Giving Back to the Community – A School Owner/Instructor’s Impact

By Joel Williams | Food for Thought

Dec 29

Dustin Koppel and his wife, Bethany Koppel, own and operate a full-time “brick and mortar” martial arts school (National Martial Arts) in Oak Ridge, TN. Dustin is also a Krav Maga instructor for Global Martial Arts University. They are doing amazing work in their local community while also running a successful business. Are you an owner or instructor at a martial arts school? Would you like to learn more about the essential elements for “doing good” while also promoting your business? If so, then read on!

Dustin and Bethany Koppel.

The National Martial Arts Approach

Growing up in California, Dustin was big into skateboarding and basketball. In his teens, he began training in martial arts and has not stopped since. Dustin trained in Muay Thai Kickboxing, Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He is a 3rd Dan Krav Maga black belt and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt.

Not long after starting martial arts training, Dustin said he knew he had found something he wanted to pour himself into. He was fortunate to get a job working in the school where he trained, “…initially just working the front desk.” Over time, he became an instructor. This experience confirmed that this is what he wanted to do as a career.

Dustin said it was at this first job where he was initially exposed to the idea of “plugging in to the community.” His first community outreach experiences involved doing school talks and leading free self defense seminars at churches. Over time, as he had the opportunity to work at various size schools, and ultimately for a large martial arts educational group, he noted that sometimes community outreach was more about marketing products and programs and less about simply doing good in the community. These experiences shaped his perspective on how to do it right. It was also at that point in time he decided that he had worked for others long enough and it was time to open his own school.

” I wanted to do better … for me, well, I just love to give back. “

Balancing Doing Good & Promoting Your School

Mr. Koppel says that community outreach starts with the school owner/instructor: “You must lead by example.” Dustin goes out to all community events with his students. At National Martial Arts, Dustin instructs children, teens and adults. He requires community work by all children and youth ages 5-12 and encourages (but does not require) their parents, and adult students, to consider doing community work. Many parents and teen or adult students get involved because they see all of the good work being done by others at the school. Maybe “doing good” is contagious?!

” It’s the greatest feeling to give back and not expect anything in return. “

Dustin says that more often than not, his kids and youth do more than expected. The school usually focuses on helping one community partner at a time. Their work is usually dictated by “whatever they [the community parter] need.” Examples include: cleaning up and organizing, picking up garbage in local parts and greenways, and collecting donations. A few students have become so devoted to community outreach they have actually started their own non-profits, organized others (outside of the martial arts school) to join them in their outreach efforts.

The Koppel’s Motto: ” Building the community one black belt at a time. “

The NMA Model

The NMA Community Outreach Info Board

I want to be sure to emphasize that Mr. Koppel was adamant that his wife, Bethany, is the “heart and soul” of everything NMA does regarding community outreach. She is the primary organizer and coordinator for everything the school does in the community. At the student level, the youngest children are expected to do a minimum of 1 hour of community work per month and the older youth are expected to do up to 10 hours per month. Dustin reports that most students do more than what is required. The monthly time commitment increases with age and belt/stripe level, with older children/youth and higher belt ranks expected to do more outreach. NMA coordinates all community outreach efforts and utilizes sign up sheets to organize the volunteers and email and social media to announce and remind students about outreach events and opportunities. Students are given “homework” assignments related to outreach, and they are expected to track their own individual monthly efforts each month. Every 3 months they turn in this documentation at regularly scheduled belt testing times.

NMA Outreach doing a cleanup event.

Future Plans

Having documented more than 1,000 hours of community outreach by NMA students, Dustin says that he and Bethany are very proud of what the school has done in their local community.

NMA Individual Student Community Service Tracking & Documentation

Even still, they want to do more. Some of the plans he shared with me include: a new initiative of writing thank you notes to local fire, EMS, and law enforcement, and expanding outreach efforts into a nearby county.

” How much of an impact can we make? “

Final Thoughts…

To wrap up this blog I wanted to share some important points Mr. Koppel made along the way that I believe are simple, yet extremely valuable, for anyone considering how to “do good” in their community:

  • Have a vision for what you want to do and organize yourself around that vision.
  • Not sure where to start? Consider what is “near and dear” to your heart: homeless, single mothers, children, disease awareness, etc.
  • Heed the Bible – give and don’t expect to receive.
  • Have good intentions of doing something impactful / don’t focus on being motivated to simply market your school. Do good and you will always be blessed.
  • And lastly: Get out and DO it!

Links To More Info

National Martial Arts of Oak Ridge (on the web):

National Martial Arts of Oak Ridge (on Facebook):

Global Martial Arts University Krav Maga student course:

Global Martial Arts University Krav Maga instructor course:

About the Author

Husband. Father. University Professor. GMAU Certified Krav Maga Instructor.

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(3) comments

Daniel December 29, 2019

Proud of my instructor and the work he does👊🏻

    Joel Williams December 29, 2019


cindy Hoskin December 30, 2019

Truly an amazing couple

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