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2017 Southlawn Drive, Suite D, Des Moines, Iowa 50315
Two Rivers Martial Arts teaches traditional Tae Kwon Do, but we are not a traditional martial arts school. We are traditional because we stress the five tenets - Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, and Indominantable Spirt - and because we practice a non-contact sparring style. We are non-traditional because we have no headmaster. Two Rivers is administered by a Board of Directors, which is almost unheard of in martial arts circles.
Two Rivers traces its roots to the Eric Heintz Black Belt Academy, and through Master Heintz, to Grandmaster Woo Jin Jung of Jung's Tae Kwon Do in Cedar Rapids. Master Heintz ran a traditional Tae Kwon Do school in the typical manner. He was one of Master Jung's best students and taught Tae Kwon Do at the YMCA in downtown Des Moines for years before opening his own school in the Wakonda Shopping Center. This is the "traditional" way a martial arts school is started. A student decides to go out on his or her own with the master's blessing. In martial arts, the bond between the student and teacher is very strong, and a student usually maintains the affiliation with his/her former master even after establishing his or her own school.
Two Rivers Martial Arts did not develop in the traditional way. During the early 1990's, Master Heintz began to have health problems. He had an ulcer that eventually ended with the loss of his stomach. During his first absence of several months, the school's black belts taught classes, ran promotion tests, and carried on the day-to-day operations of the school. Mr. Heintz returned, resumed control of the school, and things returned to normal. Then he had a relapse, and the black belts again maintained the school. Finally, in 1995, Mr. Heintz again left the school to his black belts because of his illness and was able to return on only a few occasions. The black belts ran the school from 1995 through July 28, 1998, when the Eric Heintz Black Belt Academy officially closed.
It was a hot Saturday afternoon, July 25, when we held our last meeting as Eric Heintz Black Belt Academy students in the lobby of Master Heintz's school. About a dozen or so black belts showed up. We sat on the floor in the lobby, because all the furniture had been moved out, the electricity had been turned off, and the dojang was dark.
We were trying to decide how we could continue doing Tae Kwon Do in the way we had been taught. Some had already decided to quit and were conspicuous by their absence. One of Master Heintz's senior students was starting his own school in Ankeny. But for many of us, training there was not a viable option. We all had our own reasons.
As we sat there in the dim light from the window, we were starting to realize that the only option we had, if we were to stay together and continue training, was to start our own school. A long discussion took place, and some students expressed an opinion that this idea wasn't going to work. Some instructors were concerned that their students would be left out in the cold if the idea didn't work, and they didn't want to take the chance that we could actually open a school within a short period of time.
At the end of the meeting, someone said they would get together the branch instructors to see what they could come up with and let the rest of us know. We had run the school for Master Heintz for three years, why not our own? Those branch instructors, plus a few others as consultants, became the first Board of Directors, with Ms. Julia Freel as the first business manager.
These students met almost weekly to form a non-profit corporation. Thanks to a generous financial contribution from a senior black belt, we were able to hire an accountant and an attorney, get insurance, and jump through all the bureaucratic hoops to become a legally recognized Tae Kwon Do school (and a non-profit organization). Everyone had an innocent optimism. We weren't sure what we were up against, but we somehow knew we could do it. That feeling seemed to spread to our accountant and lawyer. They worked with us, apparently without concern about when we could pay them in full. That further supported our confidence.
And during this early time, our business manager found places for us to train so
we could continue our traditional Friday night brown and black belt class. We met
in a community center on the east side for a while. We trained in one of the smaller
Central Campus gyms (with no air-conditioning). We held our tests at several locations,
We did all this with Mr. Heintz's and Ms. Bair's blessing and a distinct lack of
support from our superiors, who continued to press for a merging of all former Eric
Heintz Black Belt Academy branches, and who continued to inform us that what we were
attempting was a bad idea and we would certainly fail.
Despite this negativity, we persevered and in a little over a year later, we were able to move into a home of our own, called the Hub. Our students and the parents of students took a gutted-out warehouse-type room and built walls, ceilings, created locker rooms, an office and storage area. We painted, laid carpet, had electrical work done, stained and hung doors, hung pictures, and did whatever needed to be done. Students did almost all of the work themselves. After working their own day jobs, they spent many an evening and weekend devoting their time, energy, and love to this project.
The reason that it's call the Hub, and not the Main School, like when we were with the Eric Heintz Black Belt Academy, is because this location is just a centralized place for all branches to meet. It is no more important, or "main", than any other of our branch schools. Visualize, if you will, an old wagon wheel, and think of how all the spokes feed into a central hub. That's Two Rivers Martial Arts - one hub, many spokes.
It's been more than three years since we sat in that dimly light lobby and said, "Why not" - when everyone else said it won't work. Today Two Rivers Martial Arts is alive and well. We have added four brand new branches - Easter Lake and Weeks Middle School in Des Moines, Monroe Elementary in Monroe, and in Trenton, Missouri. We lost two of our original branches, Norwalk and Meredith, and we were joined briefly by the Methodist branch, which has since left to form it's own school. We now total twelve locations.
We've grown financially, from scrimping by the first year to stability. We have enough income to pay the bills; we have a permanent location; and we've start setting aside funds for scholarships - both for people who can't afford to train in Tae Kwon Do and for our students heading off to college. We've done all this while charging fees that are approximately two-thirds what you'd pay at a typical for-profit martial arts school in Des Moines and other Iowa cities.
Two Rivers Martial Arts is a school run by its students. We are all volunteers. No one is paid to teach or serve on the Board of Directors. We do this so we can continue to practice Tae Kwon Do and to pass on what we've gained to the next generations of martial artists.
Master Eric Heintz (6th dan) and Master Kaye Bair (6th dan) are the master instructors
who trained the primary instructors of Two Rivers Martial Arts. Masters Heintz and
Bair began training in Tae Kwon Do in 1977 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with Grandmaster
Woo Jin Jung (8th Dan).
At the time Master Heintz was an attorney. He trained with Grandmaster Jung for many years and eventually began teaching as well. When his work took him to Ames, Iowa, Master Heintz began teaching Tae Kwon Do at the YWCA in nearby Des Moines. He continued to teach there part-time while working full-time as an attorney for several years. But as his love of Tae Kwon Do grew, his interest in working as an attorney full-time waned.
In 1984 Master Heintz made the big leap and opened the main branch of the Eric Heintz Black Belt Academy in Des Moines, Iowa. Now that Master Heintz is retired, his black belt students carry on his tradition through Two Rivers Martial Arts.
In addition to having owned and operated his own school, Master Heintz has also been a philanthropist. He and the Eric Heintz Black Belt Academy had a strong tie to a local charity called Amanda the Panda. Now that Master Heintz is retired, Two Rivers Martial Arts maintains that strong bond of support. Amanda the Panda is an organization dedicated to helping children and families through the grieving process when a loved one has died. Students and instructors at our academy support Amanda the Panda as volunteers, camp counselors, and with donations of material and money. In addition Master Heintz has organized board breaking marathons to raise funds for the charity on six occasions.
At his first board breaking marathon in 1985, Master Heintz broke 1000 boards in six hours. More importantly, he raised approximately $1800 for Amanda the Panda in the process. Since then he has repeated the feat with 2000, 3000, and 4000 boards. Finally on Saturday August 27, 1994 Master Heintz broke 5000 boards in about eight hours. In 1995 his students took over the board breaking duties for a marathon which featured board breaking by more than 100 different students. In total Master Heintz and his students have raised over $60,000 for Amanda the Panda. The impact of his board breaks has been felt by hundreds of children and their parents who have received help from Amanda the Panda.
Master Kaye Bair (6th Dan) was the highest ranking student and instructor at the Eric Heintz Black Belt Academy and is one of the highest ranking women black belts in the Midwest of the United States. Master Heintz and Master Bair began training together under Grandmaster Jung in 1977.
Master Bair was the primary instructor at the Southeast Polk branch of the Eric Heintz Black Belt Academy for many years. She was also the primary instructor for the Friday night brown and black belt classes from 1995-1997.
Master Bair has been the spiritual leader and senior judge at our academy's Tae Kwon Do tests for the past several years. She continues to be an advisor to the Board of Directors of Two Rivers Martial Arts and performs as a judge at our tests when her schedule permits. Master Bair is currently taking a leave of absence from teaching Tae Kwon Do, but she may choose return at some point in the future.