His students at American Taekwondo in Brookfield, Wisconsin call him Master Vorpahl. At some point in the future, we suspect the world will know Aaron Vorpahl as the “Vince McMahon” of Taekwondo.
Master Vorpahl was an early adopter of 2020 Armor, getting his first recreational electronic chest guards in the summer of 2018. Vorpahl started wondering how he could push this technology even further. Almost immediately an idea began to form. That idea would become the Midwest Taekwondo League.
“I love wrestling and my buddy loves wrestling,” says Vorpahl. “Once we started seeing what kind of coolness the armor brings to sparring, it doesn’t seem like just Taekwondo. It had the same feeling when you do something different and cool. So we wanted to have a tournament. The idea of having a belt for a champion was pretty awesome in our minds. We each bought half of a belt and decided to see what happens.”
Aaron and his team started with just one ring using 2020 equipment at an in-house tournament for color belts.
“There is a real problem in Taekwondo and that’s the only thing people care about are black belts,” says Vorpahl. “We wanted to do something for the color belts. Give them a lane where they could compete. There is more excitement for the color belts. Everyone is so serious with black belts. Black belts lack that funness that color belts have in spades.”
They thought they’d get a positive reaction but they didn’t expect the intensity of the response. The crowd around the 20/20 ring was so loud that they had to shut down the Daedo ring. People were absolutely losing their mind cheering on the competitors.
It was as wrestling announcer Gorilla Monsoon would have said, “complete pandemonium.”
With this initial success, Master Vorpahl saw the potential for something greater. What if it wasn’t just an in-house tournament but a competition between schools? So the Midwest Taekwondo League between to take shape. The requirements to join the league were simple.
“To be in the Midwest Taekwondo League you need to have 2020 Armor in your school,” says Vorpahl. “You have to publicize events. You have to put the league on Facebook, each school needs to have its own belt and they need to throw an in school tournament to crown a champion. The school champions are the ones who can challenge for the league belt. If you’re a league champion, you don’t pay for the tournament. They get to go free because they’re the champion. It’s a small thing but gets the kids excited.”
If you’ve been following the Midwest Taekwondo League on Instagram and Facebook you’ve seen the beginning of legendary rivalries being formed between schools. Champions rising and falling. Drama that draws you in and makes you a fan.
“We are going to try new stuff,” says Master Vorpahl. “This year we want to add four or five new belts. We want to do tag team belts. We want to have a belt just for women. And some weird hardcore belt that can’t be defended in a Taekwondo ring. That has to be defended at a different style of location. Something silly like that. To keep it fun and exciting.”
2020 Armor CEO Ali Ghafour has been tracking this league as it rose almost overnight to become the most exciting thing on his social media feed.
“I’m this league’s biggest fan. I can’t get enough of it. It really is the coolest thing,” says Ghafour. “You see the confidence Master Vorpahl is giving these kids by putting them in the spotlight and giving them a chance to compete in this league and it’s such an affirmation that we are on the right path. He’s teaching other school owners how they can make another stream of revenue through tournaments and retain the students they already do have using our equipment. We couldn’t have a better brand ambassador than Master Vorpahl. I can’t wait to see what he’s planning next.”
So what is Master Vorpahl’s next step in conquering the world of TKD?
It’ll include the 2020 Armor app, which is currently in closed beta and has been released to select customers for testing.
“My dad and I are going to make a whole event that is just 2020,” says Vorpahl. “We are going to do it so that it’s visual. We want to use the app so that people will able to see the fighters on screen. There will be a scoreboard, you’ll be able to see the health bar on the screen like in Street Fighter. And you’re going to see it on 60 inch TVs on each corner of the ring. We’ll have a competition to see who’s the hardest kicking blue belt, who has the fastest reactions. We’re going to build a stage do the 2020 fights. This thing is only going to get bigger and better. This great community has sprung up to support us. I couldn’t do this without the support of the parents, the work of my partner in Midwest Taekwondo who handles the promotion stuff and without these great kids giving their all.”
Vorpahl has found the armor incredibly helpful not just in creating new revenue streams through tournaments, but also in helping to retain younger students.
“I saw the 2020 Armor and I knew we had to have it. It was just so cool,” says Vorpahl. “It’s an excellent retention tool. The armor helps tremendously with the younger students, with the white belts, with the orange belts. It helps them realize if they are kicking correctly. They can work on their speed and on their precision. They can see how hard they kick and they can see their progress. They love watching the lights, they love watching the meters go down. Plus it’s that video game feel. Our students love it.”
If you want to follow the Midwest Taekwondo League’s rapid ascent to global dominance follow them on Instagram @midwesttaekwondo and Facebook @midwesttaekwondo. If you want to get started using 2020 Armor in your own school open a chat session in the bottom right-hand corner or get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org!