Rob Nelson is what you might call a self-motivated individual. Rob owns two businesses, is a father of a blended family, is a sixth-degree black belt in tae kwon do and a blue belt in jiujitsu, is certified as a level 1 combative instructor with the U.S. Army, and was the 2004 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame Competitor of the Year, among other things.
“Once karate skills get better you gain more confidence in yourself. I think that’s probably one of the biggest things that I sell, is confidence,” Rob said.
You might be wondering what brought this martial arts expert to Crosslake. Rob’s journey began in St. Paul, where he grew up. He graduated from St. Thomas Military Academy in 1986, and went on to graduate from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in computer science.
In 1991, he moved to Crosslake. He had spent time in the area, and even worked at the Old Wharf and Manhattan Beach Lodge when he was younger, because his grandmother lived in the area and owned an antique shop.
When Rob first moved to the area he started a computer business selling point of sale computers to local restaurants and businesses. Rob had been studying tae kwon do since 1980, and he used that experience to give karate lessons to a single student on the side, in the basement of that student’s home.
Rob eventually expanded his lessons and moved them to the Crosslake Community Center where he taught for a time, before opening a facility in 1995.
Today, Rob no longer owns a computer business, but he does own Nelson’s Landscape and Lawn Sprinklers. He is also part of the Ultimate Martial Arts (UMA) franchise and has expanded his instructions to include one dojo in Crosslake and one dojo in Baxter.
Rob met his wife at Crosslake Evangelical Church and they married in 2007. Pam is also Rob’s partner in managing their two UMA dojos. She is a blue belt, and sometimes helps to fill in as an instructor when Rob needs it, though most of her duties entail business operation and accounting.
Rob and Pam have a mixed family. Their oldest son, Evan Odegard, is a 21-year-old second-degree black belt. He attends college at McNally Smith School of Music in St. Paul. Their 19-year-old son, Austin Nelson, attends Concordia College in Moorhead. They also have sons Jared Nelson, 15, and Parker Nelson, 5.
Rob’s Crosslake Dojo has three instructors, his Baxter location has eight. They offer various martial arts classes, including after school karate, kick boxing, and even a class instructing children ages 3-5.
Rob teaches students the same characteristics that made him successful in his own life. During lessons he has his students recite mantras such as “respect myself” and “respect my parents”, and he stresses the importance of studying for good grades at school.
He is training for his purple belt in jiujitsu and a level 2 certificate in Army cobatives instruction.
When Rob faces new goals and challenges, he says he often thinks, “I got my black belt, I can do that, too.”
To date, Rob is one of very few civilians certified to train military personnel in martial arts. He has trained police departments, members of the Secret Service, Minnesota DNR officers and Minnesota Army Corps of Engineers members.
“The biggest thing is not always about being great at something, but it is really about passing along what I’ve learned through being disciplined,” he said.