A black belt quest: New dojo opens on South end to serve more students
November 24, 2008 · Updated 6:15 PM
Randy Holeman is not your everyday black belt. For him, karate is more than a physical expenditure, it’s his business and his way of life. On Aug. 4, Holeman’s business will expand even more, with the opening of a permanent training facility on Mercer Island.
As the owner of Karate West — one of the three largest karate schools in the United States — Holeman and his wife, Jan, have lived and breathed karate since the day they opened their first studio in Issaquah on (it so happens Holeman remembers the exact date) April 10, 1989.
If you ask Holeman, who is even an industry consultant, what function karate can serve in a person’s life, he is quick to explain the self-esteem it builds, the discipline the sport instills, and the life skills it arms students with.
Indeed, for Holeman himself, Karate West has been a journey of growth. In 1995, the increased popularity of the sport led Randy and Jan Holeman to relocate to a larger state-of-the-art facility in Sammamish, Wash. Karate West has had a satellite studio on Mercer Island for many years. First operating on Club Emerald’s aerobics floor then at the Jewish Community Center, Karate West has outgrown both.
On Aug. 4, Karate West will open a brand new training facility on Mercer Island, located at 8417 S.E. 68th Street on the South end of the Island.
“This is as nice or nicer than our facility in Sammamish,” said Holeman. “When we do something, we do it right and Mercer Island attracts and deserves the best.”
Holeman took it upon himself to make the 1,635-square-foot facility the best, planning and installing most of the structural components — including the installation of Olympic-style rubber training floors, lighting structures, slate flooring and painting — on his own.
Holeman’s passion and commitment to karate flows through every aspect of the business. Which is largely why it has been so succesful. Holeman’s flock of students currently in training, numbers more than 1,000.
“We’re the largest martial arts school in the Northwest,” said Karate West manager Ken Watrous. “We’re very excited for the new location and what it has to offer.”
And Karate West offers something for everyone, from those as young as 3 (a group called “Tiny Tigers”) to adults of all ages and fitness levels. Some of the popular classes include the Tiny Tigers, Little Dragons, jump kick aerials, teen, adult, women’s only, the Black Belt Club, and Karate West’s premier weapon’s program. The studio space will also offer birthday parties.
Most programs train twice a week, said Holeman, and most people train on a six- or 12-month program, which costs anywhere from $30 to $150 per month.
“For an adult, it usually takes about 40 months to become a black belt,” said Holeman. “For a child it takes about two years longer than that.”
Karate West has about 175 black belts currently training, with about 20 of them training on Mercer Island. Certain skills are needed to move up to the next belt, which students can attempt to do at three periodic times during the year.
Holeman is also quick to point out that karate is a predominant sport for women, as well as men. In fact, about two-thirds of Karate West’s 30 instructors are women, said Holeman.
“Karate can be crucial for women and girls because it teaches self-defense,” said Holeman.
Jan Holeman, who has acheived the level of sensei with a third-degree black belt, is the director and choreographer for Karate West’s Extreme Trix Team. The Holeman’s children, Kasey and Callie, are also both black belts.
Since its opening nearly two decades ago, it has been the Holeman’s goal to build a martial arts school offering not only an effective self defense program for everyone, but also a comprehensive program of personal growth and development.
“The reason we’re so popular is we’re known in the industry for life skills,” said Holeman. “Kids learn about good decision-making skills and for adults it’s a great workout and stress reliever, you learn to defend yourself as a byproduct.”
The grand opening of the Mercer Island Karate West location will take place Aug. 4 and 5. Registration for classes is going on now. Visit www.karatewest.com for more details.