After seeing this movie, I was so enthused by Gere’s martial arts scenes in the movie that I took up the martial arts myself. I wanted to be that man that I saw in the movie. I would put in about three years of training initially, rising to the red belt level under the excellent teaching of an enthusiastic, wise, and compassionate black belt instructor and fellow Christian, Jeff Braun. He managed a martial arts studio and fitness center in Austell, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, as part of a franchise of the American Taekwondo Association. My military training gave me a base to build on as I learned the new forms, studied up on Asian history, sparred in class, and successfully negotiated all the testing events, rising quickly in belt rank due to the great effort that I poured into this new and exciting venture. By the time I had to quit actively training, I was just short of my black belt, even impressing many in the audience of friends and family members at one testing when I broke the required two wooden boards for my foot-break technique with a not-too-shabby execution of a cool flying side kick that I had worked on for several weeks prior to the test.
I’m sure God was with me that day, empowering my success, as He has been through all the major and minor events of my life, even years later getting me through a very challenging combat tour with several narcissistic people on the leadership team who had little to no team mentality. But I certainly put in my share of the effort toward my success in the martial arts. I would practice my forms and my foot and hand techniques daily in the gym at the college I was attending in Kennesaw, Georgia (U.S.A.) before my morning classes. I assume I would have successfully tested for my black belt at the time had not other issues in my life taken more priority, for example my education, my job, and meeting my future wife. God had better plans for me than the ones I was trying to build at the time. But once I had martial arts in my blood, I couldn’t just give it up forever. I kept up with my skills over the years, occasionally working out on the heavy bag and boning up on my forms in the various gyms where I was stationed after I reentered the Army as an officer.
Then about ten years after my initial foray into the martial arts, God was good to me, leading me by short steps back into the sport. He knew how important the martial arts were to me, and like a lovingly indulgent Father, He worked out a way for me to eventually get back into it full bore, starting first by getting me more active in martial arts as I taught tae kwon do privately to two sons of our friends, one of them the son of our dear friends, Bobby and Kathy Clanton, who now reside in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Then God opened the door a little wider as I used the money that they paid for the lessons to buy several martial arts books and training equipment because I wanted to be a better teacher to these boys. Then God threw the door wide open by setting up a series of chance circumstances that resulted in my meeting the proprietor and fellow martial artist, Dennis Conway, of a very good tae kwon do school in the area where we were living in Mississippi (at the time, I was working in the Military Entrance Station in Jackson, Mississippi).
I would take back up my training under his tutelage and earn my black belt, drinking from the proverbial firehose in his very demanding training process, which included sparring at every training class, at least three nights a week, with several very experienced black belts (2nd, 3rd, and 4th degree). I truly learned at the school of hard knocks as these more experienced men and women dealt some painful lessons to me, and ibuprofen became my buddy every night after training. But I learned so much quicker in this immersion training. When I got my black belt, I knew without a doubt that I had earned it. Unfortunately, my training came to a halt again a year later, shortly after my successful black belt testing. God had just brought our two oldest children into our lives while living there in Brandon, Mississippi. Subsequently, I wanted to devote the necessary time to be a good father to them as well as sharing in the duties of caring for them with my wife as much as possible.
I pray that you will all have the courage to start whatever endeavors you may be interested in and that you will turn to God, putting Him first in your lives, then getting His power and wisdom to chase your dreams.