Korean Martial Arts Center Teaches Lifelong Lessons
By .Anne Marie Kristoff
Grand Master Merrill Jung and his instructors provide years of martial arts training for all ages. Here’s the Legacy Business’s story.
Grunts and smacks against protective padding sounds throughout the Korean Martial Arts Center. Grand Master Merrill Jung, the studio’s founder, paces the padded floor while attentively observing that his students are using proper form.
What was once just extracurricular work to give back to the community blossomed into a staple in Ingleside where hundreds of children, youth and adults learn martial arts and the benefits of discipline and focus.
Jung founded KMAC in 1983 with help from his student Andrew Erickson.
“I never wanted to do business,” Jung said. “I figured that the business will hurt what I'm trying to do, my love, my sport, my martial arts but Andrew convinced me.”
His studio offers a wide range of Korean martial art styles such as taekwondo, hapkido and yongmudo along with judo, tai chi and Filipino stick fighting. KMAC offers group classes Monday through Saturday for all ages, even children as young as four years old. They also offer private lessons.
“I’m just a child at heart,” Jung said, noting how it keeps him motivated. “I like working with people. I’m a people person.”
Finding His Center
Prior to opening his studio, Jung taught around San Francisco at clubs and recreation centers such as the Embarcadero YMCA. His teaching style evolved over the years as he learned from other teachers, picking and choosing what felt was right for him to incorporate into his pedagogy.
After retiring from the San Mateo Probation Department, operating the studio is now the 72-year-old’s sole focus.
Over the decades, KMAC received significant recognition for its dedication to the neighborhood and the wider community. In 2006, Mayor Gavin Newsom gave them a certificate of honor and a proclamation award. In 2020, KMAC was added to the register of San Francisco Legacy Businesses.
“These such accomplishments that we never knew we were capable of doing took us to the next level by having our own school,” Jung said.
That KMAC is a family-owned business keeps June motivated. His nephew, Thomas Mar, helped to manage the studio. His son, Sonny Jung, and daughter, Sandy Lee, help out when they can and have expressed interest in taking over the studio when the time comes. Family members visit often.
“There's more to it than just myself. That's an opportunity to rally around my family,” Jung said.
All Are Welcome
Several instructors work alongside Jung at the studio.
Grand Master Larry Dorsey, who mainly teaches children's martial arts, believes that people join this sport when it is their time and those who have left will find their way back to it much like he had over the years. The key concept to this sport is peace before fighting, he said.
“It's just an outstanding, wonderful environment for kids,” Dorsey said. “I love to watch them grow and become whatever they decide they want to become. I think it starts right here at the school and on this map because it instills confidence, perseverance, patience, everything that is needed today and especially in today's environment.”
Regardless of who you are, what you do or your fitness level, Jung wants it to be known that KMAC is available and that all are welcome.
“I also want to emphasize too, we're not really a ‘business,’” Jung said. “We're more of a club. We're not out to make a million dollars a year. Anybody that’s interested is welcome and if they're not interested, just come by and say hello and meet a friend.”
Korean Martial Arts Center
Address: 1414 Ocean Ave. Phone: (415) 333-1050 Hours: Monday to Friday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 p.m. to 1 p.m. Website: www.kmaclife.com