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Here at Defensive Planet, I’m big on self defense. I believe that martial arts practice is a vital part of that, and that everyone should have access to self defense training.
In this second installment of my Charity Spotlight series, I’m going to feature Aim High Academy of Martial arts, a non-profit martial arts training center out of Beaverton, OR.
I reached out to Aim High Founder and Executive Director Dan Sikkens to get the whole story on his dream business.
More than your average martial arts studio
Dan Sikkens began his martial arts teaching career in 2003, with a side business consisting of a one-mat space in a health club.
Soon after, in 2005, Dan started Aim High as a small, for-profit martial arts academy. His mission – to create a great environment for kids and parents in the community.
Just 4 years later, Dan pushed this even further, reorganizing the business as a completely non-profit venture.
“Positive change,” he says, can come from learning martial arts and self defense. Dan made it clear that, by becoming a non-profit, he could realize his mission of “never wanting to turn a student away because of their ability to or not to pay for lessons/services and that what we take what we learn in the academy must be applied in the ‘real world’.”
The results were there – he could see that his students were getting better grades, getting healthier, and generally having better quality of life!
The real goal for Aim High
And that’s the point.
Those improvements in people’s’ lives, from academic performance to self confidence, are the real benefits of running a martial arts school.
While the techniques, kata, and sparring are great, they’re just a vehicle for each student’s personal journey to a better place.
According to Dan, “There is no separation between business, martial arts, personal, love life, etc.. it’s all one path, one journey with the framework to always seek to be a positive force, a positive change for anyone who I work with.”
And this is the big problem.
The business side of the martial arts industry is often at odds with those real goals of self improvement for your students.
“The end goals,” Dan says, “the question of ‘why’ when starting any business should be answered by the proprietor/s and by that answer should it guide the operations.”
This can often make running a school more difficult, especially as a non-profit where the added pressure of the IRS goes along with the normal stresses of running a business.
I’m sure that Dan would say it’s all worth it, though.
Staying safe out there
As this is a self defense site, I also asked Aim High for some tips on staying safe.
It begins with yourself.
“Put the cell phone down, log off Facebook, stop playing Fortnite, and get out into the world with an ‘empty cup’.”
If you want to understand what’s going on around you, any “preset beliefs” need to be left behind.
Mindset is one thing (an extremely important part of it), but what about physical confrontations?
“But that being said, don’t be a push over. Stand strong and tall and confident. Practice your art so if should ever have to physically fight then you will know you can control a situation, but practice so you are in a position where you may never need to throw a punch or kick. A fight best won is one never fought.”
Amen to that.
You can read more about Aim High Martial Arts Academy here, and donate to their great cause by clicking here. Thanks again to Dan for taking the time to answer my questions and give some great insight.