part in Matt’s life over the years. He grew up in southern Ohio, joined the military, went to college for criminal justice and then spent his early adult years as a campus safety officer in southern Illinois. 

He began training in Tae Kwon Do as a teen. As time went by, he was educated in several other martial arts as well. He also likes to mention Bruce Lee is part of his lineage.

Another big part of his life has been his faith. “I was raised in the church. The older I get the more I realize, when you help people out, when you encourage people, when you develop people, when you give, your blessings [from God] are returned ten fold.”

In keeping with Jesus’ words to turn the other cheek, Matt teaches communications skills as part of his classes as well. 

“Communication is a really big element to me. Words can totally change the dynamics of a situation.”

Matt believes the vast majority of the time problems can be solved through communication. He has even given examples to his classes from his own life as a police officer where he calmed down angry people.

“Even when I was in law enforcement, fighting wasn’t my goal.”

Matt says he and his wife Angie came to Grayling when she became employed with the Dept. of Natural Resources in December 2016. He had wanted to stay in law enforcement, but do different regulations in the State of Michigan, he was unable to.

It was then he turned to his passion, martial arts. Matt received a masters degree in business and recently opened up AuSable Martial Arts Academy.

“Angie and I see this as a ministry to people. We want to be able to help people out.”

AuSable Martial Arts Academy is located at 214 Huron St., behind Walgreen’s. For more information, contact them at (270) 625-8416 or ausablemartialarts@gmail.com.

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Kurt J. Kolka grew up in the small community of Grayling, Mich., near the forested AuSable River. After majoring in English at college, he began a career in writing and newspapers spanning more than two decades. In his spare time he creates a Christian comic strip, The Cardinal, which has a 28-year history of publication. He has also authored a book, “Bullying is No Laughing Matter” (Front Edge Publications, Ann Arbor, Mich., 2014) and is working on his first novel. Kurt and his wife Diane have been married for more than 25 years and have one daughter, Rebekah, and an overprotective dog, Alli. Of life, Kurt says, “Life is never dull with God at the steering wheel, but, man, does He have a lead foot!” More about Kurt and his musings may be found at www.betweenthepines.org.

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