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.
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)