Troy Auman tries to help people of all ages find more confidence not only in their bodies but in all parts of their lives.

Auman, owner and chief instructor at Evolution Training Center in Manhattan, has spent more than 20 years teaching martial arts and self defense skills. What started as a way for Auman to deal with bullying has evolved into a way to help people of all ages find the same confidence.

“We want them to be confident in themselves and their abilities,” Auman said. “That confidence does a lot for them in so many other ways. Learning to believe in yourself is huge.”

Auman has been studying martial arts since 1990. He’s a seventh-degree black belt who’s studied numerous styles, including taekwondo, krav maga, haganah, jiu-jitsu, judo, hapkido, tai chi and more methods of self defense. He said the center teaches skills with a focus on self defense. It offers youth martial arts classes, krav maga classes for teens and adults and fitness kickboxing classes.

“To me, it’s not the style that is important,” Auman said. “All styles have their benefit and their value. That’s why I’ve trained in so many.”

Auman started training in high school because he got bullied at school. The bullying affected his grades and ability to focus, so his mother suggested martial arts classes as a way to cope.

“I wanted to be able to feel more confident in my ability to deal with the bullies who picked on me,” he said.

Auman, 45, came to Manhattan to study at K-State and wanted to continue his training, so he enrolled at Evolution Training Center. While still in school, Auman ended up buying the center in 1997. He ran the school for the next two years while still pursuing his degree and working three part-time jobs, despite having almost no experience teaching martial arts.

“I didn’t know really how to teach well, didn’t really know how to run a business,” he said. “I kind of just had to figure things out. ... I had taught very little, maybe five times, and all of a sudden I was running a school.”

When Auman took over Evolution Training Center, it had about 15 students. Now, it has about 225.

Auman graduated from K-State in 1999 and found himself at a crossroads. He could keep running the school in Manhattan or begin his teaching career somewhere else. He applied for two jobs at schools in Manhattan, was offered both jobs, and made up his mind to stay in Manhattan.

“That was a sign for me that this was the right choice for me,” he said.

Auman retired from Manhattan Catholic Schools as an art teacher this summer after 22 years. He said that as an art teacher, his job was more about teaching the skill, but teaching martial allows more opportunities to teach life lessons alongside the skill. He said students can learn about discipline, confidence, planning ahead and persistence.

For example, Auman said he often makes the analogy to students that if they’re going on a trip, they don’t go on a vacation and then pack. Going through the movements requires them to consider which move comes next.

“Before I say go on the next section, you need to have your brain focused and thinking ahead, ‘What are we about to do?” Auman said.

Megan Rees takes classes at the studio for her own fitness, but both of her children are also enrolled in classes. She said the classes offer a nice mix of traditional forms with fun and energy and the expectations are high for all the students.

She said her two children have different personalities but both get something out of class.

“I have kind of a loud kid, and he learns that impulse control and discipline,” Rees said. “And then I have a kind of quiet girl, and it helps her to be a little more confident.”

Auman said martial arts attract many people who were a lot like he was when he started.

“I’m not naturally athletic,” he said. “I was that last kid picked in P.E. class.”

Many of his students, he said, are people who might not feel like they fit in some more traditional team or even individual sports. Practicing something that is an individual event and is not competitive in the same way other sports are allows them to thrive, Auman said.

“Your success and your failure is determined by you,” he said. “You’re not affecting other kids. You’re not getting that negative pressure if you’re not that star athlete.”

More than teaching the specific skills of martial arts, Auman wants to instill that discipline and confidence in his students so they can carry something with them far beyond when they leave his studio.

“I want the amount of time they are here with us to impact them for as long as possible,” “Even if they’re only with me for six months, I want it to impact them for six years, 16 years and beyond.”

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