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Sometimes at Two Rivers, you may hear the blackbelts refer to a Tae Kwon Do master you've never met, and you don't know, Master Eric Heintz. Funny enough, he rarely had the opportunity himself to train with Two Rivers students, or even set foot into our dojang. Yet, Master Heintz's presence is strongly felt in all of us, as it is his example, both of training and character, that are the foundation of our school.
Master Heintz formed Eric Heintz Blackbelt Academy, leaving a successful legal career to focus on his passion for training in and teaching Tae Kwon Do. He, along with his wife Master Kaye Bair, grew the school. When illness forced Master Heintz to close his academy, a group of his senior blackbelts formed Two Rivers Martial Arts as a non-profit school, so they could continue teaching his style and philosophies.
I started training under Master Heintz in 1993. I was a 19-year old kid, looking to bolster my self confidence and wanting to find a place to make me tough enough to take on the adult world I was facing. In Master Heintz, I experienced this man who was strong and intense, and yet empathetic and caring. By the extraordinary example of his character and by pushing me harder physically than I'd ever known before I began to see in myself some of the qualities he exemplified. Here are a few stand out qualities I remember about him and that still inspire me, and many others at Two Rivers today.
Speak loudly without saying a word. Master Heintz had an uncanny ability to express his intent through simply gazing at you. Most often you knew exactly what he was thinking simply by his look, whether he was complimentary or occasionally disapproving.
Tae Kwon Do is about people. Master Heintz was always interested in how you were doing both inside and outside the dojang. He truly cared about the people he surrounded himself with and always was gracious with his time. I can remember many occasions where I would come in to class early and stay after class late working on all sorts of things, no doubt keeping him from attending to other personal things. Yet, he would patiently work with me until finally gently reminding me that "he needs to go". When I went to college and would come back to class on breaks from school, he would ask me how school was and how I was faring. His caring is what created a family atmosphere at the school and what we have carried over to Two Rivers. Viewing our Tae Kwon Do school as one large extended family is very unique among martial arts schools and one of the reasons why we have a large number of very senior black belts that continue to be involved with the school to this day.
Strength is not about size. Master Heintz had a very powerful presence while quiet in persona. Although not large in stature, he was physically strong and when necessary very intense. You need only to work with him for brief period of time to appreciate the intensity he possessed. There were many Friday night classes where we would be packed into the dojang and immediately when the lights were turned off, a hush fell over the students all you could hear were his quiet steps while he was making his way to the front of the dojang. You could feel his presence; he commanded respect and rightly so. His physicality was legendary: leading twelve-plus hours long Tae Kwon Do classes, breaking thousands of board non-stop for charity, breaking boards blindfolded, competing in grueling tournament circuits. He practiced taekwondo with incredible passion and intensity and he demanded the same from his students.
Believe in every individual's potential. Master Heintz never turned a student away from his school; he always encouraged people to train. He believed in the potential that we all possess and strived to bring out the best in people regardless of their physical abilities, home life, or financial status. He was always willing to teach anyone, all they had to do was bring an open mind. I will never forget hearing him say that he always expected 100 percent out of everyone but that it's 100 percent of their ability. This was his way of acknowledging that everyone has different ability levels but can always be their own best. This is the training philosophy I live to today and hold my students to.
Give to others. Master Heintz was passionate about giving to causes higher than the individual. Every year, he collected Toys for Tots at all of our branches so that children could have a happy Christmas. Amanda the Panda was an especially important organization to him and he was committed to their mission of helping ease the grief of youth struggling with the loss of a loved one. He organized many fundraising activities that provided monetary assistance to Amanda the Panda. In fact, my first Tae Kwon Do demonstration was for Amanda the Panda when I was a yellow belt. I was scared to death but figured I must be okay if Master Heintz invited me to be there. We carry forward Master Heintz's commitment to give back at Two Rivers, often donating profits to good causes or hosting food drives and other fundraisers.
While I can't speak for every student of Master Heintz, I know that my sadness at losing him is eased by the lessons and qualities he shared with all of us. His legacy is reflected in many of our daily lives and Tae Kwon Do practice, and in the core philosophies and practices of Two Rivers Martial Arts itself. I am proud to continue the traditions that he started and pass his legacy on.
You will not be forgotten Master Heintz.
Master Bryan Siever
Master Samuelson began training with Master Heintz in the early 1980s, earned his black belt in 1988, and was the Indianola branch instructor for the Eric Heintz Black Belt Academy. He was one of the founders of Two Rivers Martial Arts, and earned his 6th Dan in April 2008. He was the primary instructor for the Indianola Branch, was a former President, and former Vice-President of the TRMA Board of Directors.
Mr. Richard Miles began his Tae Kwon Do training in 1996 with Master Eric Heintz, earned his black belt with Two Rivers in 1999, and became one of the Central Campus Branch instructors. He enlisted in the Army after 9/11 and served in Iraq. After the Army, he resumed training with Two Rivers, earned his permanent 1st dan rank in 2006, and served as the Carlisle Branch instructor.