Among entrepreneurs in a myriad of industries, few are more innovative and consistently successful than Michael K. “M.K.” Vanover. Mike has begun three businesses in his young, blossoming career, with none more successful and consistently growing than Clean Fuels National—a company specializing in fuel storage tank cleaning and fuel filtration, headquartered in aptly-named Petroleum, Indiana. By the time Mike was 27, he had made his first million dollars, a goal he had written in a notebook while attending Ball State University.
But even with all the successes and exponential growth Clean Fuels has experienced, the focus of this conversation will be on Mike’s other business—Lockout Jujutsu—a company which focuses on martial arts training and firearms instruction: a subject he is so passionate about that when he discusses it with you, the listeners, the reaction is almost visceral in nature.
Mike, how long have you been involved in martial arts? So, too, firearms instruction?
I have been involved in the martial arts and around firearms for over 36 years. I have spent time on the mat, in the cage, in the ring, and on the firing range as both a competitor and student—and now as a professional instructor.
You say “martial arts” as if it’s plural. Which of the martial arts do you participate and instruct in? And, as an instructor now yourself, who was your first teacher?
Jujutsu and Judo were my primary focuses growing up. But, as I’ve grown, I have been exposed to—and instructed in—many different arts and disciplines. As for my instructors, my father was my first instructor and was more than qualified to be so given his military background which included being a member of the 77th Special Forces and the 82nd Airborne. Thanks in part to my dad’s instruction, I discovered early in my life that the most powerful weapon an individual can possess is the ability to think and act under extreme stress. As my own self-awareness continued to develop, I gained personal respect for many of the additional martial arts, learning that each had something to both provide and teach me. Whether as an instructor or a student, each and every person has something to teach—from the newest student to the oldest, learned practitioner—therefore, it never hurts to listen.
How have you applied this training—this mantra, for lack of a better word—to present day life? What was the outcome?
Over the years, I have worked in event security, bars, clubs and other public and private venues. As a result of these past experiences, I have learned how to truly manage people and control violent individuals. Over the years, I’ve found myself in an inordinate number of emergency situations where it was only me and someone in real trouble. I’ve had to take knives, firearms and other weapons from some not-so-nice people. I’ve had to provide medical treatment to people and control a scene when I was the one who witnessed the incident. Thanks in large part to some of those intense situations, I determined there was a need to instruct others on how they, themselves, could professionally address a situation and quickly and effectively mitigate it. To those ends, I established a Mixed Martial Arts team to fund my own dojo in which to train athletes, individuals and others. I have worked with, instructed and trained with several law enforcement agencies and even provided professional instruction to troops awaiting deployment.
With this side of your business, what kind of credentials do you have?
I am in good standing with several martial arts organizations, some of which have even visited and worked out in my gym. As my martial arts career developed and as I rose in the ranks, I became a promoter and match-maker in the Mixed Martial Arts business. I met tremendous athletes in that field and even had the chance to both speak to and work with some well-known UFC professionals. Out of all the credentials, certificates, licenses and permits I have earned, it’s the results I have seen in those I have trained that speaks the loudest. When someone comes to me years later and tells me that, when it came down to it, it was something I told them or taught them that saved their life, I get a little choked up. When I hear how a technique got someone in cuffs instead of on a slab, that is all the credit that should even remotely matter.
Who are some notable people you have worked with professionally?
Through my martial arts career, I have landed roles in some lower-budget action films where I had the opportunity to work with people such as Chris Lytle, Wes Sims, and Matt Mitrione. I also worked alongside Bill "Superfoot" Wallace on the video "Protect Thyself," a practical guide to self-defense (www.protectthyselfvideo.com). And in the year 2015, I was inducted into the martial arts Hall of Fame because of my lifetime dedication to the arts. It was—and remains—quite the honor for me. However, those whom are the most noteworthy people I have worked with are the people that selflessly will put their life on the line for a stranger—be that a soldier, officer or garbage truck driver. The good guys should win and the bad guys should lose…and lose ugly.
That’s some career for sure with plenty more years to come. With all that you’ve accomplished already, what words of advice would you give to others who might have aspirations of reaching those goals?
It is safe to say that many of the lessons I learned and taught through the martial arts can be—and are—equally as beneficial to the life of a successful businessman. The same hard work, integrity, and dedication I have shown to the martial arts have paid off for me in the business world as well. Currently, I sit on a handful of local and national boards as well as lending some of my lessons learned to various leadership committees on which I serve. What truly provides me the most personal and professional satisfaction, though, is the positive effect my instruction has had in the lives of others. Altruistically speaking, I want to see good people armed and trained responsibly, safely and effectively. If they do, they will ultimately be successful in any field they choose to pursue. With rights come responsibility: you have a duty to preserve your freedoms and liberty through the responsible exercising of your rights. You may not always be the smartest, strongest or the most talented, but integrity and work ethic can be developed and excelled at. Never let anyone outwork you.
Mike, I want to thank you for taking the time to share some of your insight with me. I wish you continued success with these and the other professional interests you have.
5th Dan Jujutsu USJA
Thank you, Ben.
5th Dan Jujutsu ATJA
4th Dan Jujutsu USMA
1st Dan Judo USJA
Certified NRA Instructor Pistol
Certified NRA Instructor Rifle
Certified NRA Instructor Personal Protection in the Home
Certified NRA Instructor Personal Protection Outside the Home
Force on Force Certified Instructor for law enforcement and non-sworn personnel.
For more information on Mike and Lockout Jujutsu, check out his LinkedIn profile (https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-vanover-bb717232/) and the Lockout Jujutsu company website, https://www.teamjujutsu.com/