Justin Hagen - Inspired to Teach
Justin Hagen - Inspired to Teach Martial Arts Journey
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Martial arts has been a huge part of my life since the age of 5 years old. In the early 90's my parents declared bankruptcy, and we had to move from Sparta, NJ, back to the Jersey Shore where my parents were originally from, staying with my grandparents for a brief while before moving to Point Pleasant, NJ.
Still seeing my grandparents quite often and staying over there occasionally, I would watch boxing with my grandpa late at night and play box with him, sparking a deep interest in fighting. I liked fighting so much that I had no interest in any other sports or activities, and in March of 1994 my parents signed me up at A. Kastner's Family Taekwondo in Brielle, NJ.
From then on, I spent most of my childhood at the Dojang (TKD studio) not only because I loved it, but also because my sister did dance next door.
Furthermore, my mom opened an art gallery in the same complex as the Taekwondo studio as well as taught art lessons in the upstairs part of Taekwondo. Actively competing for years and ultimately receiving my 2nd Dan in 2002 in Taekwondo, in high school I decided to branch out into other martial arts styles and began practicing Isshin-Ryu Karate at J.H. Karate Institute in Wall, NJ. Continuing to be an active competitor and staying dedicated to martial arts, I received another 2nd Dan in 2007 in Isshin-Ryu.
All throughout my childhood I had dreamt of becoming a martial arts instructor. However, after many talks with my Shihan, I was warned that it was not a promising career, and that he only broke even with his rent and needed a different job outside of teaching in order to make a living.
Disheartened by this news, in 2007, I went off to college to the University of Rhode Island (URI) where I studied History and minored in Philosophy, but still had no career in mind. While studying history and philosophy at URI, I continued to pursue martial arts and took boxing, which was offered as club sport by the school in 2007 and continued until the program was discontinued in 2009. Also during this time, I practiced Muay Thai at Borelli MMA in South Kingston, RI, from 2007 to 2008.
For the next 2 years, I focused on my studies and took my longest break from martial arts until graduating in 2011. That summer, I resumed boxing once again, this time at the Asbury Park, NJ, Police Athletic League, under Coach Carl Simms. That fall, I moved to Pennsylvania and with no career goal in sight, I decided to work security for the time being. Through the years, I continued to stay in touch with Coach Simms and boxed on and off until April of 2014, ultimately having participated in 3 amateur fights, including the 2014 Philadelphia Golden Gloves.
After working full time in security for 3 years, I was approached by a friend about a non-profit organization called KidSafe that was primarily located in NJ, but looking to expand to PA to help bring affordable martial arts to children in lower socioeconomic areas. I began teaching in Fleetwood, PA, traveling an hour and a half from my home in Hatfield, PA, all the while still working my day job of security and attempting to pursue a full contact fighting career, which I will touch upon more in a little while. I continued to teach in Fleetwood until the program was moved to Norristown, PA, which was much closer to my home and continued to teach there until, due to lack of attendance, the program was discontinued in 2015.
Luckily, however, that same year I was approached my Master Robert Fox of United Sports Taekwondo who was seeking to find an instructor for his second location at BucksMont Taekwondo, located in Hatfield literally half a mile from my home. Starting with teaching twice a week, my love for teaching grew along with opportunity and I would go on to teach 6 days a week Monday-Friday evening and Saturday mornings at both his locations. While extremely happy to be teaching more, it was due to a series of injuries that I had to give up my other passion of becoming a professional fighter.
As mentioned previously, in 2014, I began pursuing full contact fighting career and became a sparring partner for professional and amateur MMA & Muay Thai fighters at the American Top Team gym Hammer Fitness in Allentown, PA, from December 2014 until April 2016. Also during this time, I pursued full contact karate and participated in the 2015 USA Philadelphia Open taking first place in the Kyokushin middle weight division.
An accumulation of head injuries, however, from my boxing days were soon exasperated when I suffered a succession of concussions in training within a very short time frame. Not realizing I had concussions, I was not resting properly, believing I only had a headache and not thinking much of it.
Ultimately this ended with a final blow of receiving an ax kick to the head in an exhibition TKD match in June of 2016 that sent me into a downward spiral so sever I could not even lift weights or hit a heavy bag until 6 months ago without becoming dizzy and disorientated and was told by doctors that I can no longer afford to take repeated blows to the head again.
Now having recovered, I am focusing on teaching and competing in less arduous martial arts competitions such as non-head contact Kyokushin matches, point fighting competitions and board breaking. Not only that, my teaching martial arts over the years has sparked in me a love for teaching as a whole and has influenced me to go back to school to become a teacher where I am now currently finishing up my Masters in Education at DeSales University.
I continue to teach Taekwondo 6 days a week, work security part time to pay for school as well as substitute teach for the local North Penn district while at the same time continuing my martial arts training in both Taekwondo and Kyokushin. On top of that, I am working closely with 4th Dan Sensei Roman Herman of the WKO Shinkyokushinkai Organization to build a business with the ultimate goal of spreading Kyokushin to the Philadelphia area.
From the very beginning, martial arts was a passion that would go on to shape my entire life and send me on a career path towards teaching. Martial arts is a lifestyle in itself through its instilling of morals, discipline and focus. I continue to lead a healthy life through training and seek to implement what I have learned through staying disciplined and focused on my goals while at the same time being courteous and respectful to everyone; such ideals I seek to pass on to my students. My passion for martial arts is very deep rooted, and I look forward to sharing this passion with my students everytime I teach so that they too can enjoy it as much as I do and live happy, healthy lives.
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Hatfield PA 19440
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