Jim Chropowicki admits it took him many years to master Korean Tang Soo Do Karate. He’s a certified teacher and has been delving in his craft for nearly the past four decades.
Chropowicki, a lifelong resident of Duryea, was featured in the Sunday, Feb. 9, 1997 edition of the Sunday Dispatch’s “Spotlight.” Nearly 20 years later, he is continuing his practice of martial arts, and continues to pass on his passion to students in the Wyoming Valley.
Back in 1997, Chropowicki operated his own martial arts studio in Pittston. He continued his vast ability in Korean Tang Soo Do Karate training under Grand Master Allen Kates. To this day, Chropowicki is still teaching those timeless aspects of martial arts to students.
When Chropowicki was just 12 years old, his sports life came to an end with Little League. He wasn’t prepared to play football, basketball or any other scholastic event because those sports are finished when a season is finished, he said. With martial arts, it’s a lifelong passion.
“My parents were always guiding me to keep busy,” he said. “I got involved with martial arts after Little League baseball. My parents wanted me to keep busy.”
Another reason why Chropowicki fell in love with the sport was kick boxing.
“I realized that I could keep doing this for the rest of my life, rather than just playing football and when the season’s over, it’s over,” he said.
Chropowicki spent his first few years learning under Richard Chase and obtained his black belt when he was 16.
After getting his teaching certification, Chropowicki transitioned to teaching the sport with Paul Cawley at the Greater Pittston YMCA. During that time, Chropowicki was also teaching two days a week at the Northeast Fitness Center in Moosic.
A few years later, Cawley gave Chropowicki the opportunity to open his own school. His first school, United Karate School, opened on North Main Street in Pittston in the mid-1990s.
Chropowicki spent the next several years at his school on North Main Street. In the early 2000s, he gave up teaching for some time due to a few injuries. After several back injuries that required surgery, Chropowicki was given the OK by his surgeon to continue with martial arts.
He spent several months rehabilitating before he decided to begin teaching privately out of his home in Duryea. That’s what he’s been doing ever since.
Chropowicki is a now a Fourth Band Master in Tang Soo Do, which is a Korean martial art incorporating fighting principles from subak, as well as northern Chinese kung fu. The techniques of what is commonly known as Tang Soo Do combine elements of shotokan karate, subak, taekkyon, and kung fu.
He currently has two students working with him, he said. After spending years working with groups, Chropowicki realized that his true calling was working with his students one-on-one.
“When you teach privately, you are able to specialize the training to certain physical abilities,” he said.
One of the students Chropowicki currently trains with recently had a bad reaction to medication and was in intensive care for three months. After 10 surgeries, the client is healthy. Much of his healthy state comes from what Chropowicki was able to do with him in the martial arts studio.
One of the points Chropowicki stresses is “personal self-development.” He said it doesn’t matter how hard you punch, or how hard you kick, it’s all about believing in yourself and being confident.
Chropowicki’s other client is working to reduce is blood pressure and lose some weight. This is a timeless exercise, he said.
“It’s been around for more than 2,000 years,” he said. “In my opinion, this is the only proven form of exercise to stay in shape.”
Over the summer, Chropowicki had the opportunity to teach cardio kick boxing classes with Ryu Pa Karate in Pittston.
Exercising is one of the main reasons Chropowicki stayed in the martial arts so long. At 51 years old, Chropowicki said seeing someone’s personal development and the progression of martial arts is the key to success. However, passing the art on to the next generation is also key.
“You’re passing on an art,” he said. “You’re not only seeing them develop physically, but you’re also taking the mental and the mind component where there’s more confidence and self-esteem.”
Chropowicki was able to pass on his martial arts ability to his son, also Jim. With his wife, Ada, he also has a daughter named Julie. Training with his son was fulfilling because that’s the way the Koreans did it for thousands of years, he said.
“They would always pass the art down to generations and throughout their family,” he said. “To have him work his way up to a brown belt was fulfilling. It was nice to pass what you know directly to a family members.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick