New Hope


St. Louis Park



I’m glad you decided to look a little further into our website to better understand what we do here and what you will be experiencing should you decide to train with us.  My name is Vic Marotta and I am the founder of the American Karate Studio.  

I first want to say how fortunate I was to have been in the right place at the right time to experience all the amazing and wonderful things that allowed me to find my place in life.  I am thankful to this day, fifty two years after I began my journey in Tae Kwon Do (Korean karate) for having met my teacher, Mr. Hyon. I listened, observed, practiced and tried my best to learn what he tried to teach me in class and outside of class.

My first school opened in January of 1973 at 4813 Excelsior Blvd in St. Louis Park.  It was the first suburban martial arts school in the Twin Cities area and it was named the Karate Center.  Mr. Hyon owned it and quickly expanded to seven locations in the mid-1970s. I had been teaching clubs and doing some head instructing as far back as 1967 so I was proud to have been named full time head instructor there.   I purchased the school from Mr. Hyon in 1977 and renamed it the American Karate Studio.  In 1982, I opened our second location in Minnetonka at 13110 Excelsior Blvd and it remains there today.  In 1986, we opened our New Hope/Plymouth location  and it serves students from many of the northern suburbs.  

Now, that is what you see but the story leading up to the way things are now is one that would take volumes to describe and there are many great books on the subject of Tae Kwon Do and Korea-all the way back to 37ad.  They are extremely interesting reading, whether you are a martial artist or not.  Suffice to say, present day Korea has been through unbelievable struggles during its entire history and I can tell you they are a tenacious, strong and very proud people.  It   is extremely satisfying to see how well present day South Korea has risen to the top in quality of life and one of the strongest and most economically sound countries in the modern world.

Our Studios, and before that, Mr. Hyon’s Karate Centers were descendants of the Song Moo Kwan.  Kwans are Korean karate schools in Korea.  There were eight major kwans that opened in southern Korea after the Japanese occupation ended with the end of WW II in 1945.  These kwans operated independently of each other but, after much bickering, came together on September 14, 1961 to form the Korea Tae Kwon Do Association at the behest of the Korean government to unify their art.  The name, Tae Kwon Do, was chosen by the leaders of five of the kwans on April 11, 1955 and was chosen because the new name resembled the original Korean martial art of Taekyon from ancient times.

Song Moo Kwan’s founder is Byung-Jick Ro.  He, like many of the early pioneers of Tae Kwon Do, claims to have opened the first martial arts school which would be open to the public. Grand Master Byung-Jick Ro opened that school in an indoor archery range in 1944.  Today, we call that a club but he was openly teaching (all martial arts were banned by the Japanese who occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945) and knew of no one else teaching at the time.  Mr. Ro passed away on September 10, 2015 at the age of ninety-six.  Mr. Hyon was a senior student of Mr. Ro, having received his black belt and all degrees of black belt (there are nine degrees and one leader of each kwan) from Mr. Ro.  Mr. Hyon came to the midwest in 1965 and I met him at the University of Minnesota shortly after he arrived.  I took my first lesson as a white belt in January of 1966 and received my black belt in September of 1968.  I am a first generation American Tae Kwon Do instructor still putting on my uniform everyday and teaching students.  There are only a few other of Mr. Hyon’s students still teaching.

Song Moo Kwan means “everlasting school” and the original symbol is an evergreen tree. You will be a direct descendant of that original school in Korea. We are continuing that tradition of helping people gain confidence thru attaining a skill that is sure to help them every day of their life. Indomitable spirit is now and has always been the main goal.  If you have this, you will have total control of your life.  Other benefits are great exercise and stretching, coordination building, self-defense and of course becoming a better and more confident person.  And it is fun!!  Everyone here has plenty of fun improving and meeting many new friends at the same time.  Our studios are safe, clean and professionally run by highly experienced instructors that came thru the same system.  We take kids as young as four and one half with no upper limit.  We are open six days per week offering classes for beginners, kids, adults and families.  We have significant discounts for family members.  You can start any day.  Please come in or give us a call.  

Thank You, Vic Marotta

History of American Karate Studio