Dan is a 6th degree black belt and a martial arts teacher with a vision of students who feel like they belong and they mean something. He’s not a quitter and he was born to make a difference.
I met Dan through a school field trip. The school’s jog-a-thon that I’m in charge of came with a field trip to the martial art school, given to the class that raised the most money. I showed up to support and bring pizza. I immediately knew I wanted to interview Dan. He led the excited and busy kids through some moves the made them feel powerful, I saw them respect him through simple instructions, and it was inspiring watching his passion for the sport come through. You know when you see someone doing what they really love? This was one of those moments. Dan was born to do this. He’s changing lives through empowering kids and adults.
Dan is Dynamo. As Dynamo #24 he’s joining the community of growing Dynamos here on Carrot Bowl. These are powerhouse people. These are people making a difference in their lives and consequently setting a huge example for others. Whether or not we recognize it or they recognize it, our stories and work empower other people. That’s what Dynamo is about. Inspiring and empowering each one of us to keep moving forward in our own health journey. This is physical, mental, and spiritual work. This is a journey of mindful and intentional living. Dan, you are Dynamo. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
(With mother in 1987 when Dan was 15 years old.)
How long have you been the owner of Ernie Reyes Martial Arts?
What’s the most rewarding thing in your work?
See the development of a white belt through the stages of belts and seeing each student achieve that goal and become somebody different. It does, it changes people and it’s a beautiful thing. Some in drastic ways. Some people come in here and they’re already healthy and they already have the mindset and it’s rewarding to see them. But then the others who need martial arts, or something in their life, that’s the most rewarding thing.
What does healthy living mean to you?
Healthy living is the most important thing because if we’re not healthy, nothing else matters. If we get sick, everything goes down the tube. Even just an illness, like a cold or something, can stop you for a couple days. But then if you’re making unhealthy choices it could be forever. It could be long-lasting and affect every area of your life: business, school, and relationships. So it’s the most important thing. #1 over everything, then everything else falls into place if you’re healthy.
(Master Dan awarding 1st belt to new student at belt testing!)
Besides martial arts, is there any other types of fitness you enjoy?
Yes, basketball. I love basketball. I love watching it and playing it. I have a huge history in the 4th grade of competitive basketball (haha). I just loved it but then I got into martial arts and martial arts became my passion. I was 12. When I found martial arts is was the thing I fell in love with.
(Haney family 2012 – Mom, Dad (Dan) and son Xander all practice martial arts together as a family!)
Where you a kid who was already on track with the right mindset or were you a kid that needed it?
I was a kid that needed it. However, I came from a good family, mom, dad, the whole nice neighborhood. But my brother use to beat me up like crazy. And not just beat me up, I used to get really beat up by my brother. So that’s kinda why I started martial arts I think. And then for whatever reason just fell in love with it and made it my career path. I needed it for that, my self esteem and confidence was hammered. Literally sometimes. When I found martial arts I asked my instructor how to do a certain move on my brother and my brother’s friend who were bothering me, plopped him on his butt, and he never bothered me again. That’s probably part of what made me puff my chest out and go, “Wow, this is cool.”
I wasn’t ever a fighter and I didn’t get into a whole lot of trouble, my brother was ahead of me getting into all the trouble, so I saw him. Martial arts was my social life, I met people there, I met friends there, I got good at it right away as a little kid and that made me feel good. You know, “Wow, I’m good at something!” And then also when you’re climbing the ranks you become a leader. I loved that aspect of it. I felt like I was in charge of something. When you’re young and you feel like a leader, that’s a cool thing for kids. I make that a huge part of my martial arts school. We have a whole leadership program, a hierarchy, and leadership classes. They are assisting classes and really making them feel like they belong, they mean something, and they’re helping others through this whole thing of becoming healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually in a whole character program. Super important.
(With step brother and best friend at a tournament in Boise, ID 1986.)
How has your example motivated or inspired others?
I’ve been doing this for a long time, my favorite thing is a getting a student that’s little when they come into the program and they go all the way through the program until they graduate high school and they go on to college. And then a year or two later they come back to me and they say, “Thank you so much for what you’ve done.” I have at least 3 or 4 a year that come in and it touches me.
The other thing is I’ve had a couple students who were under me, grow up through the ranks, and then open up their own martial arts school. We have one in Portland right now. His name is Zach. He was a little chubby kid with no confidence and now he’s, I’ll even say, better than me. That makes me feel really special and successful. And he’s got his own successful martial arts school in Portland.
What’s a piece of advice you like to share?
I’m a firm believer that there’s no secret to success. It’s all laid out for us, it’s all there. The biggest one is never quit. If you have a dream of something, just don’t quit. That’s what I did. I had people telling me, you can’t make a living at martial arts, you’re not going to be anything, and I didn’t care about all that. I had a passion, I don’t care about money, I just really want to do this. I want to make a difference, it makes me feel good. And I didn’t quit. So that’s the message I pass on. Never quit.
What are three goals you have right now?
- In my personal martial arts training, my goal in 2016 is to be awarded my 7th degree black belt under grand master Ernie Reyes and then a month later I’m heading to the Philippines to fight in a full-contact stick fighting world championship. My goal is to get gold. Last time I got silver.
- My business goal: I have a group of black belt testers and we’re heading down to California to the big test, the headquarter school down there. There’s about 13 people from my school heading down in October. The goal is to get the highest honors of any school that is coming. It’s a big team thing.
- I need to drop 20 lbs for my fight for the Philippines.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Making a difference in the community. That’s what I was born to do. Make a difference.
(Dan Haney winning silver medal in the Full Contact Stick Fighting (Eskrima) World Championships in Cebu, The Philippines 2014.)
*To attend Dan’s classes go to Ernie Reyes Martial Arts.