Sometimes opportunity is born out of trial. Tobin’s Elite is one of those opportunities. Mike Tobin had worked on his skill as a martial artist and a sensei since he was four years old. The studio he had worked for the last 13 years suddenly closed and went out of business, leaving everyone without a place to practice and train. With the support of the families of the students, they were able to quickly scramble and reopen the dojo within 48 hours. Mike remembers it being difficult but worth it to get everything put together. He praises the families as being a huge help that made everything possible. 

Quickly getting into gear was crucial because the students of their school were fans of competition and had been preparing for the World Championships leading up to the closure. Mike and his team decided to continue to prepare and compete at the tournament with the new studio. This meant that they had to get a new logo and new uniforms as quickly as possible. 

Coming in as a new school, they were complete underdogs. No one at the NBL competition believed a new school could pull things together and compete. Fortunately for Tobin’s Elite School of Martial Arts, they were wrong. In 2015 they were named the #1 school in the world for martial arts training and have retained that title for three years running. 

When asking Mike what their secret sauce is, he is quick to give credit to his students. He says the students help teach each other. They show up most days at 3 in the afternoon and many of them are there until 9 at night both training and teaching others. 

When I was at the studio recently, there was a young man who was about 12 years old. He was practicing some amazing moves. Mike pointed out that this young man is a world champion in his own right and has a following at the studio. Some of the younger kids around five and six years old followed him around and watched his every move. The great part is that he is willing to stop and talk to the kids and teach them. What a great role model at only 12 years old!

Many of the kids who attend classes start for self-defense. They are often the victim of bullying at school and want a way to defend themselves. However, once they are involved in classes they start to learn true self-worth and leadership. They work hard, thrive in the challenge, and Mike really appreciates when kids come back after a particularly difficult training session. Mike knows that his students must learn self-respect in order to learn true respect. He teaches them that self-respect is more valuable than any number of likes on Instagram. He also teaches them the skill of finishing. He says he too often sees that kids are not able finish what they start. He says the key is to not give up on the kids and teach them how to work through problems and challenges.

The team has a saying that they live by: “This is family: It is not the name, it’s the people. This is a team!” That is the key to their success. Even though Mike’s actual family are involved in the business—his wife Nikki, his father Bill and his brother Bill are instructors—each team member becomes family when they are part of the team. 

If you have ever thought about trying martial arts, the studio has an awesome summer offering: $149 for the whole summer, which is a great way to dip your toe into the water and try out the program. He has students that range from 3 to 65 years old and at every level of skill. Though it can be a bit intimidating when a person first steps on the mat, they quickly learn the skills they need.