Martial arts on square teaches respect, discipline


Rob Le Cates

From left, Isaiah Hughes, True Force Martial Arts owner, practices different drills with Ed Thomas, a Charleston resident, at the True Force Martial Arts school on the Square Saturday morning. Hughes said he has had around 15 years of martial arts experience.

Drew Coffey, Campus Reporter

Isaiah Hughes had always said that he wanted to get out of Charleston, but his life path brought him back to his childhood town, as he took the opportunity to teach a younger generation the skills he acquired as a kid himself.  

Those skills would be of respect, discipline and protection of yourself and others. 

But most know it as Taekwondo, a Korean form of martial arts with punching and kicking techniques. 

Hughes grew up as a Charleston resident and began his journey of martial arts at 8-years-old in the American Taekwondo Association. From there, he would earn his second degree black belt as an early teen before taking a break from competing to focus on sports in high school.  

After graduating in 2017, Hughes moved to New York where he stayed for six months.  

Upon his return to Coles County, he was given his first opportunity to get back into martial arts when he saw an open instructor position at Industrial Martial Arts in Mattoon.  

After four years of teaching Taekwondo to students in Mattoon, Hughes saw a second opportunity and knew it was time for him to move on, starting his own martial arts studio named True Force Martial Arts located at Charleston Square.  

According to Hughes, his father was a big inspiration for him to stay in Coles County to teach students the lessons of martial arts.  

“I had always told my dad that I didn’t wanna be stuck in Charleston, so I didn’t want to open a business,” Hughes said. “He was like the longer you look at it as being stuck and not taking chances of opportunity, that’s what you’ll be.” 

From there, Hughes opened True Force in January this year, and the business’s success started early.  

“I can say I felt pretty confident in having a solid group of people that had some interest whenever I had told them initially that we were gonna open, and there definitely has been some good traction in terms of word of mouth,” Hughes said. “I think it was one of the things that Charleston as a whole really lacked was a super prominent martial arts school or organization to kind of give them that experience, and it’s something we’re still working on.”  

Ed Thomas, a Charleston resident, punches an upright punching bag at the True Force Martial Arts school on the Square Saturday morning. Thomas said he was first inspired to learn martial arts from watching Bruce Lee movies when he was younger. He then went on to start martial arts in college for around three years, years ago, and picked it up again a year ago after True Force opened. Thomas said he loves the Krav Maga classes he has been taking and that the community within the school is one to be appreciative of. (Rob Le Cates)

Students at True Force have participated in various competitions all over the country, having had a competition in Little Rock, Ark. just a month ago.  

Hughes said that the lessons taught to young students and competitors are those of respect and responsibility. 

“They have missions every week, which are things like making sure that they’re helping clean up at home or making sure that they’re practicing at home and making sure that they use yes or no sir whenever they refer to their parents,” Hughes said.  

According to Hughes, he has three apprentice instructors that help with teaching students and organizing.  

One of those instructors is Tommy Becker who became interested in Taekwondo within the last few years but has been successful, nonetheless. 

 “I started Taekwondo four years ago starting as a white belt, and I rose to a first-degree black belt within the first two years,” Becker said. “And I’m currently working on my second degree.”

Becker also worked at Industrial Martial Arts in Mattoon alongside Isaiah Hughes but couldn’t pass up the opportunity of working at True Force.  

“His integrity, his just all-around attitude, and his lease on life is what got me to follow him,” Becker said. “I just couldn’t say no.” 

According to Becker, he finds teaching students the meaning of progress the most rewarding.  

“Success isn’t measured by going from an F grade to an A grade,” Becker said. “An F to C is still progress and just teaching the kids and seeing them perform what we’ve taught them is the biggest reward.” 

True Force provides three separate programs for fitness, Taekwondo, as well as personal protection.  

Ed Thomas, a student in the personal protection program, said he joined the class with his son and has learned a lot about how to react in certain threatening situations.  

“There are elements of boxing in it, there’s some kicking in it, and there’s some nice protection but it’s really self-defense centered,” Thomas said. “What was reliable for me was the ground game, so there’s a little touch of jujitsu in it. And so really getting close to people and doing the groundwork or grappling is what I found most insightful.” 

According to Hughes, the primary goal of True Force Martial Arts is to provide fundamental learning opportunities for students.  

“You have to understand that you’re truly responsible for these kids after school and not just in terms of their class,” Hughes said “You’re responsible for their well-being and you’re molding the minds of kids in the future as to what they are gonna do and what they’re trying to accomplish.” 


Drew Coffey can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].