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Made in the 956: Johnny's Korean Karate School

2 months 3 weeks 6 days ago Tuesday, December 05 2023 Dec 5, 2023 December 05, 2023 2:23 PM December 05, 2023 in News - Local

On Dec. 31, when everyone is ringing in the new year, a karate school in Harlingen will be ringing in another special milestone, 40 years in business. 

Next month they're having a big celebration for the whole community.

Johnny's Korean Karate School is this week's Made in the 956.

"I never wanted to have a school. I just wanted to practice," owner Johnny Gonzalez said.

But Gonzalez would eventually have a school, Johnny's Korean Karate School in Harlingen. 

"Like many people that come in here, I was bullied in elementary school and all the way through my youth. My dad meant well. He said 'no te dejes mijo, fight back' well yeah, but I get beat up when I fight back. I need to do something, right?" Gonzalez said.

He started studying martial arts on his own. He grew up, went to the Air Force, got honorably discharged and that's when his love for it really took off.

"I started in January of 1980...as a student when I came into the door, and I met with my instructor Mr. Reed Hubs who passed away four years later, and that's when I took over the school in 1984," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez would eventually revamp the name and the space to what it is today.

"I saw on the floor just by myself looking at it saying 'What am I going to do first?' and you know, it took off from there. With the help of my students, we cleaned it up, we painted it, and we got to where it is," Gonzalez said.

Lois Leavitt is one of many who walked through these doors years ago with a similar problem that Gonzalez had as a child, her daughter was being bullied.

"I wanted her to defend herself, and we just stumbled across Johnny's Korean Karate when she was just eight years old," Leavitt said.

And it wasn't just her daughter that joined. 

"I got the bug. I love it, and now I'm a fourth degree black belt," Leavitt said.

Now, Leavitt is helping Gonzalez to help others reach their goals. 

"I have to give thanks to my lord God, because I always pray to him before class. I pray all the time to him. To help me out, so he's been a big, big part of my life. Second is I love it. I love this so much. When I come out here, it shows when I teach it. I just love it. There's nothing else I'd rather do," Gonzalez said.

Johnny's Korean Karate School, Made in the 956.

Watch the video above for the full story.

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