Emily Harman has owned HiYa! Karate Martial Arts and Fitness Center in Mount Airy with her husband, Jay, for nearly two years. The couple has worked to make the dojo an inviting place where the community can feel safe learning the sport for self-defense or personal growth.
Emily, 44, was inspired to learn martial arts about a decade ago after Jay, 49, and their daughter, Julia, started practicing the sport.
She recently was awarded Tang Soo Do Instructor of the Year and was inducted into the United States Martial Artist Association Hall of Fame headquartered in Palm Coast, Florida, for her efforts as an instructor in Mount Airy. Tang Soo Do is an ancient form of Korean martial arts.
Those inducted must have practiced martial arts for a minimum of one year and advanced beyond the beginner level, according to the USMAA website.
Harman said it is special to be honored for her work.
“It just shows that the hard work is paying off and that [I’m] recognized for the contribution I’m making to not only the community, but to the sport,” she said.
HiYa! Karate was established in 2008, and about two years ago, the Harman family took on ownership. Having spent so much time at the dojo, the Harmans wanted to carry on its work in the community.
“I saw the things [the dojo] did for the children, what it represented and how it would give back to the community and I wanted to see it continue,” Jay said.
The dojo offers martial arts classes to children as young as 3, to adults and to individuals with special needs. The program teaches students how to avoid and deal with dangerous situations while remaining as safe as possible.
Julia Harman, 14, Emily and Jay’s daughter, started taking classes at HiYa! Karate when she was 7 years old. Now she is a black belt and striped black belt student in Tang Soo Do, the highest level in the sport’s belt system, and is also an instructor in the sport, teaching classes to children ages 3-13.
Julia recently traveled to Las Vegas where she competed against 3,293 Taekwondo athletes from across the country and earned a gold medal in her point sparring division.
Her success earned her a national Taekwondo championship by virtue of earning the first-place gold medal in a single elimination competition for 12- to 32-year-old black belts. The win earned her a spot on the Amateur Athletic Union National Point Sparring Team, allowing her to compete around the country.
It was the first time Julia was able to compete since the pandemic shutdowns, and she said it was meaningful for her.
“To me, it was special because I got to go and prove to myself that not only I still had it, but that I could do it no matter what, even after COVID,” she said.
The Harmans aren’t the only martial arts experts achieving success beyond HiYa! Karate’s walls.
Jordyn Dodson, 15, of Mount Airy, started taking classes at HiYa! Karate when she was 4 years old.
Now a black belt student and teacher to children ages 3-13, Jordyn recently traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina, to compete in the AAU Junior Olympic Games. There she won a gold medal in her board breaking division and went on to be named the 2022 AAU Junior Olympics Female Board Breaking Grand Champion.
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Jordyn said she was proud to be able to lead her team during the tournament.
“Our team was very young this year, so to be a leader on that team and have those kids look up to me, not only being there as an athlete this season, but being a coach too, it meant the world to me,” she said.
Max McCulley, 10, of Mount Airy, started taking classes at HiYa! Karate about a year ago. Now a green belt, he also competed in the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Greensboro.
Max said young people should learn martial arts because it teaches them discipline and self-defense.
“[Kids] can defend themselves against a kidnapper and also ... they can have self-control,” he said.