Tennessee Move

In 2010 after decades of working with several large organizations and operating many academies in the United States and overseas, KwanJangNim Spillmann decided it was time to move to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren and just operate a smaller academy. So the wheels were set in motion. As his wife also wanted to be closer to her parents, the natural transition was to move their family to Gallatin, Tennessee to be closer to relatives, spend more time with the family and to live with his family in a closer-knit community. They both also wanted to focus on Taekwondo/ Hapkido union activities, giving more time to their community and their continued educational and writing goals. This is what brought the Spillmann family to the wonderful Sumner County Area.

KwanJangNim Spillmann’s family opened the Gallatin academy in 2011 to focus on all students as a closer-knit family and push them to become the best they can be. That is why the academy limits the number of students who can join. This way the school instructors can focus on the students and give them excellent training and teach them true martial arts while developing stronger students.

The Gallatin Martial Arts School under the tutelage of KwanJangNim Spillmann will be operated by his sons, Master Andrew Davis Spillmann, a 4th Degree Black Belt and assisted by Master Kurt Spillmann 4th Degree Black Belt, Sabumnim Joanne Spillmann a 4th Degree Black Belt, his daughter, Instructor Anastasia Spillmann, a 3rd Degree Black Belt.

Family History – Early Years

The Spillmann family from Austria dates back centuries. KwanJangnim Spillmann’s grandfather was a famous paleontologist (Click Here) who named many species and helped to open many museums during the 1930s-1970s. His father was a architect who worked on many high-rise buildings in New York City and other big cities in the United States and throughout the world.

As the son of immigrants, they were very strict and tough at times. KwanJangNim Spillmann was at times a difficult child and needed discipline and focus, so his parents started him in Judo and Korean Karate at the local YMCA in New Jersey in 1960’s at the age of four. Learning the martial arts helped him focus and redirect his energy.

Because of his family’s work, vacations and KwanJangNim Spillmann’s seminar travels, he has visited many countries and practiced several martial arts overseas (Peru, Brazil, Spain, Austria, England, Ecuador, Chile, Korea, Puerto Rico, Panama). At the age of 6, his family was on summer vacation in South America. KwangJangNim Spillmann almost died while playing on an 8 foot wall. He fell, hitting his head which caused his brain to shift developing slight memory loss and future speech impediment issues. In elementary school in NJ, the parochial teachers did not treat him well because of his speech impediment and focus problems. They paddled him often and ridiculed him in front of the other kids, even one time bashing his head on the chalkboard calling him stupid.

The teachers asked his mother to assist in teaching him at home, but at the time, his mother being Peruvian was still learning English and it was tough on her. KwanJangnim as a child spoke little english and he had no one to talk with him at school. He was bullied at times because of his speech issues but he tried to keep positive even under hard times. The inner happiness he felt was from martial arts movies and his TaeKwonDo classes. After speech therapy and several caring teachers, he moved forward academically and his speech issues improved.

Living In Peru – The Coup D’etat

Things where tough economically in the 1970’s and his father, an architect searching for work and a better life, decided to move the family from New Jersey to Peru for his new job. His parents then enrolled KwanJangNim Spillmann in Markham College, a British boys academy, causing issues, a culture clash and further punishments for fighting back against the school bullies. As an American child in South America, the teasing in the neighborhood grew so bad that a group of boys playing with fire, as a bad joke, set his hair ablaze causing singed hair. No matter how hard things seemed, he always found peace of mind by training in martial arts and other sports.

Due to serious political socialist turmoil in Peru, the Spillmann family hopped on a plane and moved back to New Jersey. Upon landing in New York, the weather was so cold and his family did not have any winter clothes, a home or a car or much money in their pockets. KwanJangNim Spillmann remembers standing there with his family feeling anxious over what would be next. It was so cold and they had no place to go. At the last minute, his mother told his father make some calls and a friend offered his father a job in Florida. That evening, they boarded a plane and flew to Jacksonville, Florida. They eventually ended up in Daytona Beach, Florida in the 1970’s where they stayed many months in a hotel while his father commuted. His parents enrolled KwangJangNim Spillmann and his brothers at a private school, and he continued his training in Martial arts while playing tennis, baseball and football.

Building Confidence

Martial arts gave KwanJangnim Spillmann the confidence and strength to defend himself and fight back. This set him on his pathway to becoming a martial art teacher and a fighter for what is right. He decided to dedicate his life to teaching others how to overcome the past, inner pain and life’s obstacles.

He has overcome many hardships and negativity in his life and became a master of building confidence, life self defense, goal setting and changing negativity to positive energy. He also believes in teaching others to talk away, walk away and if needed, stand your ground and win. In the end, KwanJangNim Spillmann took negativity and turned it into strength, perseverance and determination. He believes martial arts training is for everyone of all ages, sizes or race and is a must for anyone who wants to overcome the past, change their lives, get healthier, build a stronger mind and give them a winning edge in life.

Teenage and Training Instructor Years

At a young age, KwanJangNim Spillmann was a entrepreneur and started his own lawn business making money to buy the things he needed. In the summers, his father also had him work summer jobs in construction, plumbing and electrical to make money to pay for martial art classes. He continued learning martial arts and eventually saved enough to buy his first car. By the age of 16, he had worked hard to overcome his challenges and become a good competitor and a martial arts Training Instructor. He attained a 2nd degree black belt in TaeKwonDo and also trained in boxing and received ranking in other martial art styles.

He was a very tough teenager and because of his standing up for what is right, defending others and because of several street fighting issues, he was kicked out of his home and sent to Panama to stay with his Uncle Bill. His Uncle Bill was a Master Sergeant Green Beret and decorated veteran. KwanJangNim Spillmann was very fortunate to be invited to participate in a Jungle Training Course. He had a wonderful opportunity to overcome many of his teenager issues, use his martial art knowledge with the best soldiers in the world and learn so much about life from his Uncle Bill.

Upon returning to Florida from Panama, he continued training at the local TaeKwonDo academy. He graduated high school and then attended DBSC College for automotive racing technologies and business. His family then moved to Orlando, Florida where he followed and continued at the local University taking management classes and looking for the best martial arts academy in the area. That’s when he met Grandmaster Y.K. Kim. At the time, he was working for a local company as a manager as he continued taking additional Cornell University management classes to further his advancement, so his schedule was full.

As a young 2nd Degree Black Belt, it was hard to take a demotion in rank because at the time Grandmaster Y.K. Kim (as most masters) did not honor other TaeKwonDo or martial art organization certificates. KwanJanNim Spillmann had to start over again in his style of JiDoKwon / Kukkiwon TaeKwonDo at a lower rank. He was determined to show his abilities and achieve an Instructor position. For almost two years he did odd jobs such as construction, cleaning bathrooms, cleaning the academy and even painting around the academy to earn a position as a Training Instructor.

KwanJangNim Spillmann worked two years cleaning and building things around the academy for free until that special day came there was a training instructor opening. Grandmaster Y.K. Kim noticed Spillmann’s burning desire and dedication to becoming a certified instructor and offered him a position. Without a second thought, he quit his other job and said yes. Around the age of 19, he started as a full time paid training Instructor and continued competing, taking outside fighting challenges, winning 2 Grand Championships and many 1st place awards and medals. He worked very hard and at the age of 21 he became a certified instructor.

At that time, the pay was not that great, but he loved the job and loved helping people become stronger. It was very tough at times because KwanJangNim Spillmann had to work two jobs a day, a TaeKwonDo job and a night part time job to have the funds for his education and rent. There were times he had no sleep because of his homework load. So he decided to save money and just sleep in the dojang so he would not have to work two jobs.

As the pay became better, Grandmaster Y.K. Kim let KwanJangNim Spillmann live in the company house behind the academy, KwanJangNim Spillmann now had extra income, a nice place to stay and extra time to train. Over the 14 years with Grandmaster Y.K. Kim, he decided to use his extra time to train in several martial arts using his spare time wisely instead of going out partying and drinking with friends. He chose to use his free time to train with some of the best martial artists in the world and achieve ranking in several other styles to further his combat fighting skills and effectively understand other styles to hone his TaeKwonDo, HapKiDo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaching methods. To this day Taekwondo, Hapikdo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu remain his true passions.

KwanJangNim Spilmann worked his way up and eventually became Chief Instructor and one of Grandmaster Kim’s best students / instructors. In the 1980s he managed all of Y.K Kim’s TaeKwonDo Schools and was responsible for training staff in all aspects of teaching and building schools. He studied at night, managed 7 locations and trained staff, worked out, taught classes and worked an average of 70 hours per week and at times even worked days without sleep.

Grandmaster Y.K. Kim has been KwanJangNim Spillmann’s role model, mentor and teacher for over 32 years and his lifelong Taekwondo father. Grandmaster Y.K. Kim changed KwanJangNim Spillmann’s life and saved him in many positive ways. Those strong philosophies will never be forgotten and will always be cherished and taught to all GM Spillmann’s students. (See the letter from Grandmaster Y.Kim)

Certified Instructor and Master Years

In the 1980’s, he also met ITF Grandmaster S.J. Kim, a demonstration team captain under General Choi, the founder of TaeKwonDo and The International TaekwonDo Federation. This gave KwangJangNim Spillmann a golden opportunity to share his knowledge of operating schools and teaching methods and an opportunity to continue to learn his advanced ITF patterns and hone his free-fighting skills.

For almost 30 years, they have both traveled together to Korea many times and still work together and maintain a strong friendship. KwangJangNim Spillmann also shared his ATCGMA Little Lions teaching methods with many of his academies and worked with GM SJ Kim’s New York instructors to implement teaching methods.

KwanJangNim Spillmann has worked hard to receive certification under several organizations including Kukkiwon, ITF ATF, AAU, GHF, USATKD KHF KHA KKHA RGBJJ GHF and TKDI (See Letter SJ KIM Letter).

Formation of Schools

At a young age, KwanJangnim Spillmann had to overcome educational struggles, serious health issues and serious allergies.

Everything in his life was looking great: a nice company house, a company car and a great job. In 1988 while training for a fight and weightlifting, KwanJangNim Spillmann fell very ill and almost died. He was put on 60 day quarantine and lost almost everything as the quarantine caused him to drop college classes and lose all his income. He then found out he had liver damage caused from taking a supplement that ended up being pulled from the market several months later. To this day because of his child hood sickness and with his liver damage, he has experienced many health struggles in his life.

As always thinking positive he pushed forward and things eventually became better. He went back to teaching, training, attending college and doing what he loves the most: martial arts. In November of 1992, he decided to move to California to be closer to his firsts wife’s family. So he took a job at a local academy in sales and teaching. The Master he worked with was a great person and they worked together as a team. The job was great for several months until the academy owner replaced the Master with a relative. The new academy Master had drinking issues, arrived to work drunk and was abusive towards the students. He vented his concerns to the owner and was shocked when he was told to ignore the unprofessional behavior and just focus on growing the school. So after just 90 days of working for that company, he gave written notice to the owner explaining all his serious concerns and then quit.

Needing a job, he started interviewing with several companies and was offered a job teaching USSD Kenpo Karate. The school was one block away from the other owner. Out of respect for the actual owner, instead of taking a job with a local competitor, KwanJangNim Spillmann decided to open his first “Karate” academy 8 miles away in the small town of Aliso Viejo, CA. KwanJangNim Spillmann with his Grandmaster’s blessing, opened his first martial arts school in February 1993. KwanJangNim Spillmann sold his motorcycle and satellite dish to raise the funds to open his academy and negotiated 2 months free rent. He did not have money for a car or to rent an apartment, so he sent his wife to live with her mother 7 hours away in Turlock, California. He had no money and knew he only had 4 months to make it or fail; failure was not an option. KwanJangNim Spillmann slept in the school and bathed in the sink for almost six months. He taught all classes and executed all promotions and sales. In 1993, there was nothing in Aliso Viejo but a sandwich shop and a gas station. KwanJangNim Spillmann knew if he worked hard and pushed forward that he would attain his goals. So he walked miles, did his own promotions on foot and did his own demonstrations. His first five students were a 4-year-old named Jennifer, a 3-year-old named Bobby and three adults; Scott, Randy and Chuck. Many of those students still train and rank with GM Spillmann and they can be found on his academy Facebook. In a small town of 6000 people, he eventually built his academy to over 300 students and started demonstration and promotion teams.

KwanJangNim Spillmann slept in the school and bathed in the sink for almost six months. He taught all classes and executed all promotions and sales. In 1993, there was nothing in Aliso Viejobut a sandwich shop and a gas station. KwanJangNim Spillmann knew if he worked hard and pushed forward that he would attain his goals. So he walked miles, did his own promotions on foot and did his own demonstrations. His first five students were a 4-year-old named Jennifer, a 3-year-old named Bobby and three adults; Scott, Randy and Chuck. Many of those students still train and rank with GM Spillmann and they can be found on his academy Facebook. In a small town of 6000 people, he eventually built his academy to over 300 students and started demonstration and promotion teams.

In 1993-94 while running his academy in Aliso Viejo, Kwanjangnim Spillmann met his Jiu-Jitsu brother Rocian Gracie, Jr., rented him some space and trained with him for many years. On December 12th, 2000, Spillmann received his Black Belt in Rocian Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Master Gracie then returned to open RGBJJ academies in Brazil and build a large, worldwide organization. Master Gracie’s and Spillmann’s friendship has grown over the years. Rocian Gracie and his wife Roberta honored KwanJangNim Spillmann by naming their son after him, “Conrado” Gracie.

In 1993, KwanJangNim Spillmann tested for his 5TH Dan Black Belt in TaeKwonDo and received his certification from his Grandmaster. In 1999 while in Korea, he completed “The World TaeKwonDo Academy Kukkiwon” Training Course under Grandmaster Lee and then received his 6th Dan Black Belt from his Grandmaster. He has continued advancing over the years achieving an 8th Dan Black Belt in TaeKwonDo, 7th Dan in HapkiDo, 4th Dan in Karate and Black Belt under Rocian Gracie Jr. He continues ranking in other martial art styles (Wing Chun – Kung Fu – MT) and top organizations, all in order to bring his students the best possible training. He worked for over 25 years to build christian outreaches overseas, large organizations and a network of professional martial art schools offering top martial arts training. When he has time, he continues to visit Korea, Brazil and teach self defense and business seminars in other countries and within the USA.

KwanJangNim Spillmann has had the golden opportunity for the past 46 years to train with and working with many famous boxers, fighters, martial art masters and grandmasters. He has trained in Korea and spent a couple of weeks studying with monks and grandmasters on his many travels to Korea. Until this day, KwanJangNim Spillmann is still working with many of his original Grandmasters and martial art friends to further the martial arts in a positive way.

Grandmaster Y. K. Kim

Grandmaster S. J. Kim

Grandmaster C. W. Lee

Grandmaster K.S. Myung

Grandmaster J. M. Park

Grandmaster K. H. Lee

Grandmaster (Ajaran) Nelson Siyavong

Grandmaster Don Wilson

Grandmaster M. Lind

Grandmaster Prof Bill Dewart

Master Rocian Gracie, Jr.

Master Richard Mane

Sifu William Vardeman

He considers all his teachers part of his family and wonderful friends. In the last several years, some of the greatest Masters and Grandmasters have passed away including his close boxing partner, friend, Taekwondo brother Master Richard Mane from cancer, Hapkido Grandmaster Kwang.Sik Myung and the founder of TaeKwonDo… General Choi Hong Hi.

KwanJangNim Spillmann continues to teach all he learned from those great individuals. He continues teaching, training and working hard towards his goal of furthering TaeKwonDo, HapKiDo, Jiu-Jitsu, his knowledge, his health, the writing of books and setting new educational goals of achieving his PHD in World Religion Studies.