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Omaha Magazine

A Chop Above: The Fountain Family Shares Karate Passion, Knowledge, and Dojo with Omaha Community

Dec 27, 2022 08:22AM ● By Jarrett Van Meter
Chris and Greg Fountain

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Something was amiss; he could tell even before anyone spoke. In 2016, Greg Fountain was walking in for his managerial shift at an Omaha pharmacy and sensed that something was off.

“A guy attacked a woman in the bathroom,” his coworker blurted out as soon as he walked in. “He just ran out of here.” 

The sentence was barely uttered before Fountain had bolted out back the automatic sliding door, catching up with a small platoon of employees already in pursuit of the attacker. 

One by one, Greg surged past the group, tackling the perp. It’s easy to imagine comic book sound bubbles popping above the scene:

“WHAM! SNAP! WAPOW!” 

Two men on the ground, one on top of the other. Greg subdued the assailant until the police arrived.

The timing of the incident was eerie given that only a few weeks prior, Greg’s mother found herself in similar circumstance. Dawn Fountain, a pharmacist, was at work at a different Omaha store when she too was attacked in a bathroom stall. Within seconds, the man, who possessed a great size advantage, was on the floor begging for mercy.

Attackers typically use the element of surprise throw their victims off-kilter, opening lanes for further assault. They rely on the chaos of the moment to generate fear and adrenaline-induced paralysis as they seek to achieve whatever criminal outcome they ambushed for. 

In both these incidents the attackers were met with decades of martial arts training—training that allowed Greg and Dawn to maintain focus, to keep the flames of mayhem from engulfing their senses, and then to retaliate with neutralizing force. But you don’t need to be a black belt to protect yourself, said Mark Fountain, Dawn’s husband and Greg’s father.

The Fountain family—Dawn, Mark, Greg, and Greg’s wife Chris—are here to teach you how.
Even before opening their new dojo this past July, Fountain Studios of Self Defense, the Fountains were well known within Nebraska martial arts circles. 

Mark’s journey began at age 17, when he was looking for something to fill the void at the conclusion of his high school wrestling career. He fell in love with the self-defense element of martial arts, and the requisite humility came naturally to him. 

“I came pretty much with an empty glass,” he explained. “When you are studying martial arts at any level, it’s very humbling. So, I didn’t really come in with a ‘Hey, I’ve been wrestling since I was in third grade’ mentality. It was, ‘I want to learn.’”

He moved to Omaha from Missouri Valley, Iowa as a young adult, a high-kicking, motorcycle-riding car salesman. One evening at Arthur’s, a bar formerly at the corner of 75th and Dodge, he met Dawn—an aspiring pharmacist and PharmD candidate. 

Dawn played basketball and ran track in high school, but had no martial arts experience. That was back in 1984. 38 years later, the couple have raised two grown sons and a shared love for both motorcycles and karate. Dawn’s initial introduction came around the same time as that of sons Greg and Jordan. Mark hired private coaches to come to the house to train the boys, beginning when Greg was 5. 

“And close to a year later, I had to make it a family affair,” Dawn said.

She commenced her own practice in 2000, and between all of the family members, the Fountains have earned enough black belts to tie down King Kong. Mark is a fifth degree black belt Shihan, Greg is a fourth-degree black belt Sensei, and Dawn is a third-degree black belt Sensei. Younger son Jason chose not to pursue martial arts to the extent of the others, but earned a junior black belt before turning his attention to filmmaking. Mark, Dawn, and Greg each exude a steely peacefulness that they credit to their decades of practice in martial arts. 

“It makes you more calm,” Mark explained. “And not just that it centers you and puts you in a situation where you can relax in that situation, which it does, but how many situations do they not get themselves into to begin with because they have a certain self-confidence. They have a certain walk, they have a certain posture, they have a certain eye contact, and those people who are out there looking to bully, pick on, or attack, they see that and subconsciously are going to think, ‘eh, let’s move on to somebody else.’”

Their prowess carried them to teaching, and for two decades they have been involved in the tutelage of many of the city’s black belts. Jayson Lucas, who is helping out at Fountain Studios teaching children’s classes, is a former student of Mark’s. 

Chris Fountain, Greg’s wife who also helps with the young students at the dojo, met her future father-in-law at her first-ever self-defense class. She had gone with a friend, clad in Nike shorts and a t-shirt rather than the traditional gi. She was instantly hooked, but it was the introduction at the end of the class that changed her life forever. Mark approached her from across the room as the crowd began to dissipate.

“He said, ‘You know, if we never see you again, I want to make sure you leave here with some really important self-defense skills that you can remember and will help you,’” Chris recalled. 
Mark gave her a brief tutorial on some fundamentals, leaving her both touched and impressed. She immediately signed up to take more lessons with him, and it was at one of those succeeding classes that she met Greg. They started dating a year later, and have been together for 11 years.

Chris was already hooked on martial arts, but it was on her and Greg’s honeymoon to Japan that she realized that teaching—passing on her knowledge—was her calling. She was struck by how polite and caring Japanese culture was, by the variances she observed between the nation and her own. She wanted to bring back some of what she encountered there.

“For me, it’s really about shaping people to be the best that they can be, whether it’s adults or children. That’s my way of trying to put a positive mark on this world…it’s like Greg says, the skill expires,” she said. “I would love for them to be able to defend themselves, but I also want them to be better people than when they walked in because of our influence.”

Lucas first met the Fountains in 2009 upon moving to Omaha. Mark became his coach, within the dojo and beyond.

“A couple years back he made a comment to me, I was applying to a new job and was worried that I wasn’t going to get it because of politics within the office,” Lucas reflected. “I was talking to him about it and he stopped me a goes, ‘Jayson, you can do anything, you’re a black belt. You got this.’ I can’t think of a better friend and a better teacher than him.”

Fountain Studios offers a variety of classes for all ages. They have students as young as five, up to individuals in their 70s. The self-defense-based instruction is designed to meet students where they are, and to cater to individual needs. The Fountains believe everyone can benefit from a practice of their own, whether it be to reduce stress, restore clarity, or rise to the moment in the event of a true fight-or-flight scenario, like Dawn’s or Greg’s.

“Everybody in this world, they need to know how to defend their self,” Greg affirmed. “They need to understand that there are bad people out there that don’t think the same way that we think. They don’t value life the way we value life. They don’t treat each other like we treat each other. We have to understand that, we have to know that, and we have to be ready for it, because when we meet a violent situation, we have to meet it with violence.” 

“Violence isn’t slow and methodical, violence is violent.”

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  
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