CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man who died this past weekend is being remembered by family and friends as a “legendary” ambassador for martial arts and positive role model for local children.
Jake Swanson, 37, died Sunday in his Cedar Rapids home from a heart attack, his sister Josey Swanson said. Jake was the owner of and instructor at Cedar Rapids’ Revolution Martial Arts. He also volunteered his time helping others compete and taught women self-defense classes, his sister said.
“He was the most amazing man I’ve ever known, the most giving and selfless person and genuine good person that I ever knew,” Josey said. “He really focused on empowering people, building people up. He just wanted people to be the best that they could.”
Jake Swanson is perhaps most remembered for his work at Revolution Martial Arts, 5309 N Park Pl. NE, where a variety of styles were taught. Friends and families who visited the studio have taken to Facebook to share memories of the instructor.
Martial arts were the nexus of Jake’s life since the age of 18, Josey said.
“He dedicated everything and gave up so much in order to pursue that dream,” she said. “He sacrificed himself in order to build that studio but he was so humble. I could never grasp the impact he had on so many families and children ... in such a positive way. He was a man of few words, stoic, but the way he related to those kids was unbelievable.”
Mike Gillette, who taught self-defense classes with Swanson, said Jake’s knack for teaching a disciplined sport to young children set him apart. Armed with “amazing amounts of patience,” Jake was able to teach children as young as 4 years old to have self-discipline and respect through martial arts. That is no small feat, Gillette said.
“You have to find the right teacher to make that happen, and Jake was that guy,” Gillette said. “He was just a very charismatic guy. Kids found him very charming and fun, adults liked the way he could quickly bond with kids.”
Gillette said the local martial arts community will be changed following his friend’s death.
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“I do a recurring self-defense class, and have one this Saturday. The room will be noticeably different without him there,” Gillette said.
Josey said her brother would often teach children with attention deficit conditions and behavioral issues. Jake found a way to relate to all his students, including Josey’s own young son who was a student at Revolution Martial Arts.
“He really turned a lot of kids’ lives around. He got so many kids to channel their energy in a positive way,” she said. “They (parents) could see their kid was relating to somebody. He found a way to relate those key elements of life to young minds.”
Families have left flowers at Jake’s studio and even children’s drawings of Jake and his students.
Josey said her brother’s death may now be a way for parents to teach their children about grief.
“I had a friend that said, ‘He taught so many people so many great lessons, maybe having to teach these children about death and grief is the final lesson,’ ” she said. “That’s going to be my challenge to teach my son.”
Josey said Jake’s family has not yet finalized funeral plans but would like to hold a public celebration of life ceremony at a later date.
Murdoch-Linwood Funeral Home & Cremation Service of Cedar Rapids is handling arrangements.
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