Twenty-five years ago, Master Nathan Thorn walked into his first karate class wearing Chuck Norris sweatpants and instantly fell in love with the martial arts.
“I knew this is what I wanted to do for a living,” said Thorn, a Woodbury native and owner of the Edge Martial Arts Fitness Center in Stillwater.
Thorn recently made history when he became the youngest person in Minnesota to be promoted to 7th-degree black belt.
Like many children, he had lots of energy, but lacked direction in which to focus it. It was his aunt who gave him the coupons for two free karate classes that kick-started his passion for martial arts.
As a teenager in 1999, Thorn was already a head instructor. Four years later, he opened his own school where he has since taught more than 20,000 lessons to more than 2,000 students, some of whom are following in his footsteps.
And for Thorn, that’s what it’s really all about.
“When you reach this ranking, the promotion isn’t about how many boards or concrete blocks you can break,” Thorn said. “It’s about what you’ve given back to the world of martial arts.”
When measuring his success as a Martial Artist, Thorn said he doesn’t only look at the stripes on his belt or the hundreds of trophies he has won.
“Those are things I’m proud of and worked very hard to earn,” Thorn said. “They are symbols of what I’ve accomplished in the past, but they are not the measure of my success for the future. When I make a difference in someone’s life, help a child to focus, teach a person how to defend herself, and ultimately give back—that’s what I call success.”
And his dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Thorn’s dedication to the world of Martial Arts has been recognized by many, including his instructor J. Pat Burleson, who is known as the “Father of American Karate.”
In fact, many impressive names are displayed on Thorn’s family tree of karate, including his childhood idol, Chuck Norris.
“Nathan is more than qualified to receive a promotion to 7th-degree black belt,” Burleson said. “His champion status and domination of local and national competitions is more than impressive.”
As an instructor, he is second to none, Burleson said.
“No one else is consistently producing students of this caliber,” he said. “The community of Stillwater is lucky to have Master Thorn teaching their youth and creating tomorrow’s leaders.”