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Beth Cooper

Leading by Example: Kimling’s Academy of Martial Arts


“Lead by Example” is the credo of Kimling’s Academy of Martial Arts in Oakland Park. Owner and black belt, Mr. Kimling exemplifies the qualities of discipline, motivation, fitness, accountability, self defense and respect for others that he has instilled in his students at his academy for the past 25 years in South Florida.

Inspiration Becomes a Path to Follow

A native of Puerto Rico, Kimling emulated the karate skills from the popular 1980s movie Karate Kid by joining a karate studio initially as a hobby at 10 years old. He grew to love karate, earned his black belt in Puerto Rico at age 17, and continued with the discipline through high school and college. Currently Master Kimling holds 7 black belts.

Master Kimling’s instructor encouraged him to move to Miami in 1991 to instruct at a studio. After 8 months, Kimling migrated to Broward County, where he instructed karate classes part time and where he learned English fluently.

In search of more full time hours, Master Kimling responded to an ad for a karate teacher in Oakland Park. Kimling’s teaching position quickly morphed into a Tuesday – Thursday studio partnership at the Oakland Park studio. He recalls recruiting neighborhood kids who would bike ride nearby for free karate lessons.

Eventually his studio grew and, in 1996, Kimling took full time ownership of the 5,000 square foot Dixie Highway studio. Kimling’s Academy of Martial Arts was born. The studio is a mixture of taekwondo, kempo, kung fu, and goju-ryu martial arts styles. Master Kimling continued to lead his students by example, and his new studio grew into something much more than kicks, punches, and self defense classes.

More than Kicks, Punches, and Self Defense

Master Kimling grew his martial arts business from 1996 until 2006, when he moved to Oakland Park Festival Center, a 15,000 square foot facility. His academy offered adult and child karate classes, cheerleading, afterschool care with a fleet of vans for afterschool pickup from nearby elementary schools, Summer/Christmas/Easter/school holiday camps, CPR classes, and Jiu Jitsu/ground fighting/MMA classes.

Master Kimling, a father of 2 children, now 19 and 15, incorporates a family friendly atmosphere and philosophy at his academy. Mia and Michael are 2nd and 1st degree black belts respectively. Both kids grew up in the studio and Michael is currently an instructor.

Many of his employees were karate school parents who morphed into longterm karate employees and instructors. In fact, Kimling’s mother-in-law,  Patti, is in charge of the studio’s front desk. 

The Impact of COVID-19

The thunderous arrival of the pandemic in 2020 drastically altered Kimling’s business. The academy was shuttered for 4 months, from March until August. Zoom and Facebook Live virtual karate classes conducted in Kimling’s living room kept the school afloat during early COVID-19 days.

Unfortunately, his 300 member population plummeted to 150 due to COVID-19 layoffs, virtual school formats and home based parent work schedules. Kimling downsized his staff from 15 precovid employees to 10 currently. The studio had 8 afterschool vans pre-pandemic, but currently has 4. Additionally, he keeps the pickups confined to 5 mile radius, including schools Lloyd Estates, Wilton Manors Elementary and Bayview Elementary.

Kimling maintains temperature checks, smaller class size, optional masks while training, regular hand sanitizing, socks during class (pre-covid, barefeet were allowed) and both virtual and in person classes currently. His adult classes Monday- Friday are kept to 20-25 limit with ample spacing between students.

Future Plans for Kimlings Academy of Martial Arts

Master Kimling is relocating the studio in October 2021, pending remodel and permit/buildout completion, to 169 West Prospect Road in Oakland Park. The 4,000 square foot facility will house karate classes, CPR classes, afterschool program, camps and Jiu Jitsu.

Despite having to downsize, Kimling foresees himself remaining in Oakland Park where he will continue to lead by example.  


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