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Photo submitted Darrin Warren, right, and Sean Gordon were inducted into the 2022 Cleveland Martial Arts Hall of Fame earlier this year.

WARREN – Darrin Warren is a taekwondo master and model train enthusiast, with a large-scale train exhibit at his home that he tends to as a member of the Riverside Railroad Club, which meets in the basement from the old YWCA in Warren.

Warren was born in Warren in 1967 to William Warren and Karen Deens Warren. When he started school in 1972 at Washington Elementary School, Warren said he was never treated differently despite being the “only white child.”

“From kindergarten to second grade, I didn’t realize there was a difference. Mom always made things really fun and good for us with barbecues and trips to Willow Lake,” said Warren.

Before the age of 10, the family moved because Warren’s father wanted to build a house in the countryside.

“When we moved to Bristolville at 8 it was reversed, with only one or two black students,” he said.

Warren graduated from Bristol High School in 1986.

Warren, 55, attended Kent State University and earned a degree in electrical engineering. His first two job offers were both minimum wage positions. One used the degree he earned to teach engineers how to use CAD (computer-aided design) software, but saw longer-term value as a typist for the employment services department and the Trumbull County family.

Warren spent 30 years working for JFS while doing something he loved on the weekends – working as a passing train salesman at model train shows, while selling model trains. During this time, Warren also taught business computing courses.


The catalyst for Warren’s martial arts journey came while watching Bruce Lee on television on Saturdays when he was around 12 years old. For Warren, the kicks he saw on the show “seemed magical.” This led to Warren taking lessons, but he never seriously pursued the sport.

His interest in martial arts returned one day as his son, Damon, then 6 years old, was watching the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” on TV. This led to his son being enrolled at the studio where Warren had started his lessons, despite being run by a new owner and taekwondo master.

“As I watched him (Damon) progress through the different levels, I was plagued with my own ‘What if?’ The studio’s new owner, Justin Taylor, got me involved again, and I eventually got my black belt and was put in charge of the children’s program at the studio.

He eventually earned his fourth degree black belt. There are 10 levels in total.

Part of the martial arts philosophy includes humility, diligence, self-control, and helping others.

“We train them to be good people. Not only physical skills, but also character building,” said Warren.

Other guidelines in taekwondo are “do your best, be humble and have self-control.” Warren addresses the whole child – the outcast, the out of shape, etc.

“We are creating a safe place to be. Some of these children come from difficult situations, whether at home or at school. Some of these children come from broken homes and are successful in all kinds of professions. My goal with martial arts and a martial arts school is to emphasize the good as well as the bad (in their lives),” said Warren. “The main thing I want to instill in taekwondo is self-esteem, leadership, compassion and discipline.”

He said he and a child services worker once discussed how great it would be if they could teach these characteristics to some of the children in their care.

“I think it makes a big difference in their lives,” said Warren.

Her sister, Dana Tolios, taught dance for 20 years at MiMi’s Studio of Dance in Newton Falls and when the sudio’s owner wanted to sell, Warren and Tolios bought the studio – now called New Wave Taekwondo and Dance – and the have split up, with Warren teaching martial arts and Tolios teaching dancing on the side.

It’s the fulfillment of the dream of their parents, who always wanted the siblings to go into business together, Warren said.

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