It started as a bucket list item for Duane Linn.

Could he work his way to a black belt?

Linn, 48, started practicing taekwondo in 2001. And when work took him overseas, he found a similar Korean martial art, Tang Soo Do, in 2007.

The Papillion man earned his black belt in Tang Soo Do seven years after starting the practice.

With that item checked off his bucket list, Linn looked toward the next goal. This spring, he earned his third-degree black belt.

Linn has been operating his own martial arts school, Chung Shin Warrior Tang Soo Do, at the Sarpy Community YMCA since 2015. He hopes to coach some of his students toward their own black belts.

“As I reach each goal now, I’m looking at the next one,” Linn said.

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Q: When did you start working out and why?

A: The first time I (started martial arts) was 2001. It was one of those challenges that I didn’t think I could overcome. I took the challenge to see if I could do it.

Q: Describe your workouts. How many days per week do you exercise?

A: Three or four days a week, I train on my own. In addition to a weight routine, I practice my martial arts techniques. You’ve got to be in shape and sharp so you can still teach. I also run a martial arts school three nights a week. Classes consist of learning to do self-defense, kicking, punching or attacking. We also do a form of hyung, a set pattern of techniques that are traditional to this form of martial arts. We do cardio and circuit training, too.

Q: What is your current fitness goal?

A: My goal is to still be able to stay active, teach and perform at a level that is associated with my rank (of third-degree black belt). I want to be able to keep doing it as long as I can. It’s almost impossible to be in martial arts without being physically fit.

Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment?

A: I never thought I would get this far. I never imagined being able to test for third-degree. I never saw myself owning a school, having students and teaching them. Hopefully some day, one of my students will become a black belt.

Q: What has been the toughest hurdle and how did you overcome it?

A: The toughest hurdle is balancing career, life and martial arts. Trying to find a way for all of that to work, it’s still a challenge.

Q: What helps you stay on track?

A: I don’t want to disappoint my students. I want to be as good as I can be so I can make them as good as they can be. It was a long, challenging road to get here. That’s my motivation. I don’t want to be sloppy.

Q: What is your gym pet peeve?

A: People not putting equipment away or leaving stuff out and not cleaning up after themselves. Then you go to find it, and you can’t.

Q: What do you do when you aren’t in the gym?

A: I look for opportunities to stop for a moment. Life and the world are in constant motion. I find an opportunity to stop for a moment and not have to move or run or be somewhere or do something.

Q: What is the piece of equipment, supplement, clothing, etc. that you can’t live without?

A: My wireless headphones. That way, I can tune out the distractions of stuff going on in the gym. I can get into my mindset.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their fitness journey?

A: Don’t get frustrated. Don’t quit. Give it a chance. It’s the most intimidating thing for someone to start martial arts for the first time. You feel awkward, uncomfortable, almost embarrassed. The most difficult thing is to start. Give it a chance. Give yourself a chance. It’s easy to quit and walk away. You can get past that. The physical and the mental rewards are worth the journey and worth the sacrifice.

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