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Martial arts coach opens east metro gym

Tom Schmitz, right, teaches Brazilian jiu jitsu at his gym, located on Hale Avenue North in Oakdale. Staff photo by Riham Feshir

A Woodbury resident and one of the few renowned black belt jiu jitsu artists in the Midwest is now passing on his experience to the east metro.

Tom Schmitz, owner of Spartan Martial Arts Gym in Oakdale, has competed in 50 jiu jitsu matches over the years, in which he won all but three.

But after competing since 1992 and teaching sporadically for 15 years, he's now focusing on the teaching aspect of the sport, which inspired him to open up the gym.

"Hopefully I can bring that experience to help build a martial arts school in the east metro," he said.

A Stillwater native, Schmitz is passionate about teaching all levels of jiu jitsu, kick boxing, Thai boxing and martial arts fitness.

Schmitz won an extreme trial amateur tournament in 1997, but lost to UFC champion Matt Hughes in 2000.

"I mean, I lost to the champion," he said with a smile.

Though he's earned a black belt, which is the highest ranking possible and takes about 10 to 12 years to get, he said he's not into the "flare" so much anymore. The ranking order is white, blue, purple, brown and black.

When he opened Spartan Martial Arts in May, he had a number of students follow him from various other schools he's taught at in the past.

A variety of levels and all walks of life train with Schmitz a few times a week - from engineers to lawyers and students to doctors.

"It's an honor to help these guys progress," he said. "You become proud of your students."

They take martial arts training as a way to relieve stress, take breaks from work or school and learn something new.

"They all work hard and have that sense of camaraderie," he said.

Schmitz added: "A lot of people think you have to be a tough guy to do this and a fighter."

But it's not true, he said. He wanted to create an environment where students are not intimidated and are able to enjoy the sport.

Martial arts are about impact, self-confidence and discipline, he said.

That, however, doesn't mean that he's not there to help prepare students for competitions.

About two weeks ago, he entered some of his students in a competition where they won 13 of 14 divisions.

Additionally, one of his white belt students beat two purple belts, Schmitz said.

"Just the look on his face ... he said, 'these moves, I'm learning them.' He was just so excited about it," he added.

After competing in his 20s, Schmitz is at a point in his life where teaching brings him more joy than entering himself in competitions.

Martial arts is increasing in popularity, Schmitz said, it's one of the most popular sports in the world today.

Part of the reason it's more popular now is the addition of Brazilian jiu jitsu, which has more moves and focuses on grappling and ground fighting.

In addition to martial arts, Schmitz is offering a 45-minute daily kick boxing class at 5:30 p.m., where more women participate as part of an exercise routine.

Schmitz plans to add a kids' martial arts and fitness program in the next year.

Spartan Martial Arts is located on Hale Avenue North, about 2 miles west of Radio Drive.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.