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34 years teaching self defense
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Dottie and Master Tracy Schaffer stand in front of framed individual photos of students that have numbered in the thousands that they have trained over the years. They are holding a special gift from a past student Eric Jones now the police chief in Stockton. It reads on the front, The greatest strength of all is gentleness. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Master Tracy Schaffer and his wife Dottie have sold their popular Tae Kwon Do martial arts studio in Ripon’s downtown,  having decided to retire after teaching thousands  ranging in age from 4 ½ to 79 years the art of self-defense in their 1,200 square foot building. 
The new owner, Chelsea Blessner, applauded Schaffer’s tenure in Tae Kwon Do saying, “This man has touched more lives than anyone I have met.”  She said she had lost her dad when she was only a year old and he had been her dad for the last 14 years.
Blessner said her mom was a foster mom and had raised 89 foster kids on her own.
Schaffer earned his black belt in Modesto in 1970. 
There is a cherished plaque on the wall given to them by a former student – Eric Jones – who has since become the police chief of Stockton. Jones first met Schaffer when he was 13.  Jones had added a personal notation to the back of the plaque two years ago which reads, “I have been thinking about reaching out to you for some time.  I often think of how my life was shaped by my great memories of the Martial Arts Studio.  I wanted to spend this time to say ‘Thank you’ for the wonderful experience and for Master Schaffer being a mentor in my life.  I hope all is well with you both,” Jones wrote.  “The greatest strength is gentleness,” he embossed on the front of the plaque.
It has been a 34-year journey for the couple with their first location in Modesto with 16 years spent at their present site on Main Street in downtown Ripon after initially locating in the 100 block of Main Street in the former Jorgensen’s Hardware that had earlier become a gym.  Their small studio was located in a back room behind the gym that was used to store barbells.
“In those days it was a real macho group, then the women started coming in,” Schaffer said. 
While he was getting his martial arts studio off the ground, Dottie was working for two different neurologists in Modesto and doing the books for their new business as well as a stint back in school. 
The Schaffers have now sold their operation to a mother and son couple Chelsea and Taj-Michael Blessner who have worked for them for almost 14 years as trainers and are familiar with the more than 150 students on their rolls.
Schaffer fondly remembers one student who came back to him for additional training after 15 years – Doug Chitwood.
 “He came back to get his black belt, and he did,” Master Schaffer said smiling.
As a youngster Schaeffer had attended five different elementary schools in his first grade year in school from Chico to Washington, D.C.  His dad was in the Army Air Corps during World War II and was working as a mechanic on airplanes and trucks in Chico that they referred to as Chapman Town.  Army orders moved them around the country often, he said.
The couple met as teen agers “when she followed me into a grocery store,” Schaffer said, but she disagreed.  It was when they were involved in the harvest of almonds and peaches, she said.  One was putting the almonds in the huller and the other was cutting peaches at a Chico farm, they agreed. 
He graduated from high school in 1956. He remembers taking her to her junior and senior proms they described as sock hops – having to take their shoes off.  Schaffer even remembers the small pink flowers that he always got for her in a wristlet corsage – her favorite. 
The couple had four children – two boys and two girls: Terry, Penny, Kathi and Ray.  
“We always had things planned,” Tracy chuckled. 
Dottie noted that her daughter Kathy had asked to drop the “y” in her name because too many of the girls in her school were known as Kathy and she wanted to be different and not one of the many – so it became “Kathi.”
Their operation wasn’t always in their studio as they spent years going to Lathrop Elementary School where they were later given two rooms to perform in a career day program.  They both demonstrated a passion for their studio and the children and adults they were serving every day. 
“We have had three generations in here at the same time – it’s definitely a family school,” he said.
Schaffer had served in the California National Guard in the supply section where he was also in charge of two armories in Grass Valley.  He had previously worked for the Chico Police Department for a year as an I.D. clerk.
A reception is being planned in their studio on Jan. 21 from 2 to 6 p.m. on their retirement with finger foods being served.
As for their retirement, Schaffer said they are looking at Route 66 for some traveling and their two dogs and three cats now need more attention at home.

To contact Glenn Kahl, email