Matthew Bertling

Life as a Taekwondo Master

The title of martial arts Master recognizes long-term dedication and study. Matthew Bertling, owner of Victory Martial Arts in Georgetown and a member of the American Taekwondo Association, worked for 25 years to achieve this title. Here, he tells the View about the significance of his achievement.

What does the title Master mean?

In martial arts, there are three levels of training: student, instructor, and master instructor. Earning the Master Instructor title is similar to earning a master’s degree as a scholar. In most styles of martial arts, a 4th degree black belt indicates the master level. In the American Taekwondo Association, the process to achieve the title of Master Instructor is more rigorous and takes about a decade longer than in other styles of taekwondo. An instructor in the ATA must earn a 6th degree black belt, complete the association’s Instructor Training Program, pass a background check, and be certified in CPR.

How does your achievement help your students?

When students see their instructor’s achievement, it can be inspiring and motivating—an example of ascending to more ambitious goals whether in martial arts, a profession, or life in general. I can also help students avoid injury by teaching them how to practice the right way, using what I have learned about the physics and physiology of the practice.

How do people benefit from martial arts?

Physical fitness, life skills, and personal safety are the three biggest benefits for both kids and adults. We help people become or stay physically fit. We teach life skills like respect, discipline, self esteem, confidence, honesty, and communication. Our Leadership Program enhances students’ character development.

How are you different from other taekwondo instructors? 

As an ATA Master Instructor, I have to be flexible—to switch from working with a two-year-old to focusing on physical prowess with military personnel studying Krav Maga takes a special balance. The high standards of the ATA help us teach classes with more energy and fun, while also maintaining discipline.

What is your mission?

My personal mission as a Master Instructor with the ATA, and in general, is to help others, young or old. I never stop learning because life never stops teaching.

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