It’s Safety First at Brookings Tae Kwon Do

Taekwondo and Karate Blackbelt Equips Growing Academy with Greatmats Martial Arts Mats

By Brett Hart

After nearly 30 years of training in various forms of martial arts, Brookings Tae Kwon Do Head Instructor Mark Anawski has become an advocate for safety.

This fourth-degree American Kaeru-Do Karate (AKDK) black belt, Kukkiwan certified third-degree Tae Kwon Do Black Belt, and Songahm Taekwondo black belt has trained in both International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) and World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) styles as well as participating in boxing and football, so he knows a little about combat sports.

Brookings Taekwondo Class Greatmats Martial Arts Mats

A longtime law enforcement professional with more than 16 years of experience as a police officer and deputy sheriff in South Dakota, Mr. Anawski is certified in defensive tactics, pressure point control tactics, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and firearms and trains other law enforcement officers in many of these areas.

He admits that he didn’t always make the safest choices, but now understands just how important safety has become not only in combat sports but in life in general. He also draws upon his exercise science background, where he holds a bachelor’s degree in health promotion and started on a masters in exercise science and administration, to focus his instruction safe training practices.

”Everything in my life has been trying to be as safe as we can, because I wasn’t,” Anawski said. ”I need my athletes to be able to go to school the next day. I need my athletes to be able to go to work the next day.”

In 2010, he cut back on his law enforcement time to pursue his passion for martial arts and took over the Brookings Tae Kwon Do head instructor position from Masters Tom (6th degree) and Diane Buehr in August 2011.

Starting with just seven active students, Anawski followed Master Tom’s request to keep it traditional, but make Brookings Tae Kwon Do his own.

Brookings Taekwondo Academy Greatmats Martial Arts Mats

”I respect all the other martial arts,” Anawski said. ”I think they’re phenomenal. They’re beautiful. With my law enforcement background, I’m able to take applications from what I teach in taegeuk… (and apply it to) basic fundamental self defense.”

”I’m able to take applications that we teach law enforcement officers in real world situations and how to effectively stop that individual safely for you and for them. There’s no reason why you can’t take that same thought process and apply that to a citizen. … It all starts with being mentally prepared and being aware.”

Shortly after taking over the program, Anawski challenged his students to bring friends to classes. He also began to partner with the area Parks and Rec Department, middle school, daycares and home school programs for physical education classes and to teach about how to address bullying.

”I don’t believe you should ever not allow a student to train because he’s an introvert or he’s awkward or too noisy or he’s too wired up,” Anawski said. ”Martial arts can help them curb that.”

In the fall of 2012, Anawski also began to host open tournaments twice per year, that have drawn in upwards of 150 competitors from nine states as well as Canada. The first year, Anawski rented martial arts mats for his tournaments, and while the price was reasonable, he felt it would be worth investing in his own tournament mats.

Brookings Taekwondo Academy tournament Greatmats Martial Arts Mats

He contacted a couple of different mat companies to get samples of economically priced mats that would be good enough quality for use at tournaments. Under the recommendation of another academy owner, he eventually landed on Greatmats.com and requested samples from them as well.

The Greatmats samples arrived first and Anawski was sold on the 20 mm thick Pro Martial Arts Sport Mats on every level, saying Greatmats ”knocked it out of the park – grand slam – not just with pricing, but with shipping.”

”You’ve got Century and Kwon… I’m sure they’re good quality, but I’m not going to drop $1,000 to $1,200 on shipping alone. I’d rather take that money in the value of the mat or save my self that money if I can.”

Anawski partnered with another school in Minnesota, and the two academies purchased 400 of the 1×1 meter interlocking reversible mats – 200 red/blue mats for Brookings TKD and 200 black/gray mats for the other academy.

”It’s great,” Anawski said. ”Those mats – I can take them and travel with them. Take a stack in the back of my truck. It takes a few minutes to set up and take down. They’re lightweight. They’re perfect for that.”

If he needs a little extra padding for anything, Anawski said he just doubles up the the mats, and they work great.

And now, instead of renting mats, he’s able to rent out his mats for other area tournaments when he’s not using them.

Before Anawski knew it, Brookings Tae Kwon Do had grown to 50 students. In September of 2015, Anawski was visiting with a man who had trained in Shotokan karate, and he mentioned that he had his eye on a 5,300-square foot climate-controlled storage unit with the perfect location to turn into a dojang, but was concerned he wouldn’t be able to afford it. As it turned out, that man happened to own the building and was in the market of selling it to the right person for the right cause.

Impressed by what Anawski was doing in the community, the man determined he was that right person with the right cause and they came up with a price both men were comfortable with.

In February of this year, the school was ready for a space of its very own and Brookings TKD purchased the building, storage business and naming to it.

Anawski converted 3,000 square feet of the building into a training area and left the rest to continue operating as storage units.

”I’m not deserving of this,” Anawski said. ”I wasn’t the best kid in high school. We’ve been absolutely blessed with where we’re at and what we’ve grown to. We’re well over 100 students now.”

Once again, he was in the market for mats and checked back with Greatmats to see if it was still the place to go to get the best bang for his buck.

brookings-tkd-dojang

Indeed, it was, and he ordered just over 200 of the Martial Arts Karate Premium 1 inch thick mats in a reversible wooden/black color. The majority of the dojang floor utilizes the wood grain colored side of the tiles while the sparring zones are separated out with the black side.

”We wanted something that looks natural with our building,” Anawski said. ”It looks incredible. They’re so nice, and the transition colors that I love.”

Anawski was particularly impressed by the gray dense foam center having a thick black or thick wood surface color on the outside.

”Over time when things do start wearing out, we’re not going to fall into that gray,” Anawski said. ”The center grey density is fantastic. It is exactly what we need. I’ve been at different school with mats, and these mats are so comfortable and they clean so well. … From start to finish they’ve been fantastic.”

When not holding classes, Brookings TKD will occasionally host birthday parties on the mats.

”They hold up really well against stains,” Anawski said. ”We had Hi-C, red pop, on the mat and it cleaned up. Food… That was everywhere, and we wiped it up. That was fantastic.”

While he was updating his dojang flooring, Anawski also purchased four 4×10 foot by 2 inch thick folding gym mats to practice hapkido and judo throws.

”Those are incredible,” Anawksi said. ”For the price we paid, the value and the quality, they’re outstanding.”

Now, with the help of the Brookings, South Dakota, area community and Greatmats, Brookings Tae Kwon Do has seen exponential growth and has its very own ADA regulated dojang with a welcoming earth tone Asian American feel.

”We really wanted to create an opportunity for training for anyone,” Anawski said. ”The quality of the mats is beyond impressive. They were everything we wanted, and then some.”

Mark Anawski
Brookings Tae Kwon Do
Brookings SD 57006
For more on this topic please review our Martial Arts Mats product page.

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Lone Warrior Wegert is Driven to Become NBL World Champion

4th Degree Black Belt Hopes Third Time’s the Charm

By Brett Hart

It’s the third go ’round for 24-year old martial artist Tim Wegert in his quest for a National Blackbelt League world title. The American Freestyle Karate 4th-degree black belt competitor and instructor’s first two attempts were cut short due to ankle and ACL injuries, respectively, but his focus toward the goal of becoming a world champion has not wavered.

Tim Wegert Grand Champion Infinity National Championships Karate 2017 GreatmatsWegert recently traveled from his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, to compete at the Greatmats-sponsored Infinity National Championships at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin and returned with two forms division championships and one grand championship title.

”I’m excited to be back in the circuit,” Wegert said.

While it’s challenging enough to accomplish such a feat at a national level, the test to Wegert’s dedication is ramped up to yet another level, considering he does it all on his own.

Tim Wegert handspring Infinity National Championships Karate 2017 Greatmats”I train myself entirely,” said Wegert, who instructs at his brother’s school, UpLevel Martial Arts. ”I don’t have anyone to train me here.”

Despite the challenge, Wegert placed first in Open Musical Forms and Limited Forms divisions and was second in choreographed musical forms before earning the Adult Contemporary Forms Grand Championship at 2017 Infinity National Championships May 12-13.

”I’ve always been a very competitive person,” Wegert said, noting that he’s also been successful in soccer and dance.

In fact, soccer was his first love. However, after competing in his first karate tournament as an orange belt, he reached a turning point where he transitioned to more karate and less soccer. He remembers thinking after that in-school tournament, ”Whoa! This is pretty cool. I could be pretty good at this. I could compete.”

Tim Wegert backflip Infinity National Championships Karate 2017 Greatmats

Family Inspired
Wegert began his martial arts journey 11 years ago when his father and a couple older brothers took some classes in Isshin-Ryu under heavy encouragement from his mother.

A couple of years later, Tim’s brother, Sam, borrowed money from their parents and purchased a school of his own at the age of 15.

When he took over the school and started teaching, that’s when the rest of the family started to support him as students.

By the time Tim graduated from high school at the age of 16, he was doing karate professionally full time. In fact, of the 10 members of his family, six are are now black belts, and four have turned karate into their full-time career. Sam now owns four UpLevel Martial Arts schools in Virginia and North Carolina.

Tim Wegert Infinity National Championships Karate 2017 Greatmats

Lofty Goals
Now with a NBL World Title in his sights, Tim is looking to expand not only his personal but is family martial arts legacy in his own right.

”I’ve been really good at a lot of things in my life, but I’ve never be the best at something at a competitive level,” Tim said. ”I really want to be able to say I did this, and I went all the way, and I came out on top.”

Part of that process is positioning himself as a favorite at the NBL World Games, which allows competitors to earn points through national and regional competitions as a form of seeding process.

“Whoever has the most points goes last in the division,” Tim said. ”Therefore, not only do the judges tend to see the better competitors last, but also it helps to go last as well.”

”I’m doing five tournaments before the world games,” he added.

Tim Wegert sidekick Infinity National Championships Karate 2017 GreatmatsThe Infinity National Championships was a big step in the right direction for Tim who said the venue was great and it was nice to go up against a lot of new competitors he had not seen before.

”They obviously have great schools up here with high levels of competition,” Tim said. ”It was neat meeting the Infinity people and competing against them.”

Keeping his eyes on his target, Tim Wegert is well on his way to achieving his goal of winning a world title.

”I appreciate the platform that the NBL and other tournament hosts have put into it… working towards a world title,” he said. ”It’s neat. It’s inspiring, and it’s fun to be a part of.”

Greatmats is the official mat supplier of the Infinity National Championships. Learn more about the Infinity National Championships and other Greatmats-sponsored martial arts events.

Tim Wegert
UpLevel Martial Arts
Charlottesville VA 22901
For more on this topic please review our Martial Arts Mats product page.

2017 AKF Summer Tournament of Champions Recap

Vazquez youngest ever Grand Champion, Madrigal wins 4th Championship

Angelina Vazquez 2017 AKF Summer Tournament kyuki-do GreatmatsThe 2017 American Kyuki-Do Federation Tournament of Champions was held on August 12 at the Eau Claire Indoor Sports Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The tournament had over 120 competitors from Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, and Georgia. Martial artists Angelina Vazquez and Reginald Madrigal emerged as the Black Belt Grand Champions.

Vazquez, of Geneva, Illinois, won the Under 18 Grand Championship and is the youngest black belt to achieve this honor. She trains under Mr. Chris Koffenberger.

Reginald Madrigal competing 2017 AKF Summer Tournament GreatmatsThe 18 and Over Grand Championship was claimed by Madrigal, of Elgin, Illinois, for the fourth time. He trains under Masters Jeff Kim and Rick Steainmaier.

Joe Moniot, of Lexington, Kentucky, brought 17 students with him to his final tournament before earning his Master distinction. Ms. Emily Brown of Oconee, Geroge, traveled the farthest to compete.

Ellie Murphy, from Lexington, was the winner of VIP pass to AKF’s annual Black Belt Extravaganza at Wisconsin Dells held November 3-5.

Nicole Holden, of Janesville, Wisconsin, and Chester Gustavson, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, competed in their final tournament before advancing to 5th Dan (Master).

Joe Moniot 2017 AKF Summer Tournament Greatmats

The next American Kyuki-Do Federation tournament is the Grappling and Throwing Tournament at Bigfoot High School in Walworth, Wisconsin.

Federation members can register to compete at http://www.kyukidomartialarts.com.

Learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Kyuki-Do Federation events and athletes.

Chester Gustavson 2017 AKF Summer Tournament kyuki-do Greatmatssparring at 2017 AKF Summer Tournament kyuki-do Greatmats

2017 Summer Tournament of Champions
American Kyuki-Do Federation
Eau Claire WI 54701
For more on this topic please review our Martial Arts Mats product page.

Drew McCurdy 4-Time AKF Grand Champion

Four Time Grand Champion Still Fond of ‘Firsts’

By Brett Hart

Drew McCurdy Amercian Kyuki-Do Federation Grand Champion GreatmatsBecoming a black belt has been a lifelong dream for Drew McCurdy, and in May of 2001, he began that journey when he walked in the doors of Kim’s Black Belt Academy in Elgin, Illinois.

”I thought a place with black belt in their name was a good place to start,” McCurdy said.

Now a third-degree black belt in Kyuki-Do, McCurdy has expanded his martial arts repertoire to include Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Jeet Kune Do and Kali techniques.

With years of training and a multitude of disciplines under his belt, McCurdy’s list of instructors is equally as long, including the likes of Rick Steinmaier, Jeff Kim, Rick Bjorquist, Christine Bjorquist, Chris Koffenberger, Lloyd Holden, John Canton, Reggie Madrigal and Yolanda Morales, among others.

McCurdy has been putting his training to good use at American Kyuki-Do Federation tournaments where he recently claimed his fourth Grand Champion title at the 2017 Spring Tournament of Champions.

”It’s an honor every time,” McCurdy said. ”I compete for my academy and the kids around Kyuki-do.”

Drew McCurdy Board Breaking Amercian Kyuki-Do Federation GreatmatsMcCurdy won both his sparring and breaking divisions while claiming second in forms and weapons, leaving it as no surprise that sparring and breaking are his favorite events.

”Sparring really tests some of the actual applications and techniques,” McCurdy said. ”There’s no substitute for knowing a mistake could cost you a shot to the head. Breaking really tests your physical and mental limitations as well, especially now that it’s at the end (of the tournament). Do you still have what it takes to break these boards after two hours of vigorous activity?”

The Area Director at Apex Fun Run For elementary schools in Illinois and Wisconsin, McCurdy currently does his martial arts training at Kyuki-Do Martial Arts of Elgin (formerly Kim’s Black Belt Academy) and Fusion Fitness MMA in Elgin.

With all he’s accomplished in the sport, McCurdy is still most proud of achieving his Kyuki-Do black belt.

”Looking back, I can’t believe the amount of work I put into it,” McCurdy said.

2016 AKF Spring Tournament kyuki-do Grand Champions GreatmatsIn similar respect, he views winning his first grand championship as one of his biggest achievements.

”It took quite a few tournaments before I achieved one,” he said. ”I almost thought it wouldn’t happen.”

Great competition from colleagues such as Nikki Holden, Reggie Madrigal and Joe Moniot help keep McCurdy motivated to continue competing.

”It’s about growth,” he said. ”There’s no animosity before or after.”

His passion for martial arts has also rubbed off on his family. His wife is now a brown stripe and his oldest child, Devin, is a 5-year-old red belt in Pre-Kyuki-Do.

”My two-year-old doesn’t currently train, but in her mind, she is a 12th Dan Master!” he added. ”Kyukido family is real – not just a saying. If I want to go hard and train hard with adults, I can do that. If I want to my kids to learn discipline self defense and a host of other qualities, I can give them that. If I want to train as a family, I can do that. There are a lot of places where you can only get one of those things.”

”I’d like to thank Greatmats for their continued sponsorship of the tournaments,” he said. ”The word is still out on Eau Claire (Summer Tournament of Champions) for me, but I will see if I can make it to Nikki Holden’s last tournament before master. Plus the competition in Eau Claire is always awesome!”

Learn more about the American Kyuki-Do Federation events and athletes.

Drew McCurdy
Kyuki-Do Martial Arts of Elgin
Elgin IL
For more on this topic please review our Martial Arts Mats product page.

Blood or No Blood, BJJ is Family Business for Blake Dvorak

Train, Compete and Teach: Tools for Bettering Self and Others

By Brett Hart

Blake Dvorak 2016 AGF Dallas Summer Classic BJJ GreatmatsWhat began as a father/son bonding excursion turned into a lifestyle for 24-year-old Blake Dvorak. Big fans of the UFC, Blake and his father, Dave, spent a lot of time watching the mixed martial arts fights. One day a co-worker of Dave’s mentioned that he was training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at a local academy, and the father/son duo decided to check it out.

”We went in and tried a class, and we’ve been hooked ever since,” Dvorak said, noting BJJ is his first and only martial art. ”From the first time I stepped on the mat, I’ve been consumed by it, and didn’t want any other art to get in my way of progressing.”

His family is equally as thrilled with Blake finding his calling in the sport.

”The first time my wife’s parents came to watch me compete was at a BJJ classic event, which is a no points/no time limit event,” he said. ”My match went for over 17 min. Once it was over, and I finally landed my submission, I began to walk over to them and say hi, but quickly had to run to a trash can to vomit. They were a little weirded out, but after a few more events, they were on board.”

Now a 4-stripe brown belt, competing at between 145-160 pounds, Dvorak will celebrate 10 years in the sport this September. Along the way, he and Dave (also a brown belt) have accomplished many feats.

As a blue belt juvenile, Blake placed second at the Dallas ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) trials. He’s also earned bronze medals at the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) Dallas open in both Gi and NoGi competition. Twice he’s competed in F2W (Fight to Win) Pro events.

”I have always had my best results at submission only events,” Blake said.

Blake Dvorak 2015 AGF Oklahoma BJJ Champion GreatmatsBut what may just take the cake for his own personal satisfaction is leading his team to multiple team titles at American Grappling Federation (AGF) championship tournaments.

”My favorite thing about BJJ is teaching,” Blake said. ”I was fortunate to have the opportunity to run the kids program at my previous academy, and instantly knew that I wanted to do this forever. Having someone come through the door looking for something – be it, fitness, camaraderie, a new skill, or whatever they may be looking for and helping them find it. I’ve seen men, women and kids become new people, and no accomplishment I’ve had in the sport compares to that.”

Blake Dvorak and Allen Mohler trophy BJJ GreatmatsThree years ago, Blake and Dave opened their own academy – Top Game Jiu Jitsu Studio – in Denton, Texas. When he’s not teaching or training at his academy, Blake is training in Coppell, Texas at Mohler MMA under the instruction of 4th degree black belt Professor Allen Mohler.

When it comes to competing, AGF tournaments are where Blake finds himself most comfortable.

”The American Grappling Federation is like a second home to me,” Blake said. ”Chris (Carlino) and the team are always working hard to make their events better, and it shows every time. Best customer service; the medals are high quality; professional photos of competitors and podium winners; and it’s a family business. If there is an AGF tournament in town, you’ll always see me and my team on the mats.”

At the recent Greatmats-sponsored AGF Winter Classic on Jan. 22 in Duncanville, Texas, Blake won his first NoGi match by a heel hook but injured a rib in his finals match and had to bow out the rest of the event. Meanwhile, much to his delight, his team put together a strong performance, earning a second place in the Adult NoGi Division and third place in the Adult Gi Division.

”BJJ is a part of my life,” Blake said. ”It’s how I make my living, how I deal with my stress, how I make new friends, how I get to give back to my community and help people find what BJJ has to offer.”

To learn more about American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

Blake Dvorak
Top Game Jiu Jitsu Studio
Corinth TX 76208
For more on this topic please review our Grappling and MMA Mats product page.

Gracie Barra wins AGF’s Jacksonville BJJ Overall Championship

Brazilian Top Team Jacksonville owns Adult Divisions

Gracie Barra Jacksonville picked up a convincing overall team win at the first-ever American Grappling Federation Jacksonville BJJ Championships on July 1. The tournament was held at the Prim Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville, Florida. The Championships was sponsored by Greatmats.

The Gracie Barra squad topped runner up Brazilian Top Team Jacksonsville by 51 points in the overall team standings while each team collected two Divisional Titles.

Brazilian Top Team Jacksonville claimed the Adult Gi and No Gi Divisions while Gracie Barra topped the Kids Gi and No Gi Divisions.

Marra Senki Jiu Jitsu took second place in the Kids No Gi Division while Searcy Wrestling Club was third.

Soul Fighters Flagler was the Kids Gi runner up, followed by Twin Tigers BJJ in third.

Jean Jacques Machado edged out Swamp Academy by one point to earn second place in the Adults No Gi Division.

Gracie Barra was second in the Adult Gi Division, followed by American Top Team.

Top 10 Overall Team Scores

  • Gracie Barra (Jacksonville) 243
  • Brazilian Top Team Jacksonville 192
  • Marra Senki Jiu Jitsu 117
  • Spartan Academy 98
  • Five Star Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 79
  • Jean Jacques Machado 76
  • Swamp Academy 63
  • Twin Tigers BJJ 57
  • Soul Fighters Flagler 52
  • American Top Team 48

kids grappling AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmatskids no gi AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmats 2017youth grappling AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmatsgrappling action AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmatsgrappling action AGF Jacksonville BJJ tournament Greatmats 2017

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

2017 Jacksonville BJJ Championships
American Grappling Federation
Jacksonville FL 32204
For more on this topic please review our Grappling and MMA Mats product page.

Infinity National Championships Rock the Kalahari Convention Center

Brown, Viviano, Thomason earn multiple National Grand Championships

May 18, 2017 – With 300 competitors from across the U.S. and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains, the Infinity National Championships put on two days of high caliber martial arts competition at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells, WI on May 12-13, 2017.

The second annual tournament was highlighted by the performances of 20 different Grand Champions, three of which took home to Grand Champion Trophies.

Zoe Brown of United Family Martial Arts in Hamilton, Ontario, was one competitor who won multiple grand championships, taking home the top prize in both Junior Japanese Forms and Junior Korean Forms.

Sacha Viviano of Wisconsin was the Women’s Sparring and Women’s Semi-Final Grand Champion.

Brett Thomason of St. Peters, Missouri also claimed a pair of Grand Championships – in Men’s Sparring and Men’s Final.

Other grand champions included:
Noell Jellison (WI) – Junior Musical Forms
Tim Wegert (VA) – Adult Contemporary Forms
Mason Bumba (IL) – Junior Point/Contact Sparring
Hope Chase (PA) – Adult Hard Traditional Forms
Connor Chasteen (WI) – Junior Weapons Forms
Joseph Bein (WI) – Adult Contemporary Weapons
Aric Barnard (WI) – Senior Sparring
Hubert Monroe (W) – Grands Kyu 18 Novice
Andy Chen (WI) – Grands Kyu 7 Novice
Abby Frank (WI) – Grands Kyu 8-11 Novice
Sofia Rodrigues-Florez (FL) – Grands Kyu 11 Advanced
Taylor Lawson (VA) – Grand Kyu 11 Intermediate
Riley Heffelfinger (OH) – Grand Kyu 12-17 Advanced
Elizabeth Folsom (WI) – Grand Kyu 12-17 Intermediate
Ryan White (WI) – Grand Kyu 18 Intermediate/Advanced
Patte Lelle (WI) – Grand Kyu 35+ Novice/Intermediate
Hannah Nehls (WI) – Grand Kyu 12-17

Greatmats is the official sponsor of the Infinity National Championships, which uses Greatmats martial arts mats in all of its competition rings.

Infinity National Championships
Infinity Martial Arts
Wisconsin Dells WI
For more on this topic please review our Martial Arts Mats product page.