FM’s Local Martial Arts Master


The flag of South Korea, Taekwondo’s home country

There are fewer than twenty eighth degree black belt holders in the United States, and Fargo is home to one of them. Grandmaster Jim Grimestad achieved his eighth degree black belt and owns Red River Traditional Taekwondo near I-29 between Main and 13 Avenues in Fargo. The first moral tenet of Taekwondo is courtesy, and this is reflected in all actions in his life. Grimestad encourages his students to do the same and treat all people with respect and grace.
Around 50 years ago, a South Korean military officer and Taekwondo Grandmaster named Moo Yong Yun moved to the United States and began teaching in Chicago. A little while after that, he moved his practice to Fargo. In both locations, he called the gym a Karate school because Americans at the time wouldn’t have known what Taekwondo was. It was at this time in 1987 that a young boy named Jim Grimestad enrolled under Yun and began learning the art of combat.
Now, 35 years later, Grandmaster Grimestad has an eighth degree black belt in Taekwondo and various others in other styles. Along with this, he has a school of his own called Red River Traditional Taekwondo. The ‘Traditional’ in that name means that instead of teaching students how to play the sport of Taekwondo, he teaches the self-defense and moral tenets of the martial art of Taekwondo. Grimestad has classes throughout the week for both adults and kids, focusing more on self-defense and discipline respectively. He recommends high school students especially, saying that “Self-control is especially important at that age, and some of [the young people] would really be helped by knowing how to defend themselves going into college.” If you’re worried about being out of your depth in the adult class, it may assuage your fears to hear that Grimestad often says, “The adults and kids both have trouble telling left and right or following simple directions.” If that isn’t a commentary on society, I don’t know what is.
Taekwondo is a martial art developed on the Korean Peninsula circa the 1940s by martial artists experienced in styles native to Korea, as well as those of China and Japan. As such, it includes many elements of each of these various arts. It has the circular motions of Kung Fu and the head-on flowing strikes of Karate, as well as some original movement innovations. It was developed originally as a combat sport so that South Korea could have something to really be proud of on the global stage. First shown as an exhibition sport at the 1988 Olympics, it became an official olympic game at the 2000 Olympics. The South Korean government has an entire branch for the maintenance of Taekwondo called the Kukkiwon. This branch of government certifies black belts and instructors through an official licensing system, and tests for the higher degrees must be held under their jurisdiction.
Grimestad is the only instructor in the FM area to travel to South Korea to partake in testing. Why is a man with such qualifications as Grimestad here in Fargo/Moorhead and not off in the big city somewhere. “My family is here, and I’ve never had any reason to leave,” Grimestad said.
Grimestad has three daughters who are all black belts. The youngest is even considering following in her father’s footsteps, but the elder two have other aspirations. As for Grimestad’s goals for the future, he hopes to have some of his assistant instructors open branch schools or “leave the nest,” as he put it. No matter what his future holds, this man’s talent is a great addition to our community through his support of his members, hopefully for many years to come.
Red River Traditional Taekwondo, or RRTKD, holds 3 45-minute kids’ classes from 4:30-6:45 on Monday-Thursday evenings, an hour-and-a-half adult class from 7:30-9:00 on Monday and Wednesday evenings and 5:30-7:00 on Friday evenings. There are also adaptive classes run through the Fargo Parks District on Monday and Wednesday in between the kids’ and adult classes. They are located at 3509 4 Ave S, just off I-29. They offer trial periods, and anyone is welcome as long as they’re willing to put in a little work.