All in the family

For the Hockman brothers, tae kwon do is their passion ­— and their business
Tuesday, December 12, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:18 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008


Tate Dempsey attempts to do the splits during a tae kwon do class at Hockman’s ATA Black Belt Academy on Dec. 4. If students do the splits, they’re inducted into a special “splits club.” Students are taught to practice self-discipline in martial arts. (Photos by BRANDON KRUSE/Missourian)

Jeff and Jade Hockman are brothers, neighbors and business partners. Both have fifth-degree black belts and both have silver medals from the American Taekwondo Association World Championship competition.

For 10 years, each ran separate Hockman’s ATA Black Belt Academy locations, training thousands of Columbians in martial arts and self-defense. In November, the brothers opened a third location at 3401 W. Broadway.

The expansion, and everything that led to it, couldn’t have happened any other way — just like there is no better name than Hockman’s for their business — the two share their careers and their lives.

The brothers first learned martial arts as teens at an ATA Black Belt Academy in their hometown of Centralia.

It didn’t take them long to realize that martial arts was their passion and that they wanted to devote their lives to it.

“It was a natural transition to open our own school,” Jeff Hockman said. “And it made sense to open it together.”

Jeff earned his first-degree black belt in 1988 and opened a tae kwon do school in Centralia two years later. In 1994, he opened Columbia’s first ATA Black Belt Academy on Conley Road. Two years later, Jade followed suit, opening the second location on Corporate Lake Drive. Each location shares the same name, The Hockman’s ATA Black Belt Academy.

ATA, founded in 1969 and based in Little Rock, Ark., has more than 1,000 schools in the U.S. dedicated to martial arts training and tae kwon do, a Korean form of martial arts.

In the brothers’ business adventure, Jeff leads the way and Jade thinks things through.

“I’m conservative, and Jeff is more a risk-taker,” Jade said. “Our personality is a good mix to run a business together.”

Despite the difference in personality, both agree on the principle of compromise.

“When we decorated the new location, I would pick a color and Jeff would choose another color. Then I’d say ‘OK’ and that’s the color we’d use,” Jade said. “When we decided on the floor, I liked one but Jeff liked another. And he would say let’s use that (Jade’s choice). It’s that simple.”

The brothers not only cooperate closely at work, they live next door to each other on 28 acres located east of Columbia. Like other neighbors, the brothers borrow tools from each other and host family dinners.

“We are closer than most neighbors,” Jeff said. “We want to have our kids grow up together.”

The Hockmans are grateful to make a living doing what they love. So far, their martial arts practice has remained a hobby. As fifth-degree black belts, they have never used their skills outside of teaching – they haven’t needed to.

Jeff recalled one time when a truckload of men followed him into a parking garage. They jumped out of the truck and surrounded him. One guy saw the ATA bumper sticker on Jeff’s vehicle and questioned him to see if he knew martial arts. Jeff answered “yes.”

“‘There are seven of us,’” Jeff recalls one of the guys saying. “I looked around and asked, ‘Who’s going to be the first?’”

The guys decided to leave him alone.

“It’s the confidence you show,” Jeff said. “The way you stand and the way you look at them straight in the eyes.”

Jade faced similar situations and didn’t need to stretch a kick. People who are confrontational are usually weak, he said.

The Hockmans emphasize this philosophy with their students.

Joshua Hyde is 8 years old and has been a student at Hockman’s for nine months. One day at school, an older student got him on the ground and kept hitting him. Joshua used several tae kwon do moves to get out of the situation.

Jerry Hyde, Joshua’s father, was pleasantly surprised with how his son handled the situation and is pleased with what his son has learned at the Hockmans’ school. “They teach the kids to back away from fights,” Jerry Hyde said. “Joshua is more respectful to others and more responsible.”

Adhering to the rule of retreat requires self-discipline. Jeff said that there is a hidden part of him that wants to use his skills in real-life situations. But it will be against everything he’s teaching.

“One doesn’t fight unless he absolutely has to,” Jeff said. “There hasn’t been any situation like that, yet.”

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