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Buford business teaches self-confidence

Gwinnett business has changed over the past decade. Major companies employing hundreds of workers have moved to the county. But Gwinnett is also known for the success of its small businesses. So, every Sunday, the Post will profile the small businesses that have helped Gwinnett thrive. Interested in a business profile? E-mail Christy Smith at c15smith@yahoo.com

Choi Kwang-Do, Buford

Christy Smith

Staff Correspondent

OWNERS: Husband and wife team of Charles and Jennifer Gettig

LOCATION: 27 East Main St. in Buford

WEB SITE: www.bufordckd.com

PHONE: 770-271-8822

WHAT THEY DO: Choi Kwang Do martial arts training

EMPLOYEES: 23 instructors

FOUNDED: 1996

Ten-year-old Charles Gettig got hooked on martial arts the same way most guys did in the mid-1980s - he saw "The Karate Kid." The movie inspired him to devote the next decade to martial arts training, moving up to black belt classification. That's when he dedicated his studies to Choi Kwang-Do, a newer martial art established in 1987.

Choi Kwang-Do was developed by Grandmaster Kwang Jo Choi using biomechanical studies. Because the movements are fluid, with the body weight moving in one direction, Choi Kwang-Do movements place little stress on the joints. The discipline incorporates yoga-based stretches and cardiovascular moves that warm the body and build muscles.

Gettig opened Choi Kwang-Do Buford while studying toward a business degree at Gwinnett Technical College and working part time for UPS.

"My instructor, Master Pit, encouraged me to follow my dreams," Gettig said. "I held classes part time in a dance studio, built up a following and had to find a new place. That's when we moved to Main Street."

Gettig financed Choi Kwang-Do Buford with his own funds. He was single, studio rent was fairly inexpensive, and he had a good part-time job. To progress to higher levels of achievement, Choi Kwang-Do students must teach others as part of their training. That means Gettig didn't have to pay his instructors, saving even more.

"My business training at Gwinnett Tech helped a lot, too," Gettig said. "I do my own books and handle finances."

Choi Kwang-Do Buford first made a profit in 1998. About that time, Gettig quit his part-time job and added day care, after-school care and summer camps. Those services helped see the business through slow economic times. Choi Kwang-Do Buford is on track to profit this year.

"The more profit you make, the more you have to spend," Gettig said. "You need more equipment because you have more students. When we started the day camps, I had to buy a 15-passenger van to transport the kids on day trips."

RISK: "Leaving UPS was scary," Gettig said. "When I opened Choi Kwang-Do Buford, I was fresh out of college and real gung ho. But you have to take a risk to achieve anything."

REWARDS: "I've seen it change kids' lives," Gettig said. "Choi Kwang-Do teaches self-confidence, manners and gives kids positive role models. We had a student who was deaf. He is now a first-degree black belt. For kids with autism, Asperger's syndrome, ADD or ADHD, martial arts training helps them to focus."