Pittsburgh-area martial artist creates new karate style | Sports News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh-area martial artist creates new karate style

“I wanted to build something geared toward helping people learn how to defend themselves in different situations.”

John Morgart with a Wei Son Do student
John Morgart with a Wei Son Do student

John Morgart was 7, when his dad first tried to introduce him to martial arts. He took him to C.S. Kim Karate in Irwin, Pa., but the visit didn’t go as planned. 

“When I first went, I was a little scared and intimidated,” Morgart says. “It wasn’t for me at the time.”

It would be four more years before Morgart returned to a karate studio, but since 2004, he’s barely left.

“I was watching Bruce Lee movies and Jackie Chan movies, and it got me inspired. So when I was 11, I asked my dad if I could try again,” says Morgart, now 24.

And after 13 years of practicing, the fourth-degree black belt (that’s a martial-arts master, for the uninitiated) has even created his own karate style: Wei Son Do. Last month, he officially trademarked it. 

The meaning behind the Korean words that make up Wei Son Do reveal Morgart’s inspiration for creating the new martial-arts style. “Wei” means to guard, to defend and to protect; “son” means hand; and “do” means the way or the path of your life. So essentially Wei Son Do is about using your hands to protect yourself.

“I wanted to create something that would be engineered for an actual fight, if you’re actually defending yourself,” Morgart says. “I wanted to build something geared toward helping people learn how to defend themselves in different situations. I wanted to create a martial-arts form that could help you outside of class. If you’re walking down the street and someone grabs you on your wrist, you can learn how to quickly get out of that move, defend yourself from your attacker and get away.”

In other martial-arts styles, like Tang Soo Do, students don’t learn defensive moves like wrist grabs and knife defends until they’ve been promoted to the first black-belt level after four years of training. But Morgart believes it can be important for students to learn these maneuvers earlier. In Wei Son Do, students learn the basics like low block, middle punch and high block, but also advanced techniques like knife defends, gun defends and wrist grabs. 

“If someone comes up behind you and puts you in a rear-neck chokehold, you’ll know how to get out of it,” Morgart says.

Instead of setting what a student learns based on their years of experience, the moves a Wei Son Do student learns will depend on other factors, like the student’s age.

“I don’t want to teach a 5-year-old or a 6-year-old knife defends or gun defends right away, but they will learn wrist defends and, if someone puts you in a chokehold, how to get out of it,” Morgart says.

Learning self-defense was one of the reasons Morgart’s first Wei Son Do student — a 10-year-old girl who started training with Morgart last year — first turned to martial arts. Morgart says the girl’s father wanted her to start taking martial-arts classes because she was being bullied at school. 

“When a student first comes in, we do private lessons to make sure they understand some of the terminology and the moves before they get introduced to class,” says Morgart. “I love teaching. It’s great to see students grow, not only in the martial arts, but in life.”

And working with the 10-year-old Woodland Hills Intermediate School student has been especially rewarding. After a year of training, the girl was promoted to green belt in Wei Son Do.

“She’s come a long way,” Morgart says. “When I first started training her, she had a little bit of an attitude, and she’d just throw her uniform in her bag. But after a year, she loves training in martial arts. She has a more respectful attitude. Even in her school work, her parents told me she’s been doing very well.”

Morgart plans to continue teaching Wei Son Do and Tang Soo Do, another martial-arts style he is proficient in, at C.S. Kim Monroeville, but one day he plans to open his own studio. And even as a young master in his mid-twenties, Morgart has earned a fair amount of recognition in the martial-arts community.

Last month, he competed in the 2018 Arnold Martial Arts Festival 43rd Battle of Columbus in Columbus, Ohio, and placed second in the Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do forms competition. There, he displayed his Wei Son Do Sannaum form and earned high praise from a few of the veteran masters in attendance. 

“When I was executing the form at the festival, other instructors were really impressed. They said it was excellent,” says Morgart. “It was a great experience.”