The karate dojo is empty, quiet. Inside the boxing ring, Ekim's owner Michael Smith bounces on the balls of his feet, warming up. The 53-year-old starts throwing kicks, each progressively higher until his leg is ramrod straight, his foot well above his head.|
Not too bad for a 53-year-old with a fake knee.
The sixth degree martial arts master has operated Ekim's Karate & Kickboxing, Silvis, for the last 25 years and has been involved in the martial arts for the last 30.
"I loved sports as a kid, loved track, and I was pretty flexible," Mr. Smith said. "When I found the martial arts, I just fell in love with it. It was a great match for me."
He trained locally under NickTarpein before starting Ekim's, "it's Mike spelled backwards," he said.
"I was working for IH when they went out on strike," he said. "I started teaching around then and when they called us to come back, I figured out teaching the martial arts is what I wanted to do."
Since then he's enjoyed his time in the dojo, and his time in the ring.
"I like teaching the kids, I like the excitement of fighting and striking, I love the martial arts," he said. "The explosion that mixed martial arts has been has opened the doors to a new audience and new disciplines, karate, judo, ju jitsu,muay thai, kickboxing, boxing and wrestling, all came together. You have to be a real athlete to do it."
Mr. Smith was a Wisconsin and Illinois state kickboxing champion and last year, at 52, won an MMA Legends match by knocking out his opponent in 33 seconds.
As a child he severely damaged his knee after he fell underneath a lawnmower.
"I loved sports so much, I just kind of ignored it," Mr. Smith said. However, the knee got worse while he was working as a welder. In 1993 he had it replaced.
"My doctor said I was crazy when he found out I was fighting," Mr. Smith said. "It's worked out pretty well."
Mr. Smith has classes divided into age groups and skill levels, with students as young as 3 to as old as 80.
"We have our little dragons, which are children just starting, out and advanced children, adult classes and seniors," Mr. Smith said. "It's a great way to keep you mind sharp, stay flexible, get exercise, weight control. Your brain is a muscle that you have to work too."
He said his favorite part is teaching the kids.
"You see a lot of changes in a kid. It takes a while, but you see it," He said. "They gain discipline. You see a change in the way they work, in their grades."
He's been teaching so long, he's starting to see kids who he instructed showing up with their kids.
"We're seeing a lot of the second generation coming in," Mr. Smith said. "It's happening like crazy. It's cool to see how they turned out and they want their kids to have the same experience."
Ekim's, 405 1st AvenueSilvis. For more information call (309) 755-KICK (5425) or you kind find it on Facebook or at ekimskarate.com
Ekim's will host the MMA Battle at the Legion IV on Feb. 16 at the Moline American Legion, 1623 15th St., Moline. There will be 17 planned bouts including two female championships and four MMA championships in four weight divisions. For information or tickets, call (309) 755-KICK (5425)