Interesting people of Augusta – Darin Prazer

I had the privilege to sit down with Senior Master Darin Prazer co-owner along with his wife, Mrs. Master Gena Prazer, of Built By Martial Arts. Since my son was seven years old, he has been learning Taekwondo. He is now 13-years old and has his 2nd Degree Black Belt and working toward his 3rd Degree Black Belt. My husband and I are very proud of him for that accomplishment; however, it is the other lessons of discipline, respect, self-respect, and perseverance that he’s learned that will carry him long into adulthood. It’s not only the Martial Arts that has taught him these lessons, but his instructors who teach him and set the example by living by these values. I know you’ll find Senior Master Prazer truly an interesting person.

Me: I know you aren’t originally from Augusta. Tell me about your journey that brought you here.

Senior Master Prazer: I was born in England, but my family moved with the military to Pensacola when I was 3 months old. That’s where I grew up. My family life was troubled; my father was an abusive alcoholic. My mother and father divorced when I was young, and my twin sister and I moved around a lot with our mother within Pensacola. We were never really settled all throughout my school years and we struggled financially, we were poor and on public assistance.

My mother remarried and our stepdad bought a home. Most of my early years I was picked on by other kids. I was small, poor, didn’t have a good home life, and I lacked confidence and self-esteem. It made me an easy target. A friend and I wandered into the local Taekwondo studio where I tried a class. I loved it! I was a fan of Bruce Lee and the other Kung Fu movies from the 70s and 80s. They were not big men like me, yet they were strong and confident, and I wanted to be like them. So, I started taking lessons.

A few months later after moving into the new house, my stepfather gave my mother an ultimatum that either my sister and I need to move out and live with someone else or he will leave her. I confided in my instructors about having to quit because my Mom was not going to pay anymore.  They were shocked to hear that I was having to find someone to live with and they invited me to live with them. I lived with my instructors for two years. I took lessons, went to high school, and worked in their studio, even teaching lessons when I was only a Blue Belt.  I worked 6 days a week at 14 and 15 years old so I learned everything very quickly. I loved doing martial arts and the feeling when parents said I worked so well with their child/children or that a child looked up to me.  I finally got recognition for something, and it was for helping these kids to improve!

I moved back with my mother after she divorced my stepfather. I was uncomfortable living with my mother because of her kicking us out but I figured I had two more years of school and then I will be out on my own.  I did what I needed to do to stay in the high school I had been attending instead of changing to my zoned school, and I worked. My mother remarried our father just before my Senior Year of High School.  He was still an alcoholic and spoke poorly to me, but he did not do anything physical to me.  I just stayed away from home as I worked a lot and hung out with friends near my school.  When I completed high school, I thought I would head to college. I wanted to help people and thought about becoming a doctor but changed my mind due to all the schooling involved and looked into criminal justice. I was accepted to that program at Florida State University.

I never made it to college. I moved to England and lived there with my half-brother’s and half-sister’s father, Ken.  I paid him rent as I worked full time in Printed Circuit Board Assembly.  I went to England to connect with my family. I didn’t really know them well, but I treated Ken as if he was a father to me and he treated me like a son.  He was the best father figure I had ever had even though I was 18 years old at this time.  I found out that I had dual citizenship, so I was able to work and stay as long as I wanted to. It was the best experience getting to know my half siblings and Ken, affectionately I called him Dad. One day, I was in the back yard practicing Taekwondo. My brother asked me to teach him. While I was teaching him it hit me that THIS is what I want to do. What I need to do. I knew it was my calling.

I went back to Pensacola with the intention of getting my certifications to become an instructor and then to return to England to open a studio there. I was happy there. I had a family there.

Eventually, I earned my certifications and was an instructor in my instructor’s studio and then opened his second location in Pensacola. I was literally running the business, working six days a week teaching, and handling all the business aspects.

Then I met my wife at a tournament. She was also an instructor of Taekwondo in Savannah. I asked her out. I thought I was going to be a bachelor for life but after six months, I proposed to her at a National Tournament held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. When we got married, we looked for a location that wouldn’t conflict with either of our instructors’ schools and was still close to her family in Savannah. The Augusta area was it.

Me: What were you pleasantly surprised to find here in Augusta?

Senior Master Prazer: We love how family-oriented this area is. There is such a feeling of community here and the activities center around families and children. We also love our Church, Grace Baptist Church of Evans.  Not having had this type of environment when I grew up, I’m grateful and feel blessed to have this for my children.

Me: So, what is your favorite activity to do in the Augusta area?

Senior Master Prazer: We love doing things as a family. We play miniature golf at Putt-Putt Fun Center. Our older son has an impressive swing! And we like to go hiking along the Euchee Creek Trail. We like to get the children outside to explore the wonders of nature. My wife and daughter are involved with the American Heritage Girls so we’ve recently started camping. We’ve camped at Mistletoe State Park and other sites around the lake. It’s a wonderful experience with our children. Both my wife and I grew up on the beach. We miss the salt water but enjoy time at the lake. And we enjoy going to live theater at the Columbia County Performing Arts Center and the Imperial Theater. Live theater is our daughter’s favorite.

Me: What is your favorite restaurant?

Senior Master Prazer: For me I like Taj of India. I love Indian food and the spicier the better. If I want really spicy, I’ll go to Persis Indian Grill. My wife prefers Japanese food and we enjoy going to Koi Hibachi & Sushi. When it’s Daddy-Daughter Date time, we usually go to Chili’s in Evans and our son likes to go to Mai Thai with Gena for a Mommy-Son Date.  There are so many different types of food to explore here!

Me: When you first came to Augusta what else impressed you?

Senior Master Prazer: Wow, well, when we first moved here, we lived in an apartment on Alexander Dr. We moved in in March and shortly after, tents were popping up and traffic was being rerouted and it was crazy. We wondered what was going on until we realized it was The Masters. We didn’t realize just how big a deal it was. We’ve had the privilege of going to The Masters and the course is absolutely beautiful. It’s such an economic boon to our area and it’s a great thing to have here.

Me: Tell me about your business.

Senior Master Prazer: We came to Augusta in March of 2007 to open our own Taekwondo studio. We started teaching classes at the Marshall Family Y in Evans at first. My wife worked in the nursery in the mornings, and we also worked at the Wilson Family Y. Basically, we worked, taught, and focused on opening our studio. We worked 7 days a week. We were fortunate to find our full-time location and we opened in August 2007, within 5 months of starting our part-time martial arts club. We’ve been at the same location for sixteen years!

We teach Taekwondo but there is so much more to Martial Arts. Martial Arts incorporates discipline, respect, honesty, positivity, and focus. We teach all ages from 5-year-olds to adults of all ages.  Martial Arts is good for self-esteem because you compete with yourself not against others. You are never compared to how good someone else is. You are compared to yourself and your own growth. Our motto is “Yes I Can.”

We teach traditional forms, physical fitness, and self-defense that anyone can use to defend themselves or at least be able to get away to get help. This builds confidence in everyone when they know it’s okay to protect yourself.

People of all ages, in all different physical conditions, and with different learning styles and abilities can participate and succeed. It’s amazing to watch children and adults grow in their confidence and develop discipline. It’s about helping people.

Me: What is one thing on your bucket list you haven’t done yet?

Senior Master Prazer: Having a family, having a faith-filled church at Grace Baptist, having a career that I love and owning my own business is my bucket list and I have been blessed with all of these. Coming from the background I grew up in, having a family is so important to me. I love spending time with my wife and our children.

Having a church family to worship together and grow in our faith together is more than I could imagine. When I was little, a neighborhood lady would gather up the children and take us to church on Sunday. For my mother, it was a free baby-sitting service, so she let my sister and I go. The seeds of faith were sown. Truly, God brought my wife, Gena, into my life to bring me to Him. She came from a faith-filled family, and she brought God into our relationship.

Me: What is one of your long-term goals and how are you working toward it?

Senior Master Prazer: Long-term I’d like to grow our business. Currently I’ve been training and able to offer classes for self-protection using firearms. We use dry-fire training weapons so there are no projectiles or loud noises. These classes can be private training or in groups.

Even though I teach Martial Arts, there may be situations or conditions that would prevent someone from using Martial Arts to protect themselves. Self-protection is important and becoming more and more so. We are growing to teach many different ways of protection.

I’d also like to achieve my 9th Degree Black Belt and reach the Grand Master level in the next 13 years!

Me: What is one thing you’ve done that you are proud of, or glad that you did?

Senior Master Prazer: Well, first, I’m glad I married my wife, Gena. She is truly a gift from God and she is the heart of our family.

Second, I suffered from five years of chronic back pain and six surgeries. The doctors prescribed pain killers, which is common. But the problem with pain killers is that they mask pain and when they begin to wear off, the pain returns seeming to be greater than it was. What happens is, a patient will need pain medications long term and eventually need to take them more often. I was on that cycle.

I felt that God spoke to me through internal dialogue and told me to get off the medication. You know it is God speaking when what you are hearing doesn’t make sense to you, it is hard to do, it is biblically and morally sound, and it usually will end up being of benefit to you, to others, or for God’s Kingdom.  It was about 2 years after my final surgery that I started having this dialogue with myself about getting off the meds but I was denying it saying that it helps bring down my pain.  I needed it so I can get work done and provide for my family.  Six months later I decided to do it. I weaned myself off the medications, enduring the bounce-back pain but little by little it lessened. Now I’m pain free, my mobility and flexibility have returned. I’m very glad I listened to God and broke the cycle!

Me: Name one thing that makes you unique, interesting, or special.

Senior Master Prazer: This is a tough question. Being resilient, I guess. Overcoming my difficult childhood of abuse, poverty, and neglect to building a beautiful family and a business that I was called to do – it’s a remarkable journey. I didn’t do it alone, God brought many people through my life but the most prominent is my wife.  Gena is the cornerstone of our family and business. Also, learning to listen to God’s voice and having faith in his purpose has made it all happen.

Me: Thank you Senior Master Prazer for your time. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to get to know you better. If anyone would like to know more about Built By Martial Arts they can email the studio by clicking here. Or you can contact me, and I’ll be happy to put you in touch with Senior Master Prazer and Mrs. Master Prazer.

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