If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Eat ’Em at Land Shark Martial Arts

Land Shark Martial Arts’ slogan means if you have a problem, make the solution

Laura Lash, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

Master Curtis Michael Huff invited me to visit the Land Shark Martial Arts dojo to see his teaching and students in action. Upon entering the space, I was struck by the bright cheerful paint colors and the oceanic decor – four shrunken wood surfboards decorating the front of a Tahitian counter and the image of a smiling walking land shark, “Sharky,” presiding over the space. Spread across the countertop were bejeweled trophies, which served not only as testaments to Huff’s great accomplishments but also as tools within the space. I heard him coaching students to use the trophies in front of them as visual focal points, aiding in their balance as they executed each stealth physical movement.

Curt strode over to me to firmly shake my hand and welcome me to Landshark, his dream come true. With 17 years of experience, Curt is now a fourth-degree black belt in American freestyle karate. He has long dreamed of opening his own dojo that wasn’t “just mats, mirrors, and kanji on the walls.” His life is guided by martial arts; his passion is fueled by trips to beaches around the world. He wanted to combine these two interests to create a warm, inviting, and joyful place for people of all ages to learn martial arts while living in the Chippewa Valley, far from the fun of ocean-side life. “It’s not just for me, it’s for my family and my community,” he said.

Curt grew up on a dairy farm outside Fall Creek. At age 20, he tried a free lesson at Derek Kaio’s studio and was stupefied by the agility of the movements. He attended UW-Eau Claire, eventually became a teacher of martial arts, and spent years in partnership at another dojo. As of 2016, he was able to open his own place: Landshark was born. This dojo is a passionate community hub for students and his family, he said, “not just a business to make money and hand out belts.”

Each trip he’s taken to a beach has influenced him and he is desperate to share that feeling of wonder with others. Curt shares one of his “a-ha” moments: “Mine was on the north shore of Hawaii, body surfing and doing martial arts forms with my master of my style in the sand. It was a beautiful moment in time that has never left me. I have traveled to beaches all over the USA and love each one. It’s the sand in your toes and the salty taste on your lips of the ocean. It is heaven!”

During the Youth Intermediate and Advanced class, I witness him removing those shrunken surfboards from their hanging pegs and placing them upon thick pads. Each student rode the “waves,” switching positions as their teacher rocked the board to challenge his or her balance. It was a joyful and creative sight to see. “I’ll bring the ideas of ocean beach life to the Chippewa Valley,” he said. “I will create an atmosphere in my studio with a beautiful hand-painted ocean scene, surfboards on the walls, ocean sounds in the background. My students in martial arts uniforms with the Land Shark logo on their backs and all the fun drills I can spin (will) be as fun as surfing!”

Land Shark Martial Arts • 2524 Golf Road, Suite B, Eau Claire • (715) 210-5308 • landsharkma.com • www.facebook.com/landsharkma