I began my martial arts journey, really as a child. I saw TV rasslin’, and thought it was real. I remember thinking that those guys must be the toughest guys in the world, to take that kind of a beating every day. I wanted to be that tough.
My brother and I were always rough kids. We took to rasslin’, and we did that at every single chance we had. When we were not actually rasslin’, we were talking about rasslin’.
Many years and bruises/contusions/concussions later, we found out that rasslin’ was not a legitimate competition. I still worked as a professional wrestler for five years, but much of the fun died when the dream did.
I wound up taking lesson in the Chinese martial art of Kung Fu. I started, for a very short time in the monkey system. It was very difficult to do, especially being the lazy fat kid that I was. The instructor took me aside one day, and told me that the system was not right for my body. Well, his actual words were, “You are too big to be a monkey.”
He followed very traditional protocol, and sent me off with a letter of introduction to meet, and eventually train with Sifu Tung, Wu Jiang. This man trained me, and treated me like another son for the rest of his life. He was much more skilled in the Hung Gar system than I ever will be, but such is the way of things. I fell privileged to have met him at all, much less to have the wonderful opportunity to train with him for as many years I did. By the time I was 19 years old, I was ranked as a Black Sash (the Chinese martial arts equivalent of Black Belt). I did not stop there, and continue to train the same system, as best I can, every day. As I have aged, my knees have gotten a little crumbly, but I still manage. I credit Hung Gar’s low, stable stances for holding my knees together, when they might well have otherwise given out long ago.
I started training in Taekwondo in 1993, under Mr. Richard Johnson of the then USTA (United States Taekwondo Alliance), now known as ITA (International Taekwondo Alliance). He was a very capable taekwondo player, and a charismatic and motivating instructor. He had an ability to keep us going past the point of exhaustion that I have not seen in anyone since him. I really did not care much for a lot of the BS decisions that the administration of the USTA/ITA kept making, especially toward the end of ’95 and early ’96. The USTA was run by five guys, Craig Collars, Bert Collars, Don Swift, Art Monroe, and Rick Hoadley. They were heavy handed in their methods, and while I have dealt with worse, I have not seen such baffling ignorance since I was a part of their organization. They decided to change the first TKD form, Chon-Ji. Now, this may seem a petty complaint, but they changed the form, but kept the traditional name. They still call it Chon-Ji, but it does not even resemble Gen. Choi’s Chon-Ji. They went even further, and eliminated half of the forms. This was done, officially to make the students better at each rank. Behind closed doors, however, the rationale used was that it would make transfer out of their organization much more difficult on the student, as they would certainly lose any rank they had previously attained. They took all of the Korean flags down in an effort to prevent anyone form being offended…as if anyone offended by a Korean flag is really ready to begin study of TKD.
I left the USTA/ITA in mid or late 1996. They grew to be too heavy handed, and I could no longer justify staying.
When I left, I went back to teaching Hung Gar. And, while I never had enough students to make a living at it, I was enjoying the work, and I had a good bunch of students. They all loved rigor, and were never once afraid of pain.
I had a couple of Hung Gar clubs running, and was working days in construction. Then the construction industry just dried up in Austin TX. Out of the blue, an opportunity came to work for Kick Drugs Out of America, now known as KICKSTART. I jumped at it, and have never looked back. I get to teach martial arts full time, and I work with at-risk youth. I am making a difference. And when you are making a positive difference in the lives of children, anything is worth it…