Building confidence, improving the soul

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Grand master martial artist to begin holding classes in Tryon

TRYON — After years of teaching the ways of “full circle” martial arts to students across the country, Tryon’s Marshall Gagne will soon be taking new disciples in his own backyard.

The grand master Hapkido instructor plans to begin teaching students the Korean martial art on Tuesdays and Thursdays inside the Grace Foothills Ministry Center, located at 27 S. Trade St. in downtown Tryon, beginning after the New Year. Gagne and two other instructors, Graham Freeman and Kierra Swan, will accept students both young and old, with children’s classes beginning at 5 p.m., adults at 6 p.m. and a select group of advanced students at 7 p.m.

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Unlike the popular portrayal of martial arts in movies and on TV, the classes Gagne and his instructors will provide will not focus on sparring with other students. Students can expect to learn a variety of practical stand-up and on-the-ground self-defense techniques, with and without weapons, meant to give students the knowledge they can use to defend oneself from an attack, Gagne said.

More importantly, the martial arts training will provide students with a great opportunity for self-improvement, the instructor said.

“You will gain confidence, relieve stress and become more physically fit,” Gagne said. 

Gagne, a native of Gibraltar, Michigan, has lived in Tryon since 2000. The former Army paratrooper has been active in Korean martial arts for more than 50 years and has shared his love and knowledge of Hapkido for nearly as long, most recently at a gym in Greenville.

Gagne first discovered Hapkido and its more well-known counterpart, Tae Kwon Do, while stationed in Korea in 1969. Despite only living overseas for a year, Gagne would often trade shifts with other soldiers in order to train, often spending upwards of five to six hours per day learning the two martial arts, he said. His persistence paid off, as he earned his black belt before his return to America.

He began teaching shortly after his discharge from the Army while attending school at Henry Ford College in Michigan. Despite earning two degrees in engineering, after Gagne graduated school, he focused exclusively on teaching martial arts, which he has continued to do on a full and part-time basis ever since.

“I loved building confidence in others,” Gagne said. “That is the one thing martial arts builds, is confidence.”

At the same time, the martial artist has established a strong following and reputation and has earned several accolades, including a spot in the Martial Art World Hall of Fame and recognition as grand master during a ceremony in Korea in 2010. He has also developed his own style of Hapkido known as “Won Moo Do,” which translates to “full circle martial arts,” a description of the form’s focus on circular techniques, Gagne said.

Gagne is now accepting students into his upcoming Tryon classes. Those interested in enrolling may call him at 864-382-9313.