Johnson shares Tae Kwon Do experience

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Northeast Iowa Tae Kwon Do eighth-degree black belt and area farmer Andrew Johnson, right, has been practicing and teaching martial arts for over 34 years. At left is Lanny Kuhse. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Growing up in an agriculturally rich small community in rural Northeast Iowa gave eighth-degree black belt Andrew Johnson a head start on the five tenets of Tae Kwon Do: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit. 

His family's farming roots date back to 1848 where documentation lists John D. Kregel, Johnson's great-great-grandfather, as the original landowner. President James K. Polk signed the certificate.

Johnson has been farming for most of his life. "I studied agricultural engineering at Iowa State University for two years. I worked part time at Woodland Farms to help finance my education while attending classes. When I left ISU, I continued full time employment at Woodland Farms. The experience piqued my interest in farming and I decided to return to my heritage and join my brothers on the family farm," he said

Johnson was introduced to the martial arts while attending college. 

Johnson shared, "There was a fellow student at the university who was active in Tae Kwon Do. We visited often, and I became interested in the sport." He went on to say, "When I moved home to join the family farm, my interest in the martial arts was still on my mind." 

"As luck would have it, Roger Clarke of Northeast Iowa Tae Kwon Do opened a branch dojang in Elkader, a small community north of our family farm. Clarke asked me why I wanted to get involved in the martial arts. I told him I wanted to find enlightenment. I think he thought I was crazy! I studied with Clarke and achieved my black belt. I was 21 at the time. In 1985 Clarke stepped away from his teaching commitment and I stepped in," said Johnson. 

He continued the traditions Clarke started and kept branch locations open in Monona, Elkader, Edgewood, McGregor and Garnavillo.  

Johnson commented, "I pursued both endeavors at the same time. My career in agriculture started during the farming recession in the 1980s. They were tough times for area farmers. I believe the lessons I learned through my study of Tae Kwon Do helped me to stay focused during those financially difficult times." 

Johnson has always enjoyed the day-to-day challenges farming has to offer. "I enjoy working with animals and growing crops. I enjoy being outside and experiencing the changing seasons rural Clayton County has to offer," he commented. 

Johnson learned time management through the art of Tae Kwon Do.

"Anytime you find the time to pursue anything in life, that denotes it's important to you. If you are not able to make the time commitment, it is a good indication whatever it is has no meaning to you," Johnson said. 

The martial artist/farmer has seen three generations of change through his 34 years of teaching. 

"When I began teaching, classes were comprised of primarily men and teenagers. Currently my students tend to be women and children," he continued. "The work I do as a farmer and the work I do with my Tae Kwon Do students are similar in nature. I plant the seeds to grow good crops in fertile rich soil with respect to the earth. I care for the animals and nurture them along in life with special care and quality food. I respect my students in the same manner. I help them build a foundation for their practice through repetition of movement, remaining patient to the individual needs of each student," said Johnson. 

"It is a great privilege to see my students grasp the concepts of Tae Kwon Do and transform their lives," he said with a proud smile. 

Johnson expressed appreciation for Master Woo Jin Jung's guidance through the years. "I resonate with Master Jung's style of martial arts. His teaching philosophy connects the practitioner with the symbiotic relationship we have with the earth," he said.

Johnson has dedicated his life to the promotion of the martial arts. His humble nature as a mentor leads me to believe that he has indeed found the enlightenment he originally set out to achieve.

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