Tiger Rock Academy teaches focus and confidence for all ages
The thought of taking a martial arts class can be intimidating. But the instructors and students at Tiger Rock Academy not only make every person who walks through the door feel welcome, they teach, encourage, and respect each person, whether a first timer or a 5th degree black belt. Everyone has a different reason for starting classes, but they all end up gaining strength, self-confidence, discipline, and a knowledge that they can take care of themselves in any situation.
Tiger Rock has operated in Omaha for 13 years under the leadership of Jeff Dousharm who also owns two academies in Lincoln. It’s part of a network of more than 200 locations across the country, which all incorporate the same curriculum and principles of traditional TaeKwanDo. It centers around unarmed self-defense based on a 15-step program that begins with choosing to participate and ending with personal transformation upon earning a black belt.
Michael and Sandy Baluch manage the Omaha location and teach most of the classes. Michael started his Tiger Rock journey in South Carolina 22 years ago after enrolling his son in classes so they could learn together. Sandy, who was a competitive alpine skier and a Junior Olympics gold medal winner, also started classes after watching her kids’ progress in TaeKwanDo over the years.
“The more I watched, the more I saw how much it helped everything else they were doing,” she said. In fact, now that her daughter plays softball for Creighton University, much of what she learned at Tiger Rock translates onto the softball field. “Various coaches have said my daughter has amazing body control and footwork, and it’s partly from the martial arts,” Sandy added.
Tiger Rock offers classes for all ages, starting as young as age three and divided by age group and rank through age 11. Youth students, age 12 to15, and Adults, ages 16 and older all train together, regardless of rank. Multiple classes are offered for each group throughout the week, and with a membership, students can attend as many classes as they want, with two times per week recommended. Testing occurs every eight to nine weeks, which follows a national schedule. Because the curriculum is the same across academies, a student could test at any location across the country.
A typical class includes practicing forms, contact skills such as kicks or hand techniques, sparring for higher ranks, and breaking boards. There are options to learn elite counter aggression skills, which is defending against the type of attack one might encounter on the streets. They also offer women’s self-defense classes. But even if that’s not your primary reason for joining, every class results in a good workout performed at an individual’s skill level. “What we teach is not age specific,” Michael said. “We teach a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, and you don’t have to be an athlete to do it.”
Jeffrey Hill started classes four years ago and said he lost 15 pounds in the first six months. He joined after seeing the benefits of having his kids take classes. “Developing focus is a big part of TaeKwanDo, and I’ve noticed my daughter focusing more on the game and on her coach when she plays soccer,” he said. He also enrolled his step-son at age 16 after being a victim of bullying. “It taught him not to be a target and how to look someone in the eye to show them he’s not weak,” he said.
James Jones and his two sons, ages four and five, are also students and all attend classes twice a week. “I was looking for a new form of exercise and have gained a lot of strength and flexibility,” he said. “It also teaches my kids responsibility, the value of working hard, and not quitting. Mr. Baluch is a wonderful mentor for all of us, and my family really enjoys it.” And although that first class might generate a few nerves, by the end it will give you a great sense of accomplishment. Hill added, “Every time my daughter is done with a class, she’s got a big smile on her face.”