BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN When Travis Wissbroecker was 5, he walked into World Taekwondo Academy in Delano for the first time as a student.
Now, 17 years later, he is the instructor there.
“I remember walking through these doors as a little kid just being excited to learn,” Wissbroecker said. “To become a teacher is awesome . . . I never thought I’d get the opportunity to run the school I started in. That’s the coolest part of it for me. I went from being just like any of these students to walk through the door to now I’m in charge of this spot. I get to stay where I trained when I started. I love that.”
Wissbroecker trained in Delano for 10 years, and picked up competitive sparring, leading him to train at the WTA location in Maple Grove.
He competed nationally and internationally in countries like Moldova, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, and Austria. His highlights include a first-place finish at the US Open, a second-place finish at the Canadian Open, and a third-place finish at US Nationals.
Wissbroecker is a fourth-degree blackbelt, having earned that designation July 14, four days after taking over the Delano location.
Since 2016, Wissbroecker had been working for his coach in the Maple Grove location.
There, he learned some keys to being an instructor, including how to keep classes fresh.
“I’m running 13 classes a week right now, so it’s easy to get into a rut and make every class the same. But, being able to go out and work for other people and seeing how they run things, you get so many more ideas so you know how to make it a new class every time they come,” Wissbroecker said. “Even if they’re going over the same stuff, so they can get better at it, they’re doing it a different way each time. It’s being explained a little differently so they don’t become bored.”
Wissbroecker believes strongly in positive reinforcement.
“I don’t want anyone to feel discouraged because they can’t do what someone else can do here,” Wissbroecker said. “ . . . I always want them to know they can be better, but not make them feel like they’re bad.”
He knows each student has a different level of athletic ability. Growing up, he didn’t consider himself to be very athletic, but his instructors helped him be the best he could be.
“I had a good set of coaches who knew how to tell me I was doing stuff wrong, that I could be doing stuff better, but doing it in a positive way so I wanted to do better instead of discouraging me,” Wissbroecker said.
He looks for areas where individual students need to improve and helps them do so.
He is also working to improve the Delano WTA location.
“I’m focused on giving it my own touch,” Wissbroecker said. “I’ve spent a lot of time painting, trying to get it to feel how I want it to feel. I’ve been investing everything I’ve been making here my first month back into it, trying to get more equipment and cleaning it up. I’m trying to make it how I picture a school should be. I’m making it feel like it’s mine while still maintaining its history. It’s been in town more than 20 years now.”
In the future, Wissbroecker would like to offer kickboxing classes at the location, but he said his current focus is growing the student base, which ranges from 3-year-olds to adults.