It has been only a month since Karate Beyond opened its doors on the south side of town, but with Master Jae Choe’s extensive history and background, Choe’s Karate Beyond is in full effect.
With minor design developments to look forward to, Karate Beyond is now open and offers kids’ classes, teen classes, adult classes, and even after-school class programs. The Lakelander sat down with owner and instructor Master Jae Choe to learn more about him and Choe’s Karate Beyond.
TL: Tell us a bit about yourself.
JC: My name is Jae Choe. I am the founder of Karate Beyond. I am blessed with a beautiful and loving wife and our two kids: Davin, eight years old, and Zoey, six years old. Oh, and our two-year-old French bulldog, Thea.
TL: Are you originally from Lakeland?
JC: My first English words were “French fries” and “ketchup.” I immigrated from South Korea in 1981. A lot has changed in Lakeland since then; I still remember the original mall on Memorial and the old Montgomery Ward, waiting in line to sit on Santa’s lap during the holidays. Elementary school was at Temple Christian which is now Highlands / Geneva. I went to LHS and graduated there in 1994. I earned my bachelor’s from the University of Florida in 1999 from the College of Architecture. But, as you can see, cubicle life wasn’t for me.
TL: Was martial arts a big part of your childhood? If so, is it part of a cultural connection, family tradition, or just a longtime hobby?
JC: A common misconception is that ALL Asian people know martial arts, which of course isn’t true, but, in my case, I lived that stereotype. As a child, martial arts was EVERYTHING to me. Unlike most boys who competed in baseball or soccer, I spent my weeks in the dojo and the weekends at tournaments across the state. These days I’m seeing old childhood friends, who now have children of their own, coming to the doors of my dojo.
TL: In a previous Lakelander feature, we talked about your father’s legacy and martial arts studio in Lakeland. How has this experience helped inspire you and shape your journey?
JC: I am lucky to have had great mentors. While everyone idolized Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, my hero was my father who was my martial arts teacher. I have formed a unique perspective of seeing the world through the lens of martial arts combined with a Western education and a modern sensibility. My predecessors were prime examples of what sheer willpower and grit can get you in life. I think those elements are what is missing from the childhood experience today — or rather, having examples of those mentors.
TL: What inspired you to open Choe’s Karate Beyond?
JC: Karate Beyond is a brainchild of mine that has been in the works for a lifetime. Growing up with martial arts and spending the majority of my professional life as an instructor has been the ultimate incubator to create what is a modern evolution of a traditional system. I am of the mindset that in order to grow, you have to step outside your comfort zone. Traditional martial arts has its benefits, but due to its nature of rote memorization and subservient direction, I’ve found it necessary to embrace a new ethos. To quote a famed Architect, Louis Sullivan: “Form follows function.” Karate Beyond is a reflection of this idea. I am less concerned with the cinematic aesthetics of martial arts and more focused on its functional aptitude.
TL: You offer a variety of classes, including kids, teens, adults, and after-school. What classes are you most excited to watch grow? What are your favorite/unique components of each class?
JC: I embrace all age groups and skill levels. Each class offers a means to BUILD oneself and transcend who they are — the progression of character from each individual that steps onto the mat. The strength to go beyond the physical skills acquired through Karate. I am of the belief that GRIT AND DETERMINATION through EFFORT and PATIENCE leads to true freedom to tap into the best version of themselves.
In addition to his belief, Master Choe instills the forces of respect and encouragement into his classes, especially the kids and teen classes. In between routines, he vocalizes encouragement, the importance of respect, and Choe’s Karate Beyond values.
I sat in one of Master Choe’s classes and immediately felt encouraged and empowered by the intentionally crafted words Master Choe spoke to his students in between routines.
TL: What legacy do you wish to continue with Choe’s Karate Beyond?
JC: Legacy is a strong proposition. Only time will tell the impact it has made on a community. My aspirations are selfish in a way; I created this large in part to my children. I wish this to be a haven for the development of students young and old, a means to constructively challenge oneself for the betterment of not only themselves but to their surroundings. As adults, it is our duty to help usher in the next generation: our future.
TL: Is there anything else you would like to say about Choe’s Karate Beyond?
JC: You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Try and find out for yourself. Karate Beyond is more than self-defense and fitness. The people who find my school are not interested in hurting others or themselves. Like-minded individuals that are kind-hearted and yearn to IMPROVE their quality of life; constructively managing the stressors of modernity with an element of fun and excitement. Let me do this for the readers who took the time to take in this entire article: email firstname.lastname@example.org with the words “READ IT” in the subject heading. I invite you to a special free trial offer.