Like many kids, Tim Amacher dreamed of fighting like legendary martial artist and film star Bruce Lee. He would watch the hero in action and think, “I want to be able to do that.” This fascination with martial arts nagged at the 11-year-old, even as he struggled to cope with his father’s death. The tragedy, which occurred in 1993, propelled young Amacher down a tortured path. “I was that kid on the street that you wouldn’t want to run into,” he recalls.
That is, until he decided to pursue his interest in martial arts a year later. He stepped into Grandmaster Lee’s World Taekwondo Academy in St. Paul upon the recommendation of a friend, and immediately felt a connection. “It felt like the right place to be,” Amacher says. It was in that studio, under the mentorship of grandmaster Byung Yul Lee, that Amacher redirected his path and discovered a passion both for taekwondo and for helping others.
Amacher’s mentor, grandmaster Byung Yul Lee, emigrated from Korea to the United States, and opened World Taekwondo Academy in 1969. Lee had quite the reputation and following as a martial artist, and was even inducted into the Korean Hall of Fame.
Lee taught Amacher more than simply kicking and punching; he taught his young pupil discipline, perseverance and respect. “With [World Taekwondo Academy] being a traditional school, you learned everything, so you worked on the body, the mind, the spirit,” Amacher says. In short, Lee—and taekwondo—taught him how to become a better person. “And when you become a better person, you’re better for your community, better for those around you,” Amacher says.
After taking some time away from tae kwondo to pursue a career in hip-hop dancing (his impressive resume includes performing with hip-hop greats like Usher, Lil Jon and the Ying Yang Twins), Amacher retired from dance performance and returned to the school in 2006, this time as an instructor. “It was my turn to give back and help out,” he says. After teaching for several years, Amacher took over Lee’s studio before moving and expanding it to its current location in White Bear Lake.
Lee died in 2009, but his effect on Amacher’s life will always remain. “I’m not eloquent enough with my words to ever be able to give [Lee] justice on the things that he’s done or the person he is,” Amacher says. “He was a mentor until the day that he passed.”
Now, Amacher continues mentoring and inspiring others, just as Lee did. Aside from teaching the core principles of taekwondo through regular classes, Amacher also mentors through a leadership program at the school. “We teach a lot of young kids how to develop into leaders,” Amacher explains. “It benefits them in their schools and their communities.”
Nikki Truong, 15, went through the junior leadership program and has been Amacher’s junior assistant for two years. “Every day he reminds me to do what I want to do, and to try to do what I think is right,” says Truong.
Stewart Campbell, 24, practiced tae kwondo as a kid before taking an eight-year hiatus; he began training at the White Bear Lake academy two years ago. “[Taekwondo] has humbled me more and made me more responsible in life,” he says.
Following a holistic approach to martial arts training, and learning from people who lead by example, Amacher has changed many lives for the better. “We have notes from principals, from counselors, from parents with, ‘Wow, we can’t believe this is the same kid,’ ” Amacher says. “Everything from their focus to their confidence levels to their behavior. And that’s a beautiful part of being in this industry, being able to help students make those changes.”
World Taekwondo Academy
2007 County Road E, 651.917.1717