Altoona resident Norman Wrigley already knew a thing or two about Tae Kwon Do – he had a third-degree blackbelt, after all – but when it came to running his own business, he was more of an apprentice than a master.
It started small. 10 years ago, Norman began teaching Tae Kwon Do in his garage and backyard, mostly to the children of his friends. Word spread, students lined up, and Norman’s wife encouraged him to turn his passion into a business. In 2011, the East Coast Tae Kwon Do Club held its first official class.
As the Altoona community grew, demand grew with it. Norman knew that, eventually, he would need more space. The problem? He had never owned a brick-and-mortar business before, and he didn’t know what to expect.
Naturally, Norman did what any good martial arts student would do. He consulted a master.
“I sat down with other local business owners, and they told me what to expect,” he says. “They sort of took me under their wing.”
Since moving into its new HQ – a serious upgrade from the Club’s backyard roots – the non-profit East Coast Tae Kwon Do Club is stronger than ever. Altoona’s population is growing steadily, new families are moving into the area, and the East Coast roster continues to expand.
Classes are held twice a week. As parents sit along the edge of the training space, wearing work clothes and sipping coffee, a dozen children line up on the padded floor. The children, some of them no more than a few feet tall, punch the air, block “attacks,” and giggle as Norman demonstrates a new self-defense move. They’re small, but mighty.
As they practice, the students face a mantra written on the wall: “We as members of the Tae Kwon Do train our fighting spirits and bodies according to a strict moral code.” That code, Norman says, is all about community: Showing respect. Supporting each other. Standing up for what’s right. And always giving back. It’s not just a suggestion, either – being a good member of the Altoona community is built into the curriculum.
“Part of the students’ requirement is volunteering in the community,” he says. “It’s something everyone should learn.”
Stay tuned for next month’s business feature!
Want to learn more about what’s happening in Altoona? This is a good place to start.