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The disciplines of personal responsibility, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and an indomitable spirit are not only what Grandmaster Bobby Sheroan practices in Tae Kwon Do and other martial arts, but also what he’s practiced in work and family life.
After graduating with the last graduating class of Vine Grove High School in 1962, Sheroan went to General Motors training school in Cincinnati and worked as the service manager at a local Buick dealership.
In 1972, two career paths developed at the same time. One was with the Hardin County Board of Education as assistant director in charge of maintenance for the school buses. The other was in the martial arts. Sheroan pursued both paths.
Sheroan spent 20 years as the assistant director with Hardin County Schools and the director for nine years before retiring in 2000.
During that time he worked on state and national levels for safety programs. Those programs stepped up after the Carrollton bus crash. He was instrumental in passing safety issues on the state school bus specifications committee and worked on driver curriculum. Under his leadership, Hardin County Schools became the first district in Kentucky to change to an all diesel fleet after the Carrollton crash. Diesel few is less combustible.
It was during this time he was looking for a way to stay physically active and decided to give martial arts a try. All he knew about the martial arts at that time was about Bruce Lee but he began taking classes.
He later trained under Grandmaster Kwan Sung Lee to the level of 6th Dan. Along with Tae Kwon Do he also obtained black belts in the martial arts forms of Uechi Ryu Karate-Do, Jiu Jitsu, HoSinSool, Yusool, Yudo and Kenwayoshin Ryu.
Because a student does not rise to a degree higher than his master's, Sheroan did not attain the level of grandmaster until after Lee’s death.
His proudest moment came in 1983 when he won the Illinois state championship in all three events he entered — the sparing, power breaking and forms.
Sheroan taught Tae Kwon Do in the evenings in outreach programs and at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College. As he grew as an instructor, he opened six branch schools around Kentucky that later consolidated into one facility in Elizabethtown.
The school grew to a peak of more than 300 students. He’s now downsized to a more manageable number and Sheroan’s Tae Kwon Do Academy averages 230 students. He has 12 certified instructors.
One of his instructors, Marlin Jiranek, said Sheroan is a "true master" and teaches all aspects of the art of Tae Kwon Do. Jiranek said many schools only focus on a single aspect instead of the complete art.
"Grandmaster Sheroan routinely teaches individual techniques, forms, sparring, self defense, ground fighting and weapon usage, all with practical application in mind," Jiranek said.
Sheroan is focused on making people better individuals as well as students of Tae Kwon Do, Jiranek said.
"He instructs in a way that teaches confidence, self-control and humility in the individual students and, as such, routinely see improvements in the students’ lives outside of the Tae Kwon Do DoJang," he said.
In seventh grade, a teacher told Sheroan he cold be whatever he wanted to be. That mantra has stuck with him and he teaches the same philosophy to his students.
The greatest benefit he receives from what he does is helping the students, when he sees them change and grow in their confidence.
“I have a compassion for changing people for the good,” he said.
Jiranek called Sheroan a man of integrity.
"He walks exactly what he talks and is honest and humble in all his dealings, whether personal or business," Jiranek said.
At his level, Sheroan mainly instructs adults but is always there for the children, attending their testing and watching their classes.
“They’re never out of their mind and I love to see the smiles on their faces,” he said.
For the Sheroans, Tae Kwon Do is a family affair. His wife of 48 years, Patty, is a third-degree black belt. His twin sons, Bryan and Ryan, also learned the martial arts. Ryan is a fourth-degree black belt and an instructor.
Family involvement in martial arts is something Sheroan encourages. It creates closeness for the family, something they can do together, he said.
Sheroan, 68, still spars with students and has been fortunate to not have any injuries. He plans to teach as long as he is able.
“If they could get me in here in a wheelchair I’d still be here,” he said. “Retirement is not in my vocabulary.”
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or email@example.com.
Getting to know Bobby Sheroan:
He’s achieved the rank of 9th Degree Grandmaster from Martial Arts USA and registered in Korea with the SimMuDo Association.
He is ranked with United States Tae Kwon Do Won, the World Tae Kwon Do Federation and the International Martial Arts Federation.
He is president of Kentucky Tae Kwon Do Won and serves as a director with the United States Tae Kwon Do Won. He’s on the instructor certification committee of USTW and serves as an adviser for the martial arts USA association and advisor in the Korean arts.
Sheroan was selected by the American Martial Arts Renmei Executive Board of Directors as its 2006 inductee into the AMAR's Hall of Fame and was the 2006 recipient of AMAR's coveted Life Time Achievement Award.