Stillwater man receives coveted rank of 7th-degree black belt

Master Nathan Thorn made history Sept. 29 when he was promoted to seventh-degree black belt, making him the youngest person to receive such an honor in Minnesota.

Thorn’s journey began 25 years ago when he attended his first karate class as a second grader.

“I walked in to the class with my Chuck Norris sweatpants on and instantly fell in love with the Martial Arts. I knew this is what I wanted to do for a living,” Thorn said.

Like many children, Thorn had energy but lacked focus. It was his aunt who gave him the coupons for two free karate classes that kick started his passion for Martial Arts, which eventually became his career.

In 1999 as a teenager, he was already a head instructor. In 2003, he opened his own school. Since then he has taught more than 20,000 lessons to more than 2,000 students, some of which 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. It’s about what you’ve given back to the world of Martial Arts,” Thorn said. “When I measure my success as a martial artist, I don’t look at only the stripes on the belt or the hundreds of trophies I won. Those are things I’m proud of and worked very hard to earn. 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.”

Thorn’s martial arts dedication has been recognized by many, including his instructor J. Pat Burleson, known as the “father of American karate.” Burleson, a 10th degree black belt, trained under Jhoon Rhee, the father of American Taekwondo. In fact, many impressive names are displayed on Thorn’s family tree of karate, including his childhood idol, Chuck Norris himself.

“Nathan is more than qualified to receive a promotion to seventh-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. No one else is consistently producing students of this caliber. The community of Stillwater is lucky to have Master Thorn teaching their youth and creating tomorrow’s leaders.”

Along with Master Thorn, some of his students were also be recognized. Eric Elert, 18, is a candidate for third degree. Robert Clark, 69, and Joseph Abboud, 31, are candidates for fourth degree. And Donald Brady, 40, is a candidate for fifth degree.

“I’m very proud of those who are being promoted,” Thorn said. “Each of them is very accomplished in their own right. They’ve given back to the world of martial arts as instructors and upstanding members of society. I sincerely hope that the community understands what this promotion represents and will join us in honoring these men.”

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