I remember many years ago, when I decided to really apply myself in the martial Arts, that it was incredibly tough and I wondered if I would ever be any good. After 2 or 3 American freestyle instructors, I came to believe that if I was going to improve, I needed a traditional karate style. Having wrestled for 6 years, the hardest thing at first was thinking I could not grab every opponent as in wrestling. This got me in trouble a time or two with instructors.. I knew I could do this if I needed to and always kept grappling in my back pocket, as a 2nd martial arts skill. I knew if I had to go to the ground with every opponent, then the attacker’s buddy would kick or beat me to death, while I was on the ground. So looking for a style I avoided Jujitsu and etc. (while I still dabbled and cross trained with them). But was determined to learn to fight without going to the ground. In fact, it became a trademark. And I had always heard that Shotokan was the most powerful hard style karate (debatably). So I had 3 criteria for an instructor I would work with. 1- He could not be bought. 2- He had to be a true expert in the style. & 3- That he was a man of good (preferably Christian) character. So my first Shotokan instructor met these criteria and I trained under him for 2 years. He nearly never spoke, unless it was a karate command. But he was a good, hard-core instructor and I learned a lot. Then the church we were in, quit letting him use their gym and he folded the class. This sent me into a panic mode that I might have to switch styles and not be able to continue my Shotokan. ( Shotokan has never been very popular in the United States because it is so difficult and takes so long to learn.) It is stressed that you do one move a thousand times, instead of learning 10 moves, a hundred times). I had no idea back then, just tell how important that muscle memory training was going to be. So I was very thankful I found another Shotokan instructor. I don’t know if he didn’t like me, or if he just decided he was going to make sure to be tough on me so, that I got The Real McCoy. Which he did. He Used to stand in my face in a very loud aggressive voice and tell me I would never learn, and make me do the technique harder, and over and over again. It reminded me of Sergeant Carter yelling at Gomer Pyle… I trained three to four nights a week with him for six to seven years like this. And when I started training with him, he broke me back to white belt and would not count any of the other training I had from the other instructor. It seemed that he was purposed to chasing me off. But that just fired me up and turned me on. Because I was sure that if I ever Advanced with him, it was only because I really had it. He kept me white belt for 3 years. None of my students today would endure such. ( nor would they have to). But in a strange way it made me feel like I was getting what I had missed, by not going in the military, which I always regretted. I remember many many nights coming home and being so whipped that I would get in the front door & lay on the floor and not move for several hours. I guess looking back on it, that was pretty funny. And then as if in a Murphy’s Law Horror Story moment. That instructor decided to move out of town. Agghh!! I went into panic mode again because by now I had nearly 10 years invested in Shotokan. Fortunately another black belt, who had trained and taught me through the years, stepped in and helped me finish my training to Black Belt. He was a special services guy that they flew in to do reconnaissance, before the rest of the troops arrived. He was a tough guy and kinda sour. I remember that when I was training. Several times he hit me in the nose. When I have to leave floor to clean up the bloody mess, he would be mad at me, because I let him hit me. Yes I know this sounds pretty awful and abusive. But I asked for it and it was what I needed to grow and develop. Besides, I probably owe him more than any instructor for being so good to me to stay with me until I got the black belt. I remember while going through all this I cross trained when I was on the road at other schools. And I also participated in tournaments to see other styles and further my training. On One of my fights, I ran the guy out of the ring, and when I turned around to go back to Center, he palmed healed me and tore my nose off. My Christian testimony is that I have never violently used my martial arts training. I have defended people and stopped others from being hurt. But I have never started conflict. Only ended some. But I came very close that day and was ready to take my cheating attackers head across the judges table, when I saw my little daughter crying, asking Daddy to stop. I did. But that was where I got my designer nose from. With the reconstructive surgeries. The first one that I will never describe to you unless you know me personally. Done by a surgeon over the weekend with no anesthesia nor team to help. I was very thankful to that man… because had he not operated on me, then I would have lost my job. (( Never fear, I have learned very safe training and teaching methods and do not teach the way I was trained. I am a very, very safe instructor.)) When I finally do teach students D
to fight. I do so without pads, because I teach accuracy and control. Anyway, the gentleman who stepped in and agreed to train me to Black Belt also moved. But he was true to his word. We alternated. He would come to Ocala and test me when I thought I was ready for black belt. And next time, I would go to St Augustine and test in his backyard for black belt. Yes, you got the picture right. I had to test, retest, and retest. Anything less than 100% determination and I would have never gotten my black belt. I will never forget the day that I finally did get my black belt as long as I live. My son had been on a flag football team. But Ocala was a pretty big town and so these were big teams and very competitive. TJ’s team got the poor end of the Stick, of coaches. The coach never showed up. He always had an excuse. So I asked to take over the team. Because the boys were so demoralized. They lost every game because they had no coaching. I kept asking the league leaders to let me take over the team. And they kept saying they were working on something, which never happened. So as I watched a bunch of the boys depressed, upset and torn up and ready to quit, I had had enough. And I jumped in and took over the team anyway. We practiced hard we trained on very basic skills and simplified the plays so that everybody could get their assignments real clear and know how to work together. Only one game in the season remained and it was against a championship team that had not lost all year. I will never forget the exhilaration and those boys faces, when they beat the championship team that last game. It was as big to them as if they had won the championship themselves. I remember my son stopping the quarterback who was the other team star. Who also make fun of him in School. This was a great personal victory for my son. And for all the boys. Because they beat the team that had won all the rest of their games, in the last game of the season. Anyway this was Florida, and I was running up and down the field with those boys, all morning, during that game. Knowing I had a black belt test that afternoon. And yes Florida is hot and humid. And anybody that knows me, knows that I’m enthusiastic and I was all over that field with the boys. It didn’t really hit me till it was over. How in the world am I going to do on this black belt test after running up and down the field like I’ll was performing track, all morning? But it didn’t matter. I was ready. Bring it on…. The doors were closed the blinds were closed and nobody but God and Me and my instructor could see what was going on. I tell my students often now, the story of starting one of the last kata (form) off backwards. And I knew if he caught me that I would have flunked the test. So I did the whole kata backwards. I don’t know whether he didn’t catch it or he was so impressed that I could do it backwards that he didn’t care. And when I was through with my 3-hour test. Then came the dreaded moment. I didn’t get that far in the other three tests. I had to fight him. No Watchers. No glory. Just survival. I didn’t have to win but I had to defend my life. When he was satisfied, he stopped the fight. We bowed. And he said one word…. Good…. And awarded me my black belt. To me, it was like climbing Mount Everest. I had been trying so hard for so long and now the goal was finally attained . That afternoon at the ceremony for the kids who played ball all year. Much to my surprise, I was given an award as a volunteer coach who jumped in at the last moment and helped some boys who were beat down and humiliated, have a wonderful victory… Overall it was like God showed up on my black belt day. I guess in fact He really did ! It was a day of true overcoming and achievement. So I’m going to end this Marathon of sharing, about my karate Origins with one point. It was hard. It was long. Often requiring all I had. But it was worth it. And many times what kept me going was believing that someday I could teach and help other youth, in particular have better lives, with more confidence, and greater peace of mind, through what I could teach them. And that belief kept me going. And so I teach today. I guess it’s been 45 years since I started. And I had a class or two before that. So it’s been a lifetime Pursuit. Broken toes. Broken fingers. Three knee surgeries. Yes, I guess my price was a big one. But when one of the boys that I taught over 20 years ago called me on Father’s Day, to tell me that when he needed somebody I was there for him. A million dollars could not have been any more to me. And that’s why I teach today, make a difference in people’s lives. And that’s why we’re going to have this new Karate school. And why I’m excited about it. Young people don’t seem to want to go to church anymore. So I share Christ with all the young people that I teach karate. In fact, I think that’s why God let me do it and got me through it. He saw the faces of the ones, I could reach and teach. I pray that God will give me good enough health, to teach for many more years. (Oh yeah, don’t forget I teach adults too, for the same reasons.)
So Join us for the wonderful occasion of this new Karate school in Thomasville on Thursday night the 22nd if you can. No training. Just take a look at our school. And if you have any questions I will be there to answer them. And besides after we’ve all been quarantined with covid. A little fellowship, with some healthy social distancing will be good for us all. 🙂
This is truly remarkable!
Thanks Damaris. Lots of hard work. 🙂 Hope you an family are blessed and well!
Truly inspiring! Man of your word!! Proud to call you my Sensei! God bless you! Thank you for all you do!