A couple decades ago, Mike Petersen was doing what many a good dad does ~ be involved with his then 8-year-old son, Shaun, and keep himself in good physical shape. Shaun wanted to try martial arts, so off they went in search of a class. “We both fell in love with kempo karate,” Mike explains. “The emphasis is on self-defense. It is a non-competition style that focuses on self-discipline, self-improvement and self-control.” In under six months, Mike found himself assisting the instructor and immersed in a little self-discovery. “I had an ability to communicate with students that I didn’t realize, and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching.”
A few years later, he opened a part-time school in the New River Valley so he would not compete with the instructors who taught him. When he was laid off as a tool and die machinist in Roanoke, he and his son decided to ramp up to full-time. Mike Petersen’s Kempo-Karate School is the oldest and largest martial arts school in the area and in constant operation in one location (across from Corning) for more than 15 years. The school motto is “Integrity, Loyalty and Compassion,” and its success can be attributed to a family-based, non-competitive style of training. Like Mike, many parents take lessons once their kids enroll.
“Our students train in a non-competitive, friendly, all inclusive atmosphere where we focus on real world self-defense,” says Mike. “Our business model is to stay away from what’s trendy and teach a tried-and-true method of self-defense.” A 6th degree black belt, Mike, 58, is the senior head instructor. Son Shaun is the head instructor and a 5th degree black belt. The school expanded about a year ago, adding on-site classes for core strength, Yogalaties and Tai Jai. The innovative father-son team is planning to expand to another location next year. Along with discovering his teaching skills, it looks like Mike Petersen also encountered competence as an entrepreneur.