By day, Levi Kom and Joe Thomas stroll the hallways of Basin Electric’s Headquarters in dress shirts and ties. By night, however, the two hang up their workplace attire and adorn themselves with the official all-white garb of hand-to-hand combat.
They just want to be clear about one thing.
“We’re not Bruce Lee,” chuckles Thomas, Basin Electric decision support developer II.
Kom, Basin Electric senior business system analyst, says neither have ever had to apply their years of self defense practice in real life, and they would like to keep it that way.
The two agree their tradecraft is symbolized by more than just a black-colored belt and advanced weaponry prowess, and it should only be unleashed when necessary.
“It’s getting your mind tuned up to remember that you need to think about your awareness,” Kom says. “Your brain is your number one self defense.”
Kom says knowing how to defend yourself is necessary nowadays, considering the growth in the Bismarck-Mandan (ND) area.
“A lot of people here aren’t used to having to think about their safety because they never had to think about it before,” he says. “It’s not to say that this is an unsafe place. It’s just that you need to be a little more aware.”
During their more than 20 years of training at the Roughrider Academy gym in Mandan, the two employees have studied three main areas of martial arts: Korean sword kumdo, hapkido and taekwondo. Both are also invested in learning from where their trade originated.
Kom, a fourth-degree master in taekwondo, hapkido, and a black belt in kumdo, has visited South Korea four times. Thomas, who holds master status in taekwondo, is a second-degree black belt in hapkido, and a black belt in kumdo, has made the trip twice.
Some may think training is complete upon tying a black belt around a robe, but Kom and Thomas say there is more to it than that.
“You get your black belt, you’re not done. There’s more,” Thomas says. Kom says black belt status is actually where the true art of taekwondo begins.
Thomas’ early years at the gym are also when an important relationship developed.
“It’s where I met my wife,” he says.
Kom’s wife has also taken classes at the gym. Today, she is a first-degree black belt.
Thomas has even had his mom to try out self defense classes.
Kom and Thomas serve as instructors at the gym during evenings, teaching classes with participants of all ages. The two say self defense is especially helpful to young kids because it helps give them discipline and confidence. And while the Basin Electric team has spent years mastering their techniques, most individuals don’t practice for that long.
“We’ve seen thousands of people through the doors, and only a couple people get to where we’re at. So, you really have to be dedicated to stick it out that long and move up as high as we’ve moved up,” Kom says.
Both men say hitting the gym after work can be tiring, but say they are happy doing something they describe as a lifestyle.
“It can be a long day, but I’ve told myself I’m going to keep going to martial arts as long as I keep having fun,” Thomas says.