All The Right Moves

Making An Impact On And Off The Mat

For Sean Gann, being a 6th-degree black belt means a lot more than being a martial arts expert. “For me, martial arts isn't something I do, it's who I am,” he says. “Being a black belt is more than just wearing a piece of fabric around your waist. It’s about your mental state, your emotional state, and how you treat and help other people.” He certainly had others in the martial arts community help him. “My parents split up when I was 13, and my instructor, Senior Master Michael Holt at Tiger-Rock Martial Arts [in Northport, Alabama], ended up being sort of a father figure to me. To this day, he’s someone I can call if I need someone to talk to.”

After leaving a career in public school teaching in his 30s and being away from martial arts for many years, Master Holt and the team at Tiger-Rock came to his aid once again. “I ran into Master Holt at the gym,” says Sean. “I wanted to get back into martial arts, but at that time, I was over 400 pounds. He said it wouldn't be safe for me to stand on one leg and kick, so he made a deal with me that if I lost 100 pounds, he'd love to have me come and take classes again.”

Using the discipline and perseverance he learned through martial arts, Sean lost 100 pounds, and went on to lose another 160 pounds. After earning his Senior 4th Degree black belt in 2017, he spent four years as academy manager for Master Holt. Today he’s a 6th-degree black belt and certified instructor, and since September 2020, has owned his own Tiger-Rock Martial Arts academy in Franklin.

“My wife Alisa and I looked at a bunch of places for our academy and narrowed it down to either Franklin or Blue Springs, Missouri,” he says. “We looked at the pros and cons of each area and had some prayer involved too. We ended up settling on Franklin because it felt like it was the place for us to be.”

After living here for the last few years, he knows they made the right choice. “We have so many wonderful students and wonderful families. Some of them are now leadership and instructors themselves. We’ve built that whole sense of community and a spirit of helping others.”

Sean turned 37 this year, and he says one of the biggest things to come from his martial arts journey was a sense of confidence in his abilities to do what needs to be done. “I've had times in my martial arts career where things didn't go the way I wanted. Or things weren’t progressing as fast as I wanted. But I’ve learned that by sticking with it, I’d get there eventually.”

Tiger-Rock Martial Arts, which combines tae kwondo and Korean martial arts traditions with the latest advances in physical fitness, welcomes people of all ages and abilities. “No one is going to be perfect in their first class or even in their second class,” he says. “You just have to keep striving to get better.”

Adds Sean, “We’ve been able to make an impact in the community. I'm not just trying to promote business. I wanted to have my own martial arts school because I want to teach martial arts, but also because I want to be able to inspire others with my story and with my actions.” He wants to be what Master Holt was to him - a person others can turn to if and when they need help.

“Being a black belt is more than just wearing a piece of fabric around your waist. It’s about your mental state, your emotional state, and how you treat and help other people.”

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