Kato Karate  - teaching kids Life Skills disguised as Martial Arts training

Kato Karate  – teaching kids Life Skills disguised as Martial Arts training

Kato Karate started in 2016 in Mankato Minnesota. A small town in Southern Minnesota with about 50,000 people.   Kato Karate focuses on teaching kids Life Skills disguised as Martial Arts training to help Children improve their Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Social stages of development. Kato Karate works with children from ages 5 and up. Kato Karate runs Group kids’ classes, Online Classes, and does personal to small group classes as well.

Kato Karate also has a Licensed Clinical Social Worker on staff to help teach parents how to be more attuned, patient, and consistent as a parent. These are the same tools that I and my Instructors use as well to work with children of different abilities. 

Founders Story:

My name is Tim Flynn aka Karate Tim, Founder of Kato Karate, started Martial Arts back in 1994 and now hold the rank of 6th Degree Black Belt. I always wanted to do Martial Arts since I was 5yrs old when the Karate Kid Movie came out. I was bullied as a child from 2nd grade to 12th grade and always could relate to the character, Daniel, in the Karate Kid Movies.Kato Karate

My family was poor, we received government assistance, and I remember when the first time I was picked on was when my family received a box of clothes for my brothers and me to wear. I was thrilled to have new clothes (new to me) and wore a shirt to school that happened to belong to a classmate of mine that his parents donated to my family. 

That classmate told everyone that I was wearing his old shirts and that my parents are poor. The bullying started and my confidence dropped.

Throughout High School I was bullied, I was a shy kid, wore used clothing, had zero confidence, and only had a few friends. The bullying slowed down when I started Martial Arts. I found something that I was good at. Yes, I had kids still pick on me, but I had friends at my Karate School and that’s all that mattered to me. 

After I graduated High School, all my jobs involved working with people. I was a Nurse’s Aide for about 7yrs, Personal Trainer for 4yrs, and before I started Kato Karate, I was an Endoscopy Technician for 5yrs at Mayo Clinic in Mankato MN. I’ve worked with people of all ages and Martial Arts was always a passion of mine I wanted to help kids specifically that struggled with confidence and bullying issues. 

Kato Karate opened on September 1st, 2016, and was run out of a Catholic School that was no longer in use and had a lot of empty spaces. The classroom I was able to use was only 575 sq ft.  I opened Kato Karate with $3,000 and kept my overhead expenses low to grow the business. Classes were only 3x a week as I still worked full-time for Mayo Clinic as an Endoscopy Technician. 

As the classes started to grow, I enjoyed teaching kids more than saving lives at the hospital. I decided to take a risk and set a date to leave my Full-time position and focus on Kato Karate Full-time.  I decided to go into a commercial space with only 35 students.  The new space was 1200sq ft and 3x the cost of my current rent.  For the next few years, the business started to grow, and then the Pandemic hit, and the Business to a turn for the worse. Kato Karate was close to 100 students and lost 65 students in just 8 weeks. I used this as a Business Reset and changed all my systems and I regrew my business back in 12 weeks in the summer of 2020.

In the fall of 2020, I was having rapid growth again and I needed a larger space to keep up with the demand and the social distancing guidelines that were now put in place. I moved to a larger and still my current space that is a little over 2,000 sq ft.

Today’s Challenges and Opportunities.: Kato Karate survived the COVID pandemic, but the new challenge today is the rising costs of living brought on by Inflation.  With higher costs of living, parents are looking for ways to cut out non-necessity items and activities. Martial Arts is one of them. What Kato Karate does to combat this is to have affordable and multiple options for children to train that will still fit the budget of parents. We also must provide much more than Kicking and Punching. Parents want to see results and their child’s training to have meaning.  Therefore, we focus on the student and not the Martial Art itself. 

With every challenge, a new opportunity presents itself. Recently, Kato Karate has teamed up with Celebrity Trainer, Eric the Trainer in Hollywood, and other celebrities to bring our business to a more nationwide reach with a new online program called Kato Karate Online. Kato Karate Online is a 30min program held 4x a week, Monday through Thursday from 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm CST, focusing on different Life Skills each week and has Monthly Celebrity guests to come on and talk to students about what it took them to achieve the goals that put them where they are at today.

With the rising costs of living, Kato Karate Online provides a price point that can fit into every budget and help parents that don’t want to lose the benefits of our program to have a cheaper option so their children can still learn valuable life skills and fun martial arts techniques. 

My Advice to Others: If you’re just starting out a business for the 1st time, talk to people in that field 1st and ask questions. Know your price and area so you don’t undercharge yourself and not overcharge. Also, don’t be the cheapest person out there. When I started Kato Karate, we were the cheapest in my area, it didn’t help me grow my school. People questioned why I was so much lower than my competitors. I raised my rates to be more competitive with the national average of Martial Arts schools and it made a huge difference. 

Next, offer something that your competitors cannot offer. As a Martial Arts business in my area, we all teach the same front kick and down block, but none of them focus on Life Skills. They all focus on the “Martial Art” itself. To join my school, a student must go through a 40min 1-1 evaluation process to make sure that our program is the right fit and I can meet the parent’s expectations. This also gives us baseline information on the student’s current stage of development. This information is important to us when a parent wants to know if their child is making progress. 

Lastly, stay educated, attend seminars, and network with other people in your field to know what is working, and changing, and learn different ideas on how to do something that would make your job easier!






Charlotte Cremers
Latest posts by Charlotte Cremers (see all)

MS, University of Tartu
Sleep specialist

Using the acquired academic and professional experience, I advise patients with various complaints about mental health - depressed mood, nervousness, lack of energy and interest, sleep disorders, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and anxieties, difficulty concentrating, and stress. In my free time, I love to paint and go on long walks on the beach. One of my latest obsessions is sudoku – a wonderful activity to calm an unease mind.

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