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Meet Michael Harner of Yongsa Martial Arts in Smyrna

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Harner.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Michael. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
For most of my life I worked in very physically active jobs – from the Marine Corps to the restaurant industry and even running my own mobile bartending business – but I eventually found myself stuck at a desk. I was bored and starting gaining weight, so I decided to get back into martial arts. Then one day my dad (also a fellow martial artist) came to me with the idea of opening our own school. I was more than ready to “kick” off a business doing something I loved!

Opening a business and being a martial artist have a lot in common. No matter how much you hope for things to happen, they won’t unless you put in the work. Becoming a black belt, just like becoming a successful business owner, doesn’t happen on its own. We put in a lot of planning and effort into getting our school open, and even though our earlier plans didn’t pan out as expected, it actually worked out for the better. Our school opened in Smyrna, where I actually attended high school, a little over three years ago, so in a way it felt a little like coming home. I love the community here and we aim to be a part of that community, not just a business located in it.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Oh, absolutely not! I think some of the allure of being an entrepreneur is overcoming the challenges along the way, though. We had a really tough time, in the beginning, finding a location that met our needs, and even when we did find a spot, the build-out was pretty extensive. We converted a space that was previously a bakery, so there was a lot of demolition that needed to be done. It took twice as long, and cost twice as much, as we originally anticipated.

It also took a lot of effort to establish our reputation within the community. We teach a lot of children, so parents need to trust that we are qualified to train their kids and legitimately concerned with their well-being. We are very community-oriented and volunteer our time for bully prevention, safety, fundraising, and community service.

Lastly, I was leaving a pretty secure job that paid well and provided benefits to build a business from the ground up. It was a pretty big leap of faith and I could have never done it without the support of my wife. But, I truly believe in what we are doing and the reward of helping students grow and develop has far outweighed the risk.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Yongsa Martial Arts – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Our business is Yongsa Martial Arts. The name means “warrior,” and that’s what we build; people ready to go out and face the world and work for what they want. Nothing is ever given here, only earned. Our motto is “Enriching others through the practice of martial arts.” We aim to meet that mission every day.

Our most popular program is Taekwondo. Its a great martial art for kids as well as adults. Not only do our students learn self-defense and life skills, but Taekwondo is also a sport, so we compete a lot. Our other program is a proprietary form of self-defense called Combat Martial Arts. It is based on the program taught to Marines and we work towards making total “warriors.” Our students learn hand-to-hand combat – including strikes, throws, and ground fighting – as well as weapons training and even some marksmanship. It is designed to teach people to “improvise, adapt, and overcome.”

As a company, we are most proud of how far our students have come. Their abilities and successes reflect on us directly. We often say, “our students are our product.” I also think this is what sets us apart from other martial arts schools. We aren’t just concerned with making money, we’re concerned with making awesome, dedicated students. We don’t charge any belt testing fees (which is very common in the industry) and we don’t require contracts. We want our students to earn their belts, not pay for them.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
As martial arts instructors, we don’t just teach. We are students ourselves, so we are always training and learning new things. Everything we learn, we use to improve our instruction. We will always to continue to develop and improve our current programs, but we have a few other things we plan to introduce.

Lately, we have been making a big push to get more students involved in Creative and Xtreme martial arts. Our kids are starting to learn really cool weapons tricks and gymnastics moves to put on an awesome martial arts presentation. We have even recently earned a few state and district championships in those events. One of our future plans is to create a demonstration team to help us showcase our students’ abilities.

We also are looking into starting a full-scale after-school program in the next year. Students can be picked up from the local schools and brought to our business to train and even work on their school work.


  • Tuition is $125 per month
  • Hero Discount (i.g. military, law enforcement, firefighters, teachers)

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  1. Jason Lee

    November 15, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    This is a great article about an amazing person and a fantastic business.

  2. Carolyn Sherman

    January 25, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing this interesting history of Yongsa’s voyage. Our family is so thankful to be a part of the Yongsa Family and to have you instruct our children in life lessons as well as the art of Taekwondo. You are a Master Teacher!

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