Karate, MMA school combines discipline with God’s teachings

Published 5:28 pm Friday, April 3, 2015


White belt Lauren Reinertsen practices her roundhouse kicks as Master Walter Lang takes the blow in the mat he is holding. — Powell Cobb

Walter Lang stood in front of eight young students, a black belt tied around his waist with seven yellow marks on it, signifying a high level of martial arts mastery.

His voice was gentle, calm. He greeted them and welcomed them to that day’s GOJU karate class. Minutes later, the students’ brows and uniforms were wet with sweat as he exercised them, trained their speed and taught them the fundamentals of karate.

Just another Thursday at the GOJU Karate and MMA Fitness Center on Florida Street in Bainbridge.

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Lang’s class combines discipline, exercise and responsibility; all while tying things back to God.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the man upstairs,” Lang said. “It’s all about those God principles, which is pretty much our motto. You train up a kid in the way he should go, and he won’t depart from you. We try to instill those types of values and morals in our kids. It’s not all about punching and kicking. It’s about self-control and respect for authority.”

Many of the kids Lang instructs on Tuesdays and Thursdays take some sort of medication for ADD and ADHD.Others are “special,” as Lang prefers to call them.

They’re all welcome, and Lang finds his reward in helping his students control themselves in the dojo, at home and at school.

“I think the reward is when the parents come and tell me they took their kid off medication or I’m walking somewhere and they say, ‘There goes the karate teacher’,” Lang said. “I’m not getting the dollars, but I’m getting that reward.”

The class is $35 per month, all of which goes into keeping the building rented and providing space for training. The space they have now, however, is much bigger than in previous years.

Lang grew up in New Jersey. He came to Bainbridge to be with his mother during her heart surgery. While here, he couldn’t find work.

Lang decided to take his love for karate and do something with it. His garage became a dojo, and he began hosting private martial arts lessons. It was popular, and Lang thought he could grow it bigger. In 2005, he moved it the old K-Mart building on Shotwell Street and rented out a small part of the building.

During basketball games at the YMCA, he handed out fliers to parents trying to get more kids to join. More kids joined, but they quickly left. Lang found his marine background and traditional teaching methods weren’t working for the Bainbridge youth.

“I went to a seminar and the professor there said some kids want to learn karate, and some kids want to play karate,” Lang said. “You have to cater to them both. Basically, that’s what I did.”

These days, Lang has a steady class of around 20 students meeting Tuesdays and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Afterwards, instructor Shaun Darley holds a Mixed Martial Arts class, where he teaches around 10 kids.

Darley and his students practice grappling and combining other styles of fighting into a fluid form. His group’s team name is “Team Resurrection,” and Darley plans for his students to attend MMA tournaments in the near future with other MMA schools in the area.

“We are united as one competitive MMA team under one curriculum,” Darley said.