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Just like Bourne

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

The power of a book.

I vividly remember my father handing me the thick hardback and saying, “Read this. I think you’ll enjoy it.” Dad had no idea that he’d just laid something in my hands that would set the course for my life.

I was fourteen and had never heard of Robert Ludlum or The Bourne Identity, and I had no idea about the plot of the book. I immediately read the dust jacket and was mesmerized by Bourne having amnesia, and yet his body “knew” all of these special skills.

That one thought totally consumed me. The idea that the body could be trained to do something so well that it actually becomes an internal part of your being, something you can do without thought, as natural as breathing or sleeping.

I devoured the pages like a starving dog attacks a fried chicken leg. I read so much I even forgot about watching MTV. (That was a big deal for a teenager 1982, when MTV was a new phenomenon and actually played music videos.)

When Dad gave me the book, I was considering signing up for a summer Kung fu program. By the time I finished the first couple of chapters and Bourne had wiped out a group of fishermen with his “mentally buried” martial arts skills, I knew right then I had to learn kung fu. I wanted my body to know it…just like Bourne.

Now, over thirty years later, I continue to strive for that perfection in my own kung fu. I want to instill that same passion into my students and hope that they will believe that kung fu can be just as natural to them.

Lola and Lone Wolf McQuade

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Ever remember something from your past and say, “What was I thinking?”    Unfortunately, I have many. One event that comes to mind happened on a Friday night in the spring of 1983.

Mom had just dropped me off behind the Cinema (In the pre-driving days, to retain your cool-kid status, you could never allow anyone to witness your parents dropping you off at the show. Parents had explicit instructions: drive around back, slow down enough for the kid to jump out, then quickly drive away. Don’t look back, no honking, and certainly no shouting, “I’ll be back in two hours”).

Mom drove fast, so luckily, with my kung fu training, I could maintain my balance whenever I sprang from the speeding car.

Despite the heat that evening, I strutted through the parking lot feeling very cool as the sound of Sammy Hagar’s “Your Love is Driving Me Crazy” blasted from opened-car windows. I waved to some friends then looped around the tan bricked-building.

My pulse quickening with each step, I passed the marquee, squeezed through the crowd, and—BAM—there she was, standing with a group of her friends, smiling at me.

My heart leapt to my throat.

Her name was Lola, the love of my eighth-grade year. She looked fantastic. Big hair, Flash Dance clothes, Madonna wristbands—wow!

Said hi to her, her friends, and then made my move for the big hug.

The timing was perfect. The moment we embraced, a car drove by playing “Hard to say I’m sorry” by Chicago, the ultimate love song of junior high.

Of course, thinking about it now, it was also the biggest break-up song.

A foreshadow of the evening.

“So, what are we seeing,” Lola asked. (In the city of Marshall, it never mattered what was showing. Friday night meant show night. However, on this night, the movie I’d been waiting for had arrived.

 “Lone Wolf McQuade,” I said, barely able to contain my excitement.

“OK,” Lola said. “Who’s in it?”

“Chuck Norris.”

“Who’s that?”

I winced in pain and suddenly felt short of breath. Who’s Chuck Norris!

 To say that I was a mere Chuck fan would be a colossal understatement.

Up to Lone Wolf, I’d seen every Norris film. I knew every title, every character, every line of dialogue; I could even mimic every fight scene.

I know. You’re thinking, sad-case-of-no-life, right?

Wrong. You’d be amazed at how many people I’ve helped over the years who needed some quick Chuck trivia.

Staring into to Lola’s stunning blue eyes, I regained my composure, smiled, and said, “You’ll like it.”

We bought the tickets, went inside, grabbed Cokes and popcorn, and found our seats.  The theater was packed. I was smiling ear-to-ear. I was with the perfect girl about to watch the perfect movie.

The lights dimmed. The previews rolled.

I held her hand.

Foreigner’s, “Waiting for a girl like you,” played in my head.

The movie began.

Western music played while a grey wolf sprinted across a dusty prairie.  Chuck’s name flashed on the screen.

I held my breath, counted to three, then eased my arm around Lola’s shoulders. She scooted closer. I could feel her heartbeat against my side. She smelled wonderful. I think she called the scent, Chloe.

Working up the nerve to kiss her, I moved closer, quickly chewing up my breath mint. The armrest bit into my ribs. You can do this, Jones.

My heart was racing. I pivoted in my seat when—what the heck!

There were like fifty bad guys shooting at Chuck.

With my eyes riveted on the screen, I snatched my arm from around her shoulders and gripped the seat in front of me. Come on, Chuck!

Chuck didn’t let me down.

He kicked a bad guys’s teeth out then blasted everyone else with a pair of Mac 10 submachine guns. Pure awesomeness!

Lola fidgeted in her seat.

Oh yeah, I’m on a date.

I settled back in my seat, smiled at her and whispered, “Sorry.”

After moments of awkwardness, I slid my arm around her again.  I’d wait a while before I attempted another kiss.

As the movie played on, we moved closer together, almost cheek-to-cheek. We even shared a Coke, which I took as a sign that she’d forgiven me.

Time for the Big Move.

As fast as I could throw a snap-kick, I kissed Lola on the lips.

Wow! Her lips were soft and warm and they had the combination taste of watermelon lip-gloss, salty butter, and Coca Cola. A taste bud explosion. I definitely had to do that again. But this time . . . I was going for the French kiss.

Not to appear too eager, I decided to wait five minutes.  I glanced at my Casio digital watch. The countdown had begun.

Minute four and a half, my heart was in my throat. My nervous system was near shutdown. I was tingling all over. Thirty seconds more was an eternity.

I closed my eyes and counted.

Twenty … Nineteen.  

My ears roared from my rushing pulse. I’d never been so nervous.

Lola’s hand was on my thigh. (Actually, not. Her arm slipped off the armrest and her pinky-finger grazed my leg). I actually saw fireworks.

Ten … Nine.

I opened my eyes, turned toward her, but first, glanced at the screen.

What the—

Bad guys had buried Chuck.

But not just bury him. They buried him in his truck. I mean, who escapes that?

Freakin’ Chuck Norris, that’s who!

He drove his truck right out of that hole.

I was on my feet. “Go Chuck!”

Chuck killed everybody, saved the cops, then raced to find David Carradine, the main antagonist of the movie.

Still standing, I reached blindly behind me, plucked the Coke from Lola’s hands, and gulped it down.  I was parched. The tension was overwhelming.

Finally, Carradine, showed up, faced Chuck. Oh yeah, it was on!

Carradine swung. Chuck ducked. I ducked.

Carradine, kicked. Chuck blocked and countered. I blocked and countered.

I was in the zone, one with Chuck.

Three minutes later, Chuck killed Carradine then blew up his house. The perfect movie ending.

The credits rolled.  The lights came up. I was standing in a puddle of sweat.

I turned, reached for the Coke again. No one was there.

Lola was gone. Actually, the entire row was empty. An elderly couple in front of me (they were probably pushing thirty) asked if I was OK.

Outside, Lola was nowhere in sight.

Mom drove up. She had the windows down. Lynyrd Skynyrd boomed from the speakers. Mom was cool like that.

“Hey!” I hear behind me.

I turned, hoping it was Lola.

It was her friend. She handed me a note. It was folded into fours with smudged fingerprints on it, remnants of buttered popcorn.

I opened it.  Read it standing next to the car.

Brandon,

Thanks for the popcorn and Coke. Not the movie!

I want to break up.

Lola.

 Awe man! I crumpled the note. How could she not like the movie?

Fortunately, years later, Lola forgave me. We even laughed about it. But I’d bet, to this day, she still hates the movie.

Who’s Yo Daddy? A Chuck Norris Tale

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

In past blogs I’ve portrayed Sifu Fogg as a hard-nosed, no-nonsense task master. At times it felt like he was, but truth is, Mr. Fogg is very laid back and has a great sense of humor.

While sweating blood to earn my bachelors at Stephen F. in Nacogdoches, Sifu Fogg was there as well completing his masters. Perfect timing. During those two years, I was able to absorb lots of kung fu from The Man himself.

On Friday evening before summer finals, I dropped by Sifu’s apartment on North Street. We were going to train then grab a bite to eat. Entering the apartment complex, I was welcomed by a group of girls dancing in the parking lot. Welcome to college life.

The entire complex was one big party. A sea of happy people, all with drinks in hand, moved in rhythmic waves across the parking lot and walk ways to a grotesque mixture of country, head-banger, and rap that boomed from car stereos and open apartment doors. I eventually found a parking spot, locked down the car, then headed to Sifu’s apartment.

To my left, the pool overflowed with bikinied beauties, while in front of me, empty pizza boxes blocked my view of the stairway.

Declining lots of beer and party invites along the way, I finally located the stairs, pushed my way up to Room 227, and stepped inside. Cigarette smoke was thick and the music even louder. People were elbow-to-elbow. I asked the girl closest to me if she had seen Sifu. (It’s crazy. Everyone calls Mr. Fogg, “Sifu”, even if they’re not his students). The young woman took a sip of whatever was in her 64oz Coke cup and just stared at me, along with her two other friends. Figuring she didn’t hear me over the music, I asked the question again.

No response, just more staring. I soon noticed that everyone else standing close by was staring as well. What’s the deal?

I suddenly felt nervous, wondering if a piece of spinach or a raisin was stuck in my teeth.

Finally, the girl asked, “Who’s yo daddy?”

“What?” I asked. Surely I heard wrong.

At that moment, if a tribe of Amazonian cannibals had suddenly burst through the windows, stuck a sharp spear to my throat, and said they’d eat me unless I told them what I thought the young woman had just asked me, ‘Who’s yo daddy’ certainly would not have been it.

“Who’s yo daddy?” she asked again then slurped from her cup.

Before I could respond, Sifu suddenly appeared out of nowhere. (He did that quite often).

“I already told them Chuck Norris was your daddy,” Sifu said, “and that he sent you here to learn kung fu from me. It’s okay, you can admit it.”

Another girl wearing a tight sleeveless shirt and short-shorts stepped really close to me. Her alcohol breath burned my nose, “He sure looks like Chuck Norris.”

“Well, I-” I felt my face turning red.

“Chuck Norris knows kung fu.” The 64oz girl said to Sifu. “Why he gonna send his son to learn from you?”

Without a beat, Sifu said, “Chuck knows karate, not kung fu. He’s embarrassed about that. He knows kung fu is better and he knows that I’m the best. He secretly sent his son to train with me.”

By now, a large crowd had encircled us.

Short-shorts girl cocked her head at me and said, “So show us something then.” The crowed stepped back, every eye on me.

You need to know that I was a Chuck fanatic and I did mimic many of his moves, particularly his kicks.

I made a show of warming up then jumped and did a spinning back outside crescent kick, the kick that Chuck made famous in his tournament days. My baggy KF pants popped and my leather shoe slapped against my hand. I landed in the splits.

“Damn,” a guy behind me said.

“See, I told you.” Sifu shrugged and vanished back into the crowd.

Before we left, I actually signed a few autographs as “Chuck Norris’ son”. It was crazy.

Kung Fu vs. Dracula – Part II

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

…Something started pounding the wall next to me. My girlfriend screamed, digging her fingernails into my arm. Strobe lights went berserk, flashing the walls with images of demons. That haunting kill, kill, kill, sound effect that’s on Friday the 13th started playing. The walls pounded again. The floor shook. Demons shrieked. People were cursing, begging to get out. A human stampede was imminent. Ghost-lady’s voice told us Bellazar, the vampire demon was deeply upset and one of us had to die. A black man behind me said, “Oh hell no, not me!” and he bolted from the room. Suddenly, two arms grabbed my shoulders and began sliding around my neck. I didn’t think; just reacted. I twisted free from my date and drove two elbows into Bellazar’s stomach. I heard “umph” and felt his hot breath on my neck. I then clutched his elbow with one hand and his shoulder with the other and flipped him over my back. I had no idea vampires knew so many curse words. A loud crash followed by more cursing and groaning, then something ripped. Ghost-lady’s lighter flicked on and she demanded to know what was going on. She didn’t sound very ghost-like anymore. Bellazar paused long enough in his profanity marathon to scream, “Someone tried to kill me!” and then continued with his demonic vocabulary. I grabbed my girlfriend, pulled her close, and moved toward the exit but she screamed. I had grabbed the wrong girl.

In absolute darkness, I spun around groping for her. People were falling down, running into walls. Others stepped on Bellazar; he cried. Women screamed. Men shouted. The noise level was deafening. The lights burst on and everyone froze–until they saw the vampire demon lying on the floor. He had part of a black curtain tangled around his ankle, which had ripped down when he fell. It flared around him like a cape. Five other demon-dudes had been hiding behind the curtain. Now they just stood there slack-jawed staring at their slain leader covered in blood – whether it was fake or real, no one cared. Someone shouted “Oh, Lord he’s dead!” then a frenzied sea of people stormed the exit. I had to move or get trampled.

Outside, the fresh air hit me like a blast of cold water. Everyone scattered. Sirens blared. The cops were running to the house. Michael Jackson stopped singing. Children were crying. The people waiting to get in started cheering. They thought it was part of the show. I joined some friends then hooked up with my girlfriend.

She was not happy.

I didn’t get it. I just saved her from Bellazar and she wasn’t happy. Neither was anyone else, however. I learned that park officials shut the house down for an hour and poor Bellazar had to receive minor medical attention.
So, the moral to this tale? If you want to know if you’re learning Kung Fu, see how you react when you’re frightened.

No, I do not condone trashing haunted houses. I suggest not going in the first place. Beating up demons, however, I’m OK with.

Oh, my girlfriend ditched me after that. What’s the deal with chicks and vampires? Forget it guys, the girl always chooses the vampire.

 

[reposted for the holidays!]

 

Kung Fu vs. Dracula – Part I

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

[reposted for the holidays!]

Students often ask, “When does Kung Fu become natural?” or “How do I know if I really know it?”

My answer: visit a haunted house.

One October, my church youth group went to the Louisiana State Fair. It was an awesome trip. My favorite girlfriend of all time (except, of course, until my wife came along) and I walked the entire park arm-in-arm, intoxicated with the alluring aroma of funnel cakes, corndogs, and cotton candy. We rode every ride and saved the haunted house for nightfall.

Standing in line with a hundred other people, we anxiously waited to step through the spider web-covered door and tour the dark two-story monster-filled mansion. The wooden house with its boarded windows leaned left as if about to fall over, and the full moon spilled eerie shadows across the moldy-green roof. Michael Jackson’s Thriller was playing over the loud speaker and Vincent Price’s diabolical laugh echoed through the park. You could hear the wicked buzz of chainsaws from inside the house and the victims’ screams. Five people in front of us bailed out of line after that. At the exit, girls came out with teary mascara-stained faces and their boyfriends came out pale with red fingernail marks streaking down their forearms. One older woman (she was probably 30) fainted and had to be carried out by two burly ghosts.

My girlfriend hugged my arm as we stepped closer to the entrance. Her body trembled. What a rush. We were standing at the edge of a nightmare, ready to cross the river Styx. I handed Freddy Kruger our tickets. We ducked under the webs and stepped inside. The floor creaked beneath our feet.

Led by a ghost woman holding a lighter, about fifteen of us followed her flickering light down a narrow hallway and squeezed inside a tiny room. The smell of sweat was thick. The walls seemed to pulse with everyone’s fearful breaths. Ghost-lady said we were about to step into hell. If we did what she said, we’d survive. She started to say something else when everything went instantly black.

OK. Now I’m a little freaked-out. I’d studied KF for three years and I guess I hadn’t been startled since I’d began. That was about to change…

Mindset

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

In everything you do, whether in kung fu, sports, or life in general,  it’s important to have the right mindset. All too often I see people who show no sign of work ethic in anything that they do. No will to try. Giving up, so afraid to lose. I can’t grasp that mentality, giving up without a fight. They don’t have the Right Mindset.
Former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell (Author of the best selling book Lone Survivor) is the epitome of having the right mindset. When ever he entered BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEALs) one of the toughest military training programs on earth, he already had his mind made up. He wasn’t going to let the drill sergeants make him quit. SEALs share that mindset.

For martial artists it’s equally important to have the right mindset. Especially for the more advanced students, particularly black belts. Black belt students are challenged daily to improve their skills and to never give in to the pain that they know is coming on their next test. In the life of a martial artist pain becomes your friend. You have to know you’re going to overcome any challenge that may try to slow you down.
When you have the right mindset you can do virtually anything no matter the difficulty. Sigung Fogg sat in horse stance for 6 hours. How did he do it? I will tell you. Even before he started he knew he was not going to give in to the pain. He had made up his mind that he was going to sit there in horse stance for 6 hours.

Having the right mindset is one of the most important qualities a person can have. All great martial artists, Special Operations soldiers, and athletes share that quality. No matter what you enjoy doing, what you do for a living, or even what physical activities you take a part in, there are challenges in everything. Having the right mindset will help you overcome those challenges.

 

Kung Fu Holidays

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

During the Thanksgiving and Christmas season it’s easy to become preoccupied with all of the holiday frills that we often let our guards down, especially when it comes to our children.

I have many parents ask for some simple ways to make sure their child is safe during the countless shopping trips. So here are a few tips on safety for your loved ones this season.

Malls are unavoidable for us shoppers and the bad-guys know this. My suggestion is for children under 12 to remain with parents or adult during shopping trips. This is a drag for kids around the 10-11 age range but it’s much safer. For teens, shopping with friends is the rule, preferably with groups of four to six.

You must view the child-abductor as a cowardly predator. He is looking for that lone child to attack. Stay with the groups and remain in public areas of the mall. Avoid going to restrooms alone or walking out to their cars alone. Of course, cell phones are the ideal way for you to stay in touch with your child.

And always run! Hopefully your child never has to deal with being assaulted but tell them to run. Get out of there and go to a security guard. Inform them to report any suspicious incidents to the proper authorities.

The holidays are fun and exciting and for the most part are very safe, but it’s always better to be prepared and to have a plan. Have a happy Thanksgiving and a merry Christmas.

The Ninja

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

One year into opening Tyler Kung Fu, I had the privilege of meeting a ninja-well, sort of.

Shuffling through paperwork one Tuesday morning in April I answered the phone, and on the other end of the line was a ninja. The conversation went like this:

“Good morning, Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness.”

“Yes, are you the sifu? I must speak only to him.” The caller spoke with an urgent whisper, as if he wanted no one around him to hear his conversation. I couldn’t resist. I whispered back, even glanced around my empty office to be sure no one was listening to me.

“Yes, I am he.”

“You are the sifu? What is your name?”

I told him.

“Ah, yes,” he seemed to approve.

Unknowingly, I’d passed the first test. He continued.

“I want to share something with you, yet it must go no further than the boundaries of this phone line. Agreed?”

Was this my first obscene kung fu phone call? Curious, I agreed.

“Sifu Jones,” the caller whispered, “I am a ninja.”

A ninja! I was speechless. I love ninjas. Since 1982, I’d studied any material available on the stealthy assassins. I’d read every book and article written by Stephen K. Hayes. Read Eric Van Lustbader’s novel Ninja, twice, and of course, watched the ultimate ninja movie of all-time, Chuck Norris’s The Octagon. I pulled in deep breath to calm my nerves. After fifteen years of study, I was finally able to speak with a ninja. Though I didn’t have his moves, I felt I did possess his intellect. We could speak as one.

“Incredible,” was all I managed to say.

“Indeed.”

“How long have you been a ninja?”

“A lifetime.”

“Wow. Where did you receive your training?”

He laughed, as a wise grandfather does whenever his grandson asked something stupid. “The entire geography of the world has been my training ground. Yet, as you know, Sifu Jones, I cannot reveal specifics.”

“Oh, of course.”

The ninja cleared his throat. “Sifu Jones, for years I have searched for a disciple. I recently arrived here in the States and after much study of you, your school, and your martial ability, I . . . well, we, have chosen you. Your mantis knowledge can greatly enhance our organization.”

Whoa! This was the happiest day of my life. Even better than when I was recruited by the Justice League.

“I’m honored, sir.” I glanced at the caller ID. It said unknown. “So you’re here in Tyler.”

“Again, I cannot answer that.”

Thinking about the we, and our organization, I asked, “Can you tell me your name, sir, and talk about your organization.”

He laughed again. “Sifu Jones, your testing of me is admirable. But no, I cannot.”

“I understand. What may I call you?”

“For now, that is not important. What is important is that we meet.”

“OK. When?” My pulse quickened when he didn’t answer. I quickly scanned the room to make sure he wasn’t already there. Finally, I heard what sounded like the squeaking of a chair and then the clicking of a computer keypad.

Another thirty seconds of silence he said, “Arrangements are being made for my associate to visit your school. You must understand, Sifu, you and I can never meet in public. Once my associate relays to me that you are onboard, we can proceed with a meeting place.”

OK. I knew this guy was nuts but now he’s venturing into psycho-nuts. I reached under my desk and made sure my .45 had a full clip. “Great,” I said. “Class begins tonight at 6:30. Have him stop by.”

“I’m afraid a class setting is unacceptable. He will arrive early; spend a few hours with you. There is much to discuss.”

“I’m in private classes until six,” I lied. “Tell him to be here by then.” No way was going to spend time alone with a psycho-ninja.

He sighed. “You’re an elusive warrior, Sifu Jones. Yet, that is why I chose you.” I heard more typing. “Yes, six will be fine. He will be there.”

I almost hung up when—“And, Sifu Jones . . .”

“Yes.”

“Welcome.”

At 6:25, cloaked in a cloud of smoke, the ninja’s associate arrived. He pulled up in a 1985 Buick. When he opened his door, a plume of cigarette smoke billowed from inside the car. I was disappointed when he climbed out and he wasn’t hooded. He had the rest of the ninja uniform, though.

I was expecting him to flip, or roll his way into the school but this poor guy could barely walk in. He could’ve been mid-forties but looked late sixties. His gray hair was in a tight ponytail and his goatee hung to his chest. Three diamond studs pierced his left ear.

I introduced myself. He nodded and said to call him “Bill”.

Knowing he would decline, I invited him to join class.

“I come only to observe, Sifu Jones.”

I had to back up. His breath reeked of cigarettes, coffee, and corn chips. He motioned to the waiting class. “Please proceed.” Funny, his voice sounded exactly like the ninja caller. I’d told my class that we may have a ninja visit us. So far, no one seemed impressed. With much effort, he eased onto the bench and watched.

A few minutes into our warm up, he waved me over. I had a student takeover.

“Yes,” I asked, sitting next to him.

“The mantis grabs, I don’t see the effectiveness.”

Oh brother. Was he already issuing a challenge? I had a student demonstrate grabs with me then I sat back down.

Mr. Ninja actually shook his head and clicked his tongue. “Still not convinced. The way of the ninja is fast and ferocious. Perhaps we’ve made a mistake choosing you. I must test you myself.”

I knew it. Sifu Fogg had warned me of nuts challenging new school owners. Normally, the sifu has senior students deal with challenges, but being open less than a year, I had no one. Sick of this ninja stuff, I stood and said, “Please demonstrate. He said he could only go half speed due to an injury he received while on mission in Peru.

Of course.

It happened so fast that my students didn’t even notice. Not his punch. Me jerking him to the ground.

When he punched, I plucked his wrist. Stumbling forward, he punched with his other hand. I grabbed it and pulled him to the floor. He smacked his knees on the hard tile. He groaned. Everyone stopped and looked. I told them to keep training.

Grabbing the bench, he stood, but not for long. His legs gave way and he had to sit. Two seconds of combat and he was completely out of breath. I offered him some water. He declined. Said he’d seen enough and would be in touch. He limped back to his car, fired up a cig, and drove away.

It’s been fourteen years and I’ve yet to hear from him – obviously I failed the test. Or maybe, just maybe, the ninja has been watching me all this time. Waiting for my skills to develop. Waiting for me to become worthy.

I too must wait.

Think Like a Super Hero

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Parents often ask if the martial arts will help or hurt their already aggressive-behaving child.

I understand the parents’ concern, particularly in the way Hollywood portrays the martial arts. Often a violent cartoon or “kid’s” program showing bloody martial arts fight scenes is all a mom sees. So when little Taylor asks if he can do karate, Mom has visions of her beloved son flipping through the air with razor-sharp swords killing ninjas.

But in my fifteen years of teaching experience, I’ve yet to have a student whose aggressive behavior escalated after beginning martial arts training. Actually, I’ve noticed—along with the parents—the child’s aggressive behavior diminish and I’ve yet to hear any of my law enforcement students and friends tell me of a crime-spree involving a kid kung fu master.

On the flip side, I’ve seen very introverted children become more confident and outgoing after training in the martial arts.

True martial arts is all about self-discipline and respect for self and others. The physical side of it gives aggressive children a positive physical outlet.

In researching juvenile crime statistics involving the martial arts, all I discovered were positive articles of martial arts reducing aggressive behavior in children and teens.

One was a Texas A & M University study that showed a significant decrease in aggressive behavior of delinquent youths after they trained in the Korean martial art, Tae kwon do, for just six short months. The title of the study was Martial Arts Training: A novel “cure” for juvenile delinquency. The title alone is pretty powerful.

Yes, the martial arts are comprised of punches, kicks, and throws – violent actions, but one of my favorite teaching techniques is telling the students to think like a super hero. I ask them; just because Batman has the skills to beat people up, does he do it to every one? “Only to the bad-guys,” they shout back to me, “like the Joker!” I explain to them that knowing martial arts is exactly like having a super power and they should treat it as such, just like Batman, and only use it in times of danger and self-defense. During class we reinforce this principle with role-play of how and when the student’s kung fu powers should be used.

This example totally clicks with a child’s imagination and empowers them as well. They think, “Wow, I’m kinda like Spiderman or Batgirl. That’s cool!” Many children in my classes even quote Uncle Ben from the movie Spiderman: “With much power comes much responsibility.” That is what martial arts is all about.

600 to 1 Odds

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad. He too saved Israel. Judges 3:31

October 1, 2010 marked the fourteenth anniversary for Tyler Kung Fu & Fitness.

After writing that, I had to stop a moment and let the weight of those words settle in. It’s not just the success of TKFF that humbles me. It’s what the success parallels with that completely blows me away.

In June ‘96, my life was a total mess. Due to ignoramus and arrogant choices, I’d lost my job, my house, my car, and worst— my wife and son. Wallowing in self-pity, on the afternoon of the last day in my house, I sat on the kitchen counter wedged between stacks of dishes ready to be boxed. The house was incredibly quiet. Beneath my dangling feet were piles of swept-up trash and packing paper. Boxes stuffed with memories of better times outlined the kitchen. My couch was sitting upside down halfway out the back door waiting to be loaded into the borrowed truck. I had no idea what I was going to do from here.

I stared through the small kitchen window above the sink. As if to mock my black mood, the sun was bright and the blue sky faultless. A light breeze came in through the opened back door carrying the scent of a water sprinkler raining on freshly cut grass from the neighbor’s next door. Across the street a father and son were playing catch. I buried my face in my hands.

Embarrassed, I wouldn’t even pray. Why would God help me? I deserved every bit of this.

Then the phone rang—twice.

I jumped. I thought it’d already been disconnected.

The first call was from a friend and former boss, said he had a job for me. The second call was from Sifu Fogg. He told me the wheels were already in motion for a kung fu school to be opened in Tyler, Texas. He wanted me to do it.

I hung up with Sifu and hopped off the cabinet, the house still deathly quiet. Me, teach kung fu for a living? I shook my head. Only in dreams. I scanned the kitchen. Evidence of my mistakes surrounded me. I didn’t want to make any more bad decisions. I finally told God I just wanted my family back, make a new life. As clear as the sky was on that June day, I heard Him say, “Then do what you know to do. I’ll be with you.”

Though only four months later and TKFF opened its doors, it was the longest four months of my life. Working full-time for my friend and living with my brother-in-law seventy-five miles from Tyler, I began preparing to open a kung fu school.

Respected business people advised me to have eighteen thousand dollars in capital. I didn’t have eighteen dollars. I lost count of the number of bankers, friends, and family members who said no to a loan. That was the frustrating part—a total 600-to-one odds feeling. I knew in my heart of hearts that TKFF could be successful. I just needed a chance. In August, with six-thousand borrowed from my dad, I hit the Rose City’s streets to find a location. With the help of Godsend real estate agent Jo Dobbs, we found a place (another miracle itself) and opened for business on October 1.

For the next two years, I worked for Brookshires Grocery Company as a night stocker and then as a sacker during the day while running the school in between. I was so tired that I could actually fall asleep while sitting in horse stance. On so many late nights driving home from the school only to be at Brookshires in a few short hours, I’d ask myself why was I doing this. Shouldn’t I just get a real job and stop pursuing a silly dream.

The only answer I had, the answer that kept driving me, was that I had to do this. It wasn’t just about the school. It was about me not giving up, not quitting. Not quitting on Sifu, who believed in me before I did, not quitting on my dad, and not quitting on the students I already had. Mostly, however, it was about not quitting on my family and trusting God to restore that relationship.

Motivational author Napoleon Hill said, “Successful people usually find that great success lies just beyond the point when they’re convinced that their idea is not going to work.”

Perseverance was—is the only answer!

That was fourteen years ago.

Over those years, I’ve studied some amazing people who overcame 600-to-one odds. Because they didn’t give up, life is better for it. No matter their obstacles or their age, the one characteristic they all shared was perseverance.

One is a man named Shamgar. Though only mentioned twice in the Bible, this man with no military training, no commander, no sword and shield, and no combat experience other than acquired survival skills from hunting and living off the land, single-handedly killed six hundred trained Philistines with an ox goad, and freed Israel.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a professor tell him that if he continued using such lofty and flamboyant language he’d never be an effective public speaker. Right. Any one ever heard, “I have a dream . . .

Sir Winston Churchill was sixty-five when he became prime minister of England, and in the face of his own country calling him crazy, saying, Hitler was nothing to worry about, he took on the Nazis.

Ronald Reagan was sixty-nine when he took office, and despite naysayers, he vowed to, and succeeded, in overthrowing communism and reviving America’s economy.

At sixty-six, Michelangelo completed the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; at eighty-eight, he painted the frescoes in the Pauline Chapel.

Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocal lens at age seventy-eight and signed the U.S. Constitution at eighty-one.

It took Tom Monahan twelve years to see his dream come to fruition, to take a mom-and-pop pizza place and turn it into Domino’s Pizza. He didn’t quit.

Texas Ranger Baseball player Josh Hamilton, who disappeared from baseball due to an alcohol problem, faced true 600-to-0ne odds. The media, the fans, other players, all said he was through. Yet a few short years later, he reentered the game a new man, humbled by receiving the MVP during the final playoff game against the Yankees. Josh didn’t quit. He preserved.

And consider the way legendary boxer “Gentleman Jim” Corbett said it after going twenty-one rounds and then knocking out John L. Sullivan:

Fight one more round when your feet are so tired that you have to shuffle back to the center of the ring—fight one more round.

When your arms are so tired you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard—fight one more round.

When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired you wish your opponent would crack you on the jaw and put you to sleep—fight one more round.

Remembering that the man who always fights one more round is never whipped.

That pretty much sums it up.

Never give up on your dreams.

Resource:

The Three Success Secrets of Shamgar

Pat Williams & Jay Strack