Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Other Me

Most blogs I read and friends I talk to are somehow related to things outdoors. Whether we are talking hunting, fishing, camping or whatever it is normally along these lines. So I thought I would write about something else I enjoy and have for almost 40 years but many people have no idea that I practice, study and teach. No, not art or woodworking, this isn’t a how to or try this post but a bit of a ramble about the other me.

I am a martial artist.

Always having hated organized team sports I never got to join in what other kids did. I was terribly over weight plus my interests were in hunting and fishing not chasing some stupid ball around a field to no purpose. I learned fast as a kid organized sports are for the few not the many. If you are good then you play, if not, you aren‘t wanted. Being over weight meant when I did try to play I only got to play one position, ass back.

I would get off the bench to play and the coach would yell, “Get your ass back.”

Then one afternoon my Mom said we were going to the movies and that changed everything. We went to a now closed theater in Nashville where a movie from China was playing with the guy from a TV show called “The Green Hornet”, Bruce Lee in “Fists of Fury”. Like many other kids that was all it took. After seeing Bruce Lee in that movie I read everything I could find about martial arts. I learned my first stances and moves from instructional books since I didn’t have money to attend a school. When I had enough money to go for real training I started in a Tae Kwon Do school since there were only two styles in our area to study. I studied with Master Kong who had been all Korean Champion and to this day I am amazed at what he could do. But due to a run in with a ‘68 Impala vs. my motorcycle in which I came out on the wrong end I was in constant pain doing this style. I drifted through several styles that had begun to show up in the Nashville area where I grew up but never found anything I really wanted to stick with. I trained with friends for many years in what is now considered Mixed Martial Arts or Bruce Lee‘s Jeet Kune Do concept, learning from different people and using what worked for me.

Finally in the mid ‘90s I ran across a Wing Chun Kung Fu school near me. For years there had only been one around, owned by Sifu Rusty Gray, but I never lived near enough to attend so was excited to find a different one. I went to check it out and found that a friend’s brother was a student so I could ask questions and get real answers about the school. This was what I had looked for to continue my training, a softer style that didn’t cause me pain harder styles did with a long history which I love to study. I started that week. Over time this school closed when the owners moved to Texas so a group of us got together to train in a warehouse for several years. This was a small class with a new teacher from a different lineage but we learned a lot and always had fun, to be honest more than in the school that closed.

My buddy Robert on right when I got my first Black Sash at the old school.

Playing with sticks

Me and Josh training at the warehouse.

This turned into a formal school in Lebanon TN which I still attend when I can. It has grown and changed over the years now offering training in traditional Wing Chun, MMA and to police officers but it is still what I think of as my school, meaning where my teacher is located. I don’t get there much but I am lucky in that I know most of the school owners in this area and have a standing invitation to train with them whenever I like. It’s nice to have friends.

Weapons class at Progressive Martial Arts in Murfreesboro TN a few nights ago. The owners are DeLisa, in black on left and Billy, holding sword on right in camo shorts.

I get asked if I am ranked in what I study, yes I am. I am ranked by 4 different Wing Chun organizations but this is the part I don’t talk about much since I always thought of it as showing off or bragging when people tell how high a rank they are. Let’s just say I stuck with it past the point other people stop. Most people that quit going to classes after years of study do it when they get to first degree in whatever style they study. I’ve never understood this since this is the point where things make sense and real learning begins. I now have a ranking from Sijo Rusty Gray owner of the first Kung Fu school I saw but couldn’t attend as a kid. After all these years I am still learning, there is no end of knowledge to be gained and I’m still able to train, hard to beat that.

So now you know, I do other things besides hunt and fish. Hope you liked finding out a bit about the other me. I will end with some shots I’ve taken over the years. Some are really bad, others just kinda sorta bad. These are students, teachers and friends from several schools around Murfreesboro and Lebanon.

Sijo Rusty Gray and Sigung Jimmy Tarpley. Jimmy is my teacher, Rusty was his.

Finally a recent shot of me. I hate cameras by the way.


Albert Quackenbush said...

It's always great to learn something new about people, especially your 'blogging friends.' That is great that you stuck with it. Shows discipline and determination. Awesome traits to have. Keep it up my friend!

SusanBytheSea said...

Very interesting reading.I know you've mentioned before in passing about your Martial Arts skill.Nice to see the pictures.Very much a Renaissance man...

Rich Bianchi said...

Where is Sijo Gray these days? I would like to continue my training if he has returned to TX.

Tommy Ellis said...

He lives in the Hermitage area just outside of Nashville Tn. He teaching at one of his older student's school and doing seminars. I'm not sure if he is getting down your way our not.

Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment. Always good to meet another brother from our line.

John Cole said...

Hi Rusty, it's been a long, long time since we spoke. I was thinking of ya then got on the computer and wham there u were.Ya looking good and I'm glad your doing so well. I'm still here in Lebanon hanging out playing music when I can and helping wife out in her metaphysical shop. I'll try and call ya when in Hendersonville, maybe do lunch and catch up. LOL Have a good week.

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Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.



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