MASTERS OF THEIR DOMAINS
Kung fu goes YouTube on martial arts instructor's Web site
By Omar L. Gallaga AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Monday, February 11, 2008 - Thomas R. Gohring is not just a master of his Web domains: He's a tai chi and kung fu instructor known by his students as Master Gohring.
In addition to running Master Gohring's Tai Chi & Kung Fu on Airport Boulevard, he has built a new coffee house near by called Kick Butt Coffee, which opens for business today, and also owns a real-estate business.
In creating a Web site for his students at mastergohring.com, the martial artist has incorporated more than 1000 video clips of extensive instructional materials to supplement his classes. The clips are available through YouTube and provide a place where students (and anyone on the Web) can ask questions about specific techniques from his curriculum. We asked Master Gohring to take time out from kung fu and coffee to tell us about his Web site.
American-Statesman: When did you decide to create a Web site and what work went into getting it started?
Thomas R. Gohring: I first created it a few months before I opened my school, in 1996. I used a template offered by the Internet service provider.
Your Web site offers supplemental videos of your curriculums on YouTube. How are your students using these videos and why did you decide to start posting them online?
Students use them to review and preview what we are covering in class. I decided to offer them to leverage my time spent in class. If the student has been reviewing, then I can focus more on their improvement and less on learning the move in the first place. This extends the efficiency I already provide in class.
How much time and work does it take to create these video clips? How do you balance that with your instructing, running several businesses and managing the Web site?
Oh boy, good question. The key here is that I enjoy what I am doing.
My time with students (30-plus classes a week) is balanced with my time alone uploading the video and creating Web pages. I like to stay on the cutting edge in my school and on the Web. The payoff is seeing students improve in less time.
Do you worry that people will watch the videos online for free instead of paying to take instruction with you in person?
Good luck. It is really challenging to learn (online). In the beginning, you must start with a competent instructor. There are those that can do it just from videos, but it is really challenging.
Also, I should add, we are not selling tai chi or kung fu lessons. We are selling the whole experience of studying Chinese martial arts: the ceremony, the culture, the discipline and the community. Students come to us to transform their lives, not just to learn some moves. When you join our school, it becomes real.
Did you look to other Web sites or YouTube videos for inspiration?
Yes, constantly. I love surfing the Web and seeing what everyone is doing. For example, last year I updated all my Web sites to "Web 2.0" using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which helps them have a more modern, clean look.
What are some of your favorite Web sites? Do you spend a lot of time online?
I'll confess, I think I am addicted to Digg.com and Ron Paul video clips. I also spend time on taijilegacy.com, a blog site for a yearly tournament we attend in Dallas, taijiclassic.com, a blog for our in-house tournament and thejoyshow.com, my sister's comedy Web site.
Are there any skills that are shared between learning martial arts and learning to build a Web site?
I've earned my sixth-degree black sash in tai chi and kung fu. I still feel like a white sash in the Web editing. The Internet is moving much faster and changing much more quickly than the martial arts world. Skills in common include the discipline to stick with it when it is not as "fun" and figure it out for one's self and make it my own.
Video from Austin American Statesman Website: http://www.statesman.com/news/mplayer/m/63068