The story of a coach or teacher who is passionate about their ability to shape and influence the lives of others (especially children) is a common one. In the small town of Bradenton on Florida’s Sun coast there is a seven time world champion kick boxer who has dedicated his time, talent and vast knowledge of the sport to change the lives of his community. Erik Marshall has taught martial arts to children and adults for the last nine years. The selflessness, humility and generosity Erik displays are certainly inspiring.
Erik Marshall had always wanted to learn martial arts but instead as he grew up he played basketball, ran track and was an all star baseball player. In winter of 1991 after watching Mark Spaziano fight for the world title he could no longer resist the calling that would fulfill his destiny. In the span of about ten years Erik became a seven time world champion with a total of eleven kickboxing championships. Today Erik changes lives as he shares his passion at his school Valhalla Fitness & MMA.
A conversation with Erik revealed what he does, why he does it and the important results. “I definitely didn’t go into teaching for the money…I wanted to give back and share what I had learned. I wanted to teach kids.” When asked what he gets out of it Erik said “a smile”. He said that his most rewarding moments as an instructor have came from seeing past students who still give him a hug when they see him. Erik said “of course I like to see them win and exceed their own expectations…but it is a great feeling when parents come up to you and tell you how well their children are doing in school or life and how they think it’s because of me.” Erik chuckles as he said “I just smile and tell them that that it’s not all me”
Last summer after opening his current school Erik told me that a few of the children who live in the mobile home park nearby found their way into his dojo. He said “they didn’t have anywhere to go and here they would spend the day learning” I didn’t get paid much in dollars but I was rewarded on those days.” The humility of Erik Marshall is a trait that sets him apart from many martial arts instructors. When asked what he tries to pass on to his students his reply was to be humble but confident, respect, to train hard and to protect their self. Erik dedicates himself to his school every evening four nights a week and many weekends he spends on the road with students who have decided they want to test themselves by competing. In a short time Erik has helped his students achieve three world championships and three regional Florida state titles.
Erik Marshall speaks about his own children with the same pride. “I love being a father…I am lucky. I am not just saying that because I am their dad…I hear it often from those who know how respectful and kind they are.” Erik’s wife Carrie “is the best” he says “she really understands me.” A few moments with his wife Carrie confirms that she not only understands his passion and giving nature but that he has her full support. She shared that “it is a part of who he is and he loves to help people”. The role that Erik takes on is more than that of an instructor he becomes the councilor, the role model and the friend to his students. Erik said “It’s not just a school it’s a family.”
Erik Marshall’s commitment to his students is not his only display of generosity as he “gives back”. On Saturday December 17th Erik hosted his 11th annual block party to collect toys and other donations for the Family HOPE Center of Bradenton. This year nearly 150 people attended the event held in his neighborhood. The event was child focused and featured a bounce house, 3 firemen and a big fire truck, a hay ride, music, food and more. The event resulted in 17 large bags full of toys (about 200) which were presented on Tuesday to the HOPE Center. Erik was filled with joy as the back end of a pickup filled up with toys that night. He wanted to thank all who attended and made the event successful with their “giving spirits”, and the Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue (Lt. Matthew Rose, FF Mike Dunn, FF Johnny Leydon) and DJ Rich Bostelman.
Erik Marshall has dedicated his life to the martial arts that he teaches. He teaches kickboxing, muay Thai, grappling and MMA to students of all ages. Erik also teaches by setting an example for others on how to be generous, humble, and compassionate and how to live life with passion. New students are welcomed into his school to become part of the Valhalla family.