Hiroko Holland: A Journey of Strength, Confidence, and Community

by | Apr 2024

“STEP, STEP, and kick,” Hiroko Holland commands her students, her voice resonating across the studio. “Excellent form, now let’s do it again.” 

Holland, a former Japanese educator and current martial arts instructor, is not just teaching self-defense; she’s creating a community of empowered individuals. Her journey from a newcomer in the U.S. to the head instructor of Universal Kempo Karate Schools Hendersonville Branch is a prime example of her resilience and dedication to helping others find their strength, both inside and out. 

Holland’s journey into martial arts began as a quest for personal safety. 

“I actually started this journey taking a women’s self-defense class and then got myself into it,” she shared. 

But it quickly developed into something much deeper — a path to self-awareness and growth. 

“How do you be a good human and how to become a better person, as an individual, and grow as a person,” Holland emphasized, revealing her holistic approach to martial arts. 

Holland’s teachings are particularly impactful for women and children, who may be more vulnerable in unsafe situations. 

“It is so important for females … knowing that, yes, I can even get away from that bad situation if I want to,” she explained. “That gives you confidence.” 

Her classes offer more than just physical training; they are a journey towards self-reliance and empowerment. Confidence is paramount, according to Holland, who radiates confidence and power herself.

One of Holland’s greatest joys is witnessing the personal growth of her students. 

“The most important thing for me is being able to witness somebody’s personal growth,” she said with pride. 

The ultimate reward is the transformation she observes — particularly in children going from shy, withdrawn individuals to confident, assertive ones.

“It brings me so much happiness and reminds me of why I do what I do,” she said, tears flooding her eyes and gratitude filling her voice. 

“I want to give people a safe place to build confidence and strength. I received so much of that from my family and teachers growing up, so it is now my turn to give,” she expressed. 

Holland’s impact extends beyond her studio. Her engagement through activities like food drives, clothing drives, and disaster support highlights her commitment to giving back to the community she loves to call home. 

“I love the community,” she said. “I love being part of it and helping the people who live here in Hendersonville.”

The sense of community is nurtured by her family-oriented classes, creating an inclusive and supportive environment. 

Holland’s teachings stretch far beyond martial arts and self-defense. Her unique background as a teacher in Japan and her understanding of child development mesh together seamlessly with her martial arts instruction.

“We’re more than kicking and punching,” she acknowledged. 

This approach sets her apart, providing a nurturing and holistic environment for teaching. Holland is a mother and feels she has learned so much from the experience. 

“Being a mom just teaches you so much about raising kids and dealing with kids, and I’m such a better person because of that, so I can really connect with other moms and parents in general,” she said. “I want the best for my kids and for theirs, too, and that is what I am here for.” 

For Holland, her studio is more than a place for martial arts; it’s a sanctuary for personal development. 

“I ‘want to’ provide a safe place for people to belong and grow up together and be better together,” she stated passionately. 

Her philosophy of constant self-improvement resonates throughout her teachings. Holland’s approach is grounded in empathy and understanding, making her loved by her students. 

“You’re always competing with yourself,” she said. “That is your biggest competitor. Better yourself with each step. Make yourself better than a moment before.” 

This idea of “self-improvement over competition” defines her teaching style. Holland has become a role model for many others who have followed her lead, and it fills her with pride. 

Hiroko Holland’s story is one of transformation and empowerment. From her humble beginnings in Japan to becoming a symbol of strength and community in Hendersonville, she embodies the spirit of a true martial artist — one who seeks to better not only themselves, but those around them. Her journey and teachings inspire confidence and self-awareness, making her a powerful woman and a remarkable teacher. GN 

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