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Elemental Taekwondo to kick things up a notch with standalone studio

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Master Instructor Brett Starks performs a Tornado Kick (Dolgae-Chagi), a high kick technique common in the Korean martial art Taekwondo. Starks, who has been been practicing Taekwondo (also known as Tae Kwon Do or Taekwon-do) since 2004 and teaching it since 2005, is opening a studio in Shelley on Feb. 1 | Photo courtesy of Brett Starks

SHELLEY — The cries of a leather pad recoiling from a perfectly connected crescent kick. The squeak of uncovered feet sliding along the rubber mat. The thud of bodies collapsing to the floor.

These are the sights and sounds of a martial arts and self-defense school, and soon they will becoming to Shelley. Elemental Taekwondo is opening a standalone studio at 170 South Spud Alley.

A software engineer by day, Brett Starks discovered his passion for the kick-heavy Korean martial art in 2004. By 2005, he’d begun cultivating that passion in students in Magna, Utah. Now, after running a Taekwondo club at BYU-Idaho, his own school’s student-base has outgrown a shared room at Elite Studios gymnastics and dance school.

“We have wanted to build up our school and give more people the opportunity for (access to) martial arts,” Starks told EastIdahoNews.com. “We want to serve others. The whole reason I teach Taekwondo is, I love it — it’s a passion.”

The new Elemental Taekwondo studio, located at 170 South Spud Alley, is just a few blocks down from Elite Studios, where Master Instructor Brett Starks formerly taught his classes. A ribbon-cutting and dedication of the new school is scheduled for Feb. 1 at 4:30 p.m. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

Starks, 33, has spent the past 2-1/2 years teaching Taekwondo and self-defense classes at Elite. But classes were held to weekends, within a shared room rented from the studio and things were getting tight.

His class, which currently consists of 40 students ranging in age from four years old and up, is happy to be making this move. Several of his students, Starks added, have been pestering him for a hastened pace.

It’s not just the additional space that Starks thinks will serve his students. He has had numerous prospective students have to back out of classes because of his previous availability.

Taekwondo is something that can serve so many purposes — physical, mental and spiritual — and he couldn’t stand having to deny students the chance to embrace it the way he has.

“I just want to give people the opportunity to train and to have something where they can feel like they’re growing,” Starks said. “For me, Taekwondo has been a huge defining part of my life. I would be an awful person if I didn’t have Taekwondo, it has allowed me to grow into a much better person. It’s taught me confidence. It’s taught me how to work. I want students to grow like that. We’ve had lots of students who have come in with anger issues, depression issues, self-confidence issues, and they have just blossomed.”

Part of that growth, at least with some of his students, has been aimed toward competitions, something Starks has done in the past and continues to do — though he admits that, these days, his interest is more as an inspiration to his students who want to complete.

Along with a willingness to train students for local, national and even international competition, Starks is a certified Master Instructor through Korea’s Taekwondo governing body — Kukkiwon.

Master Instructor Brett Starks | Photo courtesy of Brett Starks

While he is a fifth-degree black belt, he was well established in the art before he learned of Kukkiwon. And since his promotions weren’t recognized through Kukkiwon until well after he had become a black belt, through the eyes of the “government,” as he put it, he is only a third-degree.

All of his students begin their training with promotions recognized by Kukkiwon, because of Starks’ certification and the quality standards that come with it.

This means, any and all of his black-belt students are recognized as such through any international competition — up to and including the Olympics.

Starks joked of his Kukkiwon Master Instructor card — a thick, matte black card that includes his picture and resembles a state-issued ID card — that, “it’s cool to whip out, like a ‘Black-Belt’ card.”

“I don’t ever want any of my students who want that type of opportunity to be stuck playing catch-up like I am,” he added more seriously. “So that’s something that we offer everybody who trains with us. It’s not a choice, you just become (Kukkiwon) certified.”

Along with the certification, the Taekwondo and martial arts community can rest assured that his school is not what he calls a “black-belt factory.” All of his students leave his classes having earned their title.

Asked how he finds the time to work a full-time job then head straight to the school to teach 30- to 45-minute classes, Starks struggled to muster an answer. “I don’t know, it just happens” he finally offered.

He was happy to announce that a small collection of students from his first classes two years ago were recently promoted to black belt — his wife Christy was among them. And some of those students have expressed interest in becoming assistant instructors, even delving into leadership training.

Should the demand ever present itself though, Starks would be willing to leave his career to provide for his wife and three children through his passion.

For now, Brett relies heavily on Christy, whom he called an “awesome wife” and “rockstar” mother. She is also a certified public accountant (CPA), handling the financial side of the business.

Starks said that, in lieu of broadcasting his prices on his website, he recommends prospective students first come in for one free class and decide if Taekwondo is for them. He will be hosting a free event following the ceremonial ribbon-cutting on Feb. 1 at 4:30 p.m.

“The idea has always been to give people the joy, and beauty, and art of Taekwondo.”

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