March 2, 2024

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My Martial Arts Career in Retrospect by KJN Ronald Stone

My Martial Arts Career in Retrospect by KJN Ronald Stone

I began my self-defense training as a freshman at the University of Illinois in 1970. Anxious to avoid becoming another assault victim statistic and hoping to emulate Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and Kwai Chang Cane, I signed up for a physical education class taught by an ex-marine hand to hand combat instructor.

In those days the University of Illinois required phys. ed. classes for all freshmen and luckily my schedule allowed time for this class. It was either that or take ballroom dance lessons as my friend Jerry did. Sadly, it was not until much later that I learned that while I was getting kicked and punched, Jerry, as one of the only boys in the ballroom class, was scoring date after date with all the cute girls he was “forced” to dance with. (It’s funny how our priorities change as we grow older.)

That old marine taught us many dirty tricks such as how to use the heel of a shoe to break an opponent’s collar bone and how to employ one’s belt and buckle as a defense weapon system. Best of all I learned a few simple throws and took great delight in flipping bigger, stronger, and heavier opponents through the air as if they were weightless. I did so well that I received an “A” in the class.

Two weeks later I was relaxing in our college dormitory discussing the intricacies of street fighting when one of my friends broke out laughing. When I asked Max what he found so amusing he replied that as a “milk and white bread middle class kid from the suburbs” I would get my “clock cleaned, and my head handed to me on a platter” if I ever got into a fight with a real street thug.

Angrily I explained indicated that since I had received an “A” in that one semester class I was now perfectly capable of “handling myself.”

To prove his point Mas rolled up a magazine and told me he was going to hit me in the head with it. “I’m not jumping you at night with a crowbar or a shiv,” he replied. “I’m letting you get ready for my attack just to prove a point. Oh, and by the way, I’ve never had a real fight in my life either.”

I immediately told him to “bring it on” and went into a crossed arm high block as I had been taught. Max hit me with the magazine and when I woke up from the ensuing one-minute comma Max offered the opinion that a magazine tends to make a strong impression on some folks.

Horrified, I immediately realized the awful truth. I had been lulled into a false sense of security and believed in the quality of my one semester, overly simplified, and non-certified defense training. Had it not been for my college friend Max and his warped sense of humor sooner or later I might have been seriously injured (OR WORSE) in a real-world encounter.

Sadly, even today the public does not realize the wide discrepancy that exists in martial arts training or how easy it is for unqualified instructors to impress their students. Uneducated parents are not aware of how simple it is in these unregulated United States to falsify credentials. There is a reason why in the Orient (where the martial arts originated), instructors must meet age and license requirements with government supervised organizations such as the Korean Martial Arts Instructors Association.

Just as doctors belong to the AMA or lawyers to the BAR Association,

martial artists should be able to present an established and preferably written curriculum and demonstrate certification that directly traces back to the country of origin of their art. Personally, I am now leery of such claims as “Original Ugandan Style Krav Maga,” “California Style Hapkido” or “Taekwondo certified directly from Detroit.”

The martial arts “industry” that has developed in the West needs to mature as the medical, legal, veterinary, and dental professions did long ago. They too had their fair share of quacks and charlatans, but they cleaned shop and today these fakes are few and far between. The public now has legal recourse to protect themselves.

I would maintain that If action is not taken by the martial arts industry to police itself, to mandate standards and age limits, and to legitimize organizational certifications it will soon begin to lose credibility and eventually clients and profits. It is a sure bet that lawsuits will continue to grow. Eventually the government will step in with draconian regulations to stop such complaints. We should all wise up as a group.

So, you might ask getting back to my story. What did I do next after Max bopped me on the bean? Well, once the room stopped spinning and the nausea abated, I quickly realized that I could either give up trying and remain a potential victim for the rest of my life or I could continue studying. I soon joined a legitimate Korean martial arts school, and eventually became a member of the University of Illinois Judo team. But we will leave that for another story.

About the author: R.W. Stone is currently a practicing veterinarian in Central Florida. He is an avid horseman, a master ranked martial artist, a best-selling western author, and a firearms enthusiast. After joining a martial arts school in 1970 Stone started studying Yudo with a Korean grandmaster. He eventually became a member of the Judo team of the University of Illinois. It was at the University that a Korean classmate and friend introduced him to Tae Kwon do. After graduating veterinary college, he found the martial arts becoming too sports oriented and eventually after moving from Miami to Central Florida he sought out a Hapkido grandmaster. Currently Stone is ranked 8th dan in Haemukwan Hapkido, 4th dan in Daehan Yudo and a second dan in Kukki Taekwondo. He is the Hapkido instructor at the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies.

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