It was the start of the Bruce Lee craze. "Enter the Dragon" had only been in theaters for a little more than a month and Bruce had only been dead for two months. "Kung-Fu" was a popular TV show. I loved David Carradine's show and I had seen "Enter the Dragon" half a dozen times.
The crowd of new students that night spilled into the parking lot. I was 20 years old, a student at Eastern Kentucky University.
I had no idea that I would still be in the arts 45 years later, and that I would be working at it full-time after more than four decades.
I stayed in my first school long enough to earn a brown belt, then I began exploring, studying Taekwondo, Tien Shan Pai kung-fu, and discovered the internal arts in 1987. In 1991, I was working as news director of the TV station on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, Iowa, and was practicing in the gym when the coach of the ISU Boxing team, Coach Terry Dowd saw me and invited me to workout with the team. I was 39 and they sort-of adopted me. I trained with the boys for two years.
I'm pondering some of the lessons I've learned over the past 45 years. The martial arts attracts people with controlling personalities sometimes, and sometimes the arts attract people who want others to see themselves as mysterious, possessing supernatural powers. There are really great, caring people and also those who will lie about their backgrounds as they take your money. It attracts some people who think critically and others who will believe almost everything their teacher says. There are people who maintain their humility and there are others who troll the internet and Facebook and slam everyone they see.
But beneath all the noise are these self-defense arts. After 45 years I still think they are cool, fascinating, and I take them seriously but I still have as much fun practicing now as I did when I was 20, even though after all these years, losing a lung and developing a heart issue has made it a little more challenging.
45 years went by quickly. I hope to keep training, learning and improving for years to come.
Thanks for being part of my journey by reading this.