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Sandy Springs karate dojo celebrates 25 years
by Greg Oshust
February 19, 2013 03:15 PM | 2826 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Special photo<br>Atlanta's Traditional Okinawan Karate-do dojo founder, Mark Moeller, poses wearing the red and white belt that symbolizes his promotion to sixth-degree black belt status.
Special photo
Atlanta's Traditional Okinawan Karate-do dojo founder, Mark Moeller, poses wearing the red and white belt that symbolizes his promotion to sixth-degree black belt status.
slideshow
The martial arts have been a big part of Mark Moeller's life for more than three decades.

For much of that time, Moeller — a sixth-degree black belt — has instructed numbers of students in the martial arts at Atlanta’s Traditional Okinawan Karate-do dojo in Sandy Springs.

It has been a quarter of a century since the 53-year old Sandy Springs resident, a lawyer for the Taylor English firm in Atlanta, opened the dojo in 1987 and it is still going strong, with adult and children’s classes held three days a week at Hammond Park.

The dojo celebrated in 25th anniversary in early February, after having been postponed from its original date last June.

Starting with only two students in ’87, the dojo now includes 40 students in its children’s classes and about 30 to 35 in its adult groups.

“It seems kind of hard to believe, because it doesn’t seem like 25 years have gone past,” Moeller said. “I still have one student who was at my very first class, 25 years ago. For the first three months of class, there were only two people in the whole class and it was he and another guy and then, my other senior student started three months later.”

Moeller’s dojo features a core group of students who have been there for most of its existence; this continuity is among the things Moeller enjoys the most.

“One of the things I love about the martial arts is teaching people, and I like the fact that I’ve got five guys who have been with me for over 20 years and so I get to see them develop. It’s really cool to stay with people and watch them learn and continue to grow and get better and better.”

During the dojo’s 20th anniversary in 2007, Moeller was honored with a proclamation by the city of Sandy Springs for his service to the community through his martial arts instruction.

Mark Snepp was one of Moeller’s original students and the 52-year old Alpharetta resident, who recently was promoted to fifth-degree black belt in both Shorin Ryu and Shudokan Karate-do, has witnessed firsthand the development of the dojo over the years.

“It always ebbs and flows,” Snepp said. “It has grown over the years and we now have a lot of black belts and that has enabled the growth somewhat.”

To keep it affordable, Moeller has kept the price for joining the dojo the same as it was when it opened in ’87 — $90 for three months for both adults and children.

“I view martial arts as sort of my obligation to give back to the community,” Moeller said. “I charge $90 for three months of classes and I’ve got seven hours of class. I’ve got four classes for adults and to put it in perspective, most classes are $90 per month and that depends on how many years of a contract you sign. I am with Hammond Park, and so I’ve got the luxury of not having large overhead and I can make it affordable to as many people as possible.”

Moeller began studying karate as a student at the University of Michigan in 1979. He was an assistant instructor at the school’s karate-do club from ’80 to ’83 and was the founder and head instructor of the Duke University Asian Martial Arts Club while attending law school there from ’83 to ’86 before moving to Sandy Springs and starting up his dojo in ’87.

He teaches Okinawan Karate-do, which involves both defense and counter-attacking methods, with emphasis on striking and kicking techniques.

“This [Karate-]do is really important to us, because it means ‘karate as a way of life,’ as a way of approaching everything you do in life, the way you treat others, the way you discipline yourself,” Moeller said. “We don’t just teach the karate techniques. We teach the full philosophical principles behind it, the moral principles behind it, especially in my kids’ class.”

“I make a huge emphasis over and over — your martial arts should be used to prevent someone from hurting you or from hurting someone else, only as a last resort, only when you have no choice but to use your martial arts skills, do you use your martial arts skills.”

In addition to Okinawan Karate-do, Moeller also specializes in Hung-Gar Kung Fu and Aikido.

Moeller encapsulated the art of karate in “Karate-do Foundations,” a book that he wrote and published in 1995. It explains the key principles and techniques of the discipline.

“My goal [for the book] was for somebody to pick it up and read and know what to do,” Moeller said. “I kind of wrote it to be an instructor’s manual of sorts. I think a lot of people who have had more formal training would look at it and would say, ‘This is just a beginner book.’ It had an initial run of being published and then it went out of print. But, what was kind of cool was, I was in Chicago and I walked in a boardroom there and I see two copies of my book on the shelf.”

Adult classes are held every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Children’s classes are held Tuesday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m.

Information: visit www.atlantakarateschool.com.

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