Little did Daniel McCarter know that when he started doing martial arts back in 1996, he would make it a lifelong passion and profession.
He says, “I was working out at a gym for about six months and soon reached boredom. I figured I might as well learn something while I’m getting in shape. I searched around and realized that martial arts was the best way to get into shape and learn how to defend myself at the same time.”
The local man took to the discipline and after three years of training, he received his Black Belt, instructor training and title.
“Becoming a Black Belt and going through the intense instructor program was the biggest challenge I had ever faced,” he comments. “At that time, only 2-3 percent of students made it to Black Belt due to the amount of knowledge and training that was required. In other words, out of 100 of us who started training as a white belt, only two or three of us actually made it all the way to Black Belt. It was a very rigorous training program, to say the least.”
McCarter eventually opened his own martial arts school in Woodinville with his wife Rachel, who is also involved in the practice.
That was 15 years ago. Today, the business is thriving and expanding, with classes for all levels and ages, weapons training, outdoor activities, a demonstration team and a Kids After School program. The couple developed their own unique blend of different martial arts styles, rooted in Tae Kwon Do.
One part of the blend, hand and foot defense, for example, teaches striking and joint locks taken from Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido and American Kenpo.
The other part is a weapon-based system that McCarter says is drawn from many traditional weapon-based arts.
He notes that his students begin to learn weapon application and defense right away at the beginner level.
“Weapons are very popular with the students,” comments McCarter. “They are fun and exciting and provide that ‘flashy’ aspect of martial arts training that so many enjoy.”
The outdoor classes, another unique aspect of the school, include desert and mountain training, paintball war games, all day training and all night training sessions.
McCarter emphasizes that outdoor training provides challenges, team building opportunities and basic survival skills that can’t be taught inside the four walls of the academy.
He says, “These adventures are very popular and give students the chance to train with outdoor weapons, challenge their endurance and mental fortitude, learn survival skills such as water retrieval, camouflage, shelter building and how to make a fire for warmth and cooking.”
Typically the desert training is held south of Moses Lake in July and mountain training takes place in August in the wooded areas of the Skykomish River Valley.
McCarter adds, “The survival skills camps were one of the main reasons I joined the martial arts in 1996. The academy I joined offered survival training as one of its extra-curricular activities that I found very appealing. I enjoyed them so much that I wanted to keep those skills alive, build on them even more and pass them on to students.”
The school’s demonstration team gives those students who can meet the challenge an avenue to increase their skill level beyond the basics of martial arts. And the Kids After School program gives working parents a great convenience. “It’s the perfect way for their kids to be transported from school, learn martial arts, get into shape, learn discipline and respect and get homework done before their parents pick them up,” elaborates McCarter.
He notes that the program, which is in its second school year, has grown considerably and currently includes Wellington, Bear Creek and Hollywood Hill elementary schools.
He adds, “Parents and kids are becoming familiar with seeing our van at the schools and around town. Our goal is to get a second van for the 2013-2014 school year so we can increase our available routes.”
The couple finds teaching martial arts a deeply satisfying experience. The most rewarding aspect for them is being able to watch their students grow and develop confidence and leadership skills.
They enjoy hearing stories about the positive impact they have on their students’ lives.
“It’s also rewarding to watch the physical benefits that our students achieve,” says McCarter. “We’ve watched students of all fitness levels achieve strength, flexibility and agility, as well as increase their overall coordination with amazing results.”
McCarter emphasizes that the couple’s passion is not only to teach martial arts to their students, but to give the community a future full of leaders who are confident, disciplined, humble and considerate.
He adds, “Every day is an opportunity for our students to learn about themselves and what they can achieve when they set their mind to it.”
To McCarter, martial arts is not a seasonable sport, but rather a way of life, which requires time, focus, training, desire and commitment to practice and improve every day.
He adds, “It doesn’t end at Black Belt, nor does it end at becoming an instructor. It is truly a life-long journey in learning about one’s self, staying physically fit and setting and achieving new goals.”
Woodinville Martial Arts’ success, which McCarter attributes to the school’s reputation and longevity, prompted the need for the school to move to a new space.
He says, “Our business was expanding and particularly with the addition of our Kids After School program, we found that we outgrew our location at the Woodinville Plaza and it was time to find a new home.”
The academy will soon take over the building that formerly occupied Big Daddy’s, which will double its existing space, provide a larger training floor and ample room for the Kids After School program.
Additional classes, such as women’s self-defense sessions, which Rachel McCarter will teach, will also be offered on a more frequent basis.
“This is my specialty,” she acknowledges. “We have 3-4 specialized classes per year for women, ranging from 12 years old and up; both students and non-students are welcomed.
“The focus of the class is primarily on prevention, but the women are also taught easy-to-learn and easy-to-remember physical techniques that give them a fighting chance in the event of an attack.
“Once we’re in our new location, we will offer four-week programs so the women can train and practice the techniques they learn.”
A grand opening ceremony and celebration is planned at the new facility in late March, with drawings, prizes, food, demonstrations and more.
For more information about Woodinville Martial Arts: (425) 486-0900 or www.woodinvillema.com.