From military to martial arts, this local veteran continues to serve


By Natalie Salvatore
For the Opelika Observer

Kentucky native Patrick Baeder once served his country in the Army. Now, he serves his community by teaching martial arts.
“I entered the Army in 1996, and I went through basic training at Fort Benning,” Baeder said.
The recognitions in his military career began quickly. At the end of Fort Benning, he was awarded the title of Distinguished Honor Graduate, meaning he was the top trainee in that particular training cycle.
His next step became clear when he was accepted to officer candidate school. After graduating, he was branched into army infantry, with Airborne and Ranger schooling to follow.
Baeder ended up in his unit at Fort Drum, New York with the 10th Mountain Division. There, he served as an infantry platoon leader and a company executive officer.
After five years of active duty, Baeder separated from the Army in 2001, rose to the rank of Captain and was placed in the Reserve. Once soldiers come out of the regular Army and no longer actively serve, they are kept in the Reserve so they do not have to report.
His decade of service concluded when he completed his time with the Reserve in 2006.
He was deployed only once, for a training mission called JRTC, or the Joint Readiness Training Center, in Fort Polk, Louisiana.
“I hit the Army at a weird time of peace. It’s almost unheard of now, because I arrived at my unit when they had just gotten back from Bosnia,” Baeder said. “There really wasn’t a lot going on with the 10th Mountain Division until 9/11 happened.”
Since he got out of the regular Army approximately two months prior to 9/11, Baeder said he didn’t go on that mission with them, and therefore, did not have any kind of high-speed deployments as far as places such as Iraq or Afghanistan.
Before it all began, Baeder made the choice to join the Army when he felt a strong need to serve.
“At that point in my life, I felt it was time to give back to the U.S., and the best way I knew was to give a portion of my time in service to my country,” Baeder said.
His life took yet another turn when his wife was offered a job at Auburn University while he was still serving in the Army. He said it was a pure family decision for his resignation from the military so his family could relocate here. His wife, Francesca Adler-Baeder, is now a professor of human development and family studies.
Baeder decided to continue his service, but this time, to his local community through opening a tae kwon do school in 2002. He is the owner and head instructor of the Auburn Academy of Martial Arts.
“I had always wanted to do martial arts when I was a kid, but my parents didn’t want me to. When I went off to college, I just knew I really wanted to do it,” Baeder said.
He began martial arts in 1989 and pursued his black belt from there.
Now a sixth-degree black belt in tae kwon do and a fifth-degree black belt in hapkido, Baeder achieved his goal of becoming a successful martial artist. The veteran and business owner has placed in many championships and competitions for martial arts since beginning his journey.
His school’s mission is “to teach high quality martial arts. Not as an end, but as a means to develop the strong character of our students in order to positively impact our community and beyond.”
Children and adults alike can benefit from becoming a martial artist, both physically and mentally. All are welcome at his studio, where they teach anyone ages 4 and onward.
Besides Baeder serving as the main instructor, there are two other master instructors, as well as several other assistant instructors, making up a full staff of black belts.
“Being traditional makes us stand out, because we are in a culture right now of mixed martial arts that are very competitive,” Baeder said when speaking about how his school uses a values-based system of teaching and refrains from teaching martial arts like a blood sport as seen on television nowadays.
There are no registration or membership fees for students. There are instead two track options. The Black Belt Track, which is $125 per month, provides unlimited classes to focus on developing the martial artist in character and instruction. The Leadership Track, which is $155 per month, includes everything the Black Belt Track has, along with two leadership classes per week to allow students both leadership skills and advanced weapons training.
If one family member registers at full price, each additional family members receives a 25% discount. In addition, students are expected to pay according fees with each new belt testing.
“Our goal is to make Auburn and our extended area better by giving kids direction, focus, self-control, and just making them better by giving them a black belt, one black belt at a time,” Baeder said.
For more information about Auburn Academy of Martial Arts, Baeder encourages those interested to visit the school to observe a class or jump in and try it out. The school is located at 323 Airport Road, Suite J in Auburn, near Mikata in the Airport Plaza off of Glenn Avenue.
With questions, contact the school by phone 334-502-7221, email or visit


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