Former cop follows passion with martial arts studio
Fourth degree black belt instructor Jim Wade greets students as they arrive for their basic class in tae kwon do. Jim Wade is the owner of Karate for Kids, which teaches tae kwon do to all ages. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:13AM
FRANKLIN PARK — Jim Wade’s father didn’t want him to study martial arts.
“I always wanted to do it, but my dad would never let me,” said Wade, who owns Karate for Kids in Franklin Park. Instead Wade became “a traditional sports guy; basketball, football, baseball.”
After high school, Wade joined the Army and served as a Black Hawk crew chief for four years. Then he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the LaGrange Park Police Department.
In 2002, his 4- and 7-year-old sons began taking tae kwon do classes. Wade remembered his desire.
“I moved from viewing area to floor,” Wade said.
It took him two-and-a-half years to earn his black belt and another 300 hours of training so he could teach. His wife, Marcy, then a dental hygienist, started taking classes eight months after him.
“I was a police officer for 14 years,” Wade said. “I made the decision to leave in 2005, which I guess is unheard of.”
He was six years from a pension and gave up five weeks paid vacation and a police officer’s salary. He left the department the same weekend he opened Karate for Kids, 10125 W. Grand Ave
Wade and his wife teach tae kwon do to 220 students. While tae kwon do has been around for thousands of years, the version the couple teaches was created in 1969.
“We are the kicking martial arts,” Wade said. “We have very strong kicks and strong legs. Karate has equally balanced arms and feet. It’s fitness, fun and intangible skills.”
It’s the intangible qualities connected to teaching tae kwon do that Wade enjoys discussing: discipline, self-confidence and respect.
“I steer people away from the school who are just looking for an activity for their kids,” Wade said. “It’s not just about coming here and taking classes and kicking and punching.”
The aim is to get students to apply those qualities outside the school. That started with his family.
“My 15-year old son, Daniel, he had a lot of trouble focusing,” Wade said. “Now he teaches the 4-6 year old class. He’s a state champ in tae kwon do. He plays three instruments and is an honors student.”
The school also teaches anti-bullying techniques, offers training for instructors and hosts adult classes. Students take part in tournaments and there are enough trophies in the windows to deceive someone walking by that Karate for Kids is really a trophy shop.