This coming March 10, Chuck Norris will turn seventy-seven. Two Tuesdays ago, I turned forty-eight. Both of us are martial artists, masters even, specializing, or at least, getting our foundation in Korean martial arts. I’m not comparing us. Not by any means. He’s a champion, successful, a legend and pioneer. Me, I’m small fry. But, in a roundabout sort of way, Master Norris has been a part of my martial arts life from the beginning.
I began my formal martial arts training in 1985 when I was training in Shotokan Karate. A friend from school and I went to take a class, a semi-private class, given by a journalist friend of his father. At the dojo was another Hong Kong-based journalist who was a mutual friend of my friend’s father and my father. My friend’s father worked in government publications and my father was (and still is) a journalist. To be completely honest, it wasn’t a class per se. The two men were there to work out. It was a Sunday morning and my friend’s dad’s friend said to just come around and he’ll show us the basics and give us an intro-type workout. With the other man there, a higher-ranking student and, based on his black belt rank, a sensei (master), we got a proper intro to Karate. Although there for his own training, in true black belt fashion, he gave us his time and passed down a little of what he’d been taught. This man won’t likely remember me but when I was younger, even before this impromptu karate class, I’d called this man ‘Uncle Alan.’ Some of you reading will know who this is. Anyway, Uncle Alan showed us attention stance (musubi-dachi), front stance (seisan-dachi) and low block (gedan-uke). He showed us how to travel in seisan-dachi and how to turn. Both me taught us how to bow. From then on, I was hooked. I wanted to be a martial artist.
Around the same time, the summer of 1985, my friend, his cousin and I went to the cinema to watch a Bruce Lee movie. It was The Way Of The Dragon (released in 1972 and in the United States as Return Of The Dragon). This is the one in which he goes to Rome and the one Bruce Lee wrote, starred in, and directed. (You know, I think he might have even produced it too.) It was also Master Norris’s introduction to the world. He played Colt, the American champion for hire. At the end, he and Bruce have an excellent showdown full of skill, respect and honour.
Move on a couple of years and I’m living in The United States and Master Norris has movie after movie coming to a theatre near you. Some of them were Delta Force, Code Of Silence, Missing In Action, Firewalker, Invasion U.S.A., Hero And The Terror, Sidekicks. Then, Walker, Texas Ranger came on TV. I’ve also read his two autobiographies – The Secret Of Inner Strength and Against All Odds. All this time, I was training in Taekwondo, getting my own black belts and opening my first (sadly it failed) dojang. Nonetheless, Master Norris was there. Some years after that, I saw him in an infomercial for the Total GymTM. I almost bought it (If it was good enough for him, it’d be good enough for me) but didn’t because there wasn’t space in my flat and I already belonged to a gym. At that time, the late 1990s, I remember being amazed at how fit he still was at almost sixty years old. I remember saying then, “If I could be half as fit as he is now when I am fifty, I’ll be happy.” Sadly, due to a mix of circumstances – not least of which were cumulative moments of weakness and my surrender to depressive thoughts of constant failure – I am less than half as fit as Master Norris was then. And I’m turning fifty in less than two years!
Master Norris has, in more recent years, undergone hip surgery and gotten older, yet he’s still in good shape and he’s still kicking. You might have seen the commercial in which he crescent kicks a saltshaker to the face of a man after that man’s friend tosses the saltshaker to him. He’s also inspired a series of websites listing ‘facts’ about how tough he is based on the characters from his movies. They’re all in good fun and I believe Master Norris was quoted as saying that he was okay with them. Some of my favourites are: “Chuck Norris counted to infinity. Twice.” and “Chuck Norris can hear sign language.” Then there’s, “When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.” I got these from the website http://chucknorrisjokes.linkpress.info/top-100 but there are others.
So, I do still have time to get back my mojo and become the martial artist I should be. But I don’t have a lot of time to get back there by fifty. Time goes by very fast as one gets older. It does for me, anyway. To be in half as good, or better, shape as Master Norris was in 1998 and get back into being a fulltime martial artist. Those are the goals.
In some ways, I feel like this is my last chance; that if I don’t do this, everything else I shoot for will be missed yet again and I’ll never truly be the best version of me I can be. But if there’s one thing going for me, I’ve never quit anything and I am a martial artist. It’s the source of my power. I can’t fly or read minds and I don’t have x-ray vision. What I do have is a black belt with hours of training. I may not have trained like I used to in a long time but the lessons learnt from all the kicks and punches and falls are longer lasting than the ability to kick, punch and fall. I’ve learnt fighting spirit, a warrior’s spirit. I’ve developed an indomitable spirit – maybe to the point of stubbornness and delusion – but I have it nonetheless. It may not always win but it’s there. It’s dormant and I have to wake it up. Master Chuck Norris and the examples he has left for me and younger generations of longevity and consistency and being a black belt versus wearing a black belt will be its alarm clock. Thank you, Master Norris. Thank you, Sir.