Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Martial arts: MMA more than karate a family business

James and Ron Hill have carved careers out of something their father taught them when they were children.

The Rev. Charles Hill learned martial arts when he served in the Air Force in Japan and Guam. He passed those skills on to his boys, who took to the sport and wound up teaching others what their father had taught them.

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James and Ron, along with their partners, Brian Thompson and Laura Edler-Hill, now run HCX Mixed Martial Arts, which has been open for seven years. Through the years, the business has moved to different sites, and another move has just been completed, this time to Shorewood.

The Hills moved the Joliet training center at 203 Airport Drive to a new location in Shorewood to try to boost the number of children in their program and to provide more space for members.

The new center at 852 Sharp Drive opened Monday. A grand opening celebration will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

A second studio at 12644 Old Plank Drive will remain open and will not be affected by the Shorewood move.

The Hills opened their first school on April 29, 2000, and they've been in business ever since. The Hill brothers have expanded into other areas, including teaching self-defense to area teachers, children and police officers. And they manage boxers' careers and have boxing rings at both martial arts schools.

Boxing is a martial art and so is wrestling, they say. Most people think only of judo and karate when they're talking about martial arts. But there are many more aspects to it, the Hills said.

HCX instructors teach a wide variety of martial arts including boxing, jiu-jitsu, karate, Muay Thai and San-Da kickboxing and mixed martial arts, "which is everything," James said. Some of the school's students compete at national tournaments.

The nice thing about martial arts is students can determine how far they will go in the sport, and there is no coach who will bench them, Ron said.

"It's what you do," he said. "You put the time in and you'll compete. Win or lose, you'll compete."

Through the years, the Hills have learned important business lessons. For instance, they used to be open more hours of the day. But now they restrict hours to times when it is convenient for members to train.

Also, they used to offer classes recommended by other people. But sometimes what one or two people want will not be well received by others.

"We didn't have a business mentor," James said. "We had to learn the hard way and try to fix things."

"A lot of things were trial and error," agreed Ron, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Lewis University in Romeoville.

Now things are going well and the boys are thankful that their dad, who died in 2004, lived to see them building a business out of the skills he taught them.

"We were born to do it," Ron said.

Reporter Cindy Wojdyla Cain may be reached at (815) 729-6044 or at



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