No matter how much I speak or write on other subjects, people are always understandably curious about my martial arts career and present ventures.
Here are a few of the questions I’ve received most over the past months.
“Ever get the urge to get back in the ring?”
As I’ve told others who have inquired, watching the World Combat League, or WCL, gives me the urge but not a big enough urge! Nevertheless, it does bring back the nostalgia of when I was fighting. We all miss younger days when we were able to do the things we can’t physically do but wish we could do now. But I’ve been there and done that, so I can always say it was exciting at the time, but now it’s their chance. It’s their time.
I fight vicariously a lot these days through the competitors in the WCL – my most recent martial arts pride and joy, which is gaining national and soon international popularity. The WCL is a fast-paced, team format, martial arts league that features quick three-minute rounds that necessitate fighters to be aggressive for every second of every bout.
For 30 years, I have had the vision of turning the exciting individual sport of combat martial arts into a thrilling team event. This vision is now a reality. The WCL brings together martial arts experts by region in a team format – six combat warriors against six combat warriors, including women. Each team represents a city, its team, and individual skills in an all-out striking war. There is no wrestling or grappling to slow down the action. I think this full-throttle action is the future of martial arts competition.
The WCL is airing right now on the Versus Channel. And all profits go toward my real passion: Teaching martial arts to inner city at-risk kids through Kickstart, which seeks to build resiliency through the values and philosophies taught through my martial arts program in the inner-city middle schools. Kickstart has graduated 40,000 young people in 15 years, with many of them graduating from college and becoming successful in their own right.
“Do you still train others?”
I don’t personally, but I do through others. In addition to the graduates from Kick Start, as the founder and chairman of United Fighting Arts Federation , or UFAF, we have trained over 2,300 black belts all over the world.
My system of martial arts is called “Chun Kuk Do,” in which all my black belts train. “Chun kuk do” means “universal way,” which represents a conglomeration of many different systems merged into one. Jujitsu, judo, karate, tae kwon do – all merged into one. During the 47 years that I’ve been training, I’ve trained in almost every martial-arts style there is, and I’ve blended them all together in what I believe is one of the finest forms of self defense.
If you’re interested in learning “Chun Kuk Do” from one of our schools, you can locate a local academy by going to the UFAF website.
As a matter of fact, I will be in Las Vegas this week at our 2007 Chun Kuk Do International Training Conference and World Championships, where UFAF members and invitees are in for a treat of a week.
“Did you achieve other hallmarks besides your undefeated six-time world championship?”
Most of my younger fans (and those who know me just from my movie and television career) don’t know that, from 1965 through 1974, I won hundreds of state, national and international championships. I was voted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame in 1968 as Fighter of the Year, in 1975 as Instructor of the Year and in 1977 as Man of the Year.
In 1990 I was honored with another milestone by being the first man ever in the Western Hemisphere to be awarded an 8th degree Black Belt Grand Master recognition in the Tae Kwon Do system. This was a first in 4,500 years of tradition – something that still humbles me to the core of my being.
“Where did you meet Bruce Lee?”
I met Lee in New York in 1968 when I was fighting for, and won, the World Middle Weight Karate Championship at Madison Square Garden. Also in 1968, Bruce gave me my first movie break when he was the stunt coordinator for “The Wrecking Crew,” starring Dean Martin. In 1972, I acted as his nemesis in the movie “Way of the Dragon,” which served as probably the greatest catalyst for both of our film careers.
I’ve written at length about my relationship with and admiration of Lee in two other WND articles – So who is the greatest martial-arts champion ever? and Facing the giant – Bruce Lee.
Bruce and I were friends – and I still miss him. I was thrilled to hear a few years ago that Bruce had been memorialized with a statue in Bosnia and a second one with a remembrance hall built at his southern Chinese ancestral home of Shunde.
Were you really the personal trainer for Bob Barker?
Believe it or not, it is a question I receive often – to Bob’s credit and popularity among both older and younger generations.
Yes. Early in my career I not only trained Bob but other stars like Priscilla Presley and the legendary Steve McQueen, who encouraged me to go into movies back then. Bob was a great martial arts student of mine, even showing off his technique in the now classic Adam Sandler comedy, “Happy Gilmore.”
Listening the other day to some celebrity chat circling around Barker’s successor to “The Price is Right,” I laughed as I recollected a CNN report that poised him against me, saying, “the price of taking karate lessons from martial arts maven Chuck Norris may have been a little too high.”
In his own words, Barker commented on his heart condition at the time by saying, “Maybe I should blame it on Chuck Norris. He probably kicked me in the neck. God knows he kicked me everywhere else.” Bob of course was joking, right Bob? I’d hate to have to bring you out of retirement and get you back in the ring for a little more practice!
In all sincerity, my wife Gena and I send our love and congratulations to Bob for an incredibly successful career stint, in which he provided people around the world with lots of laughs, entertainment and prizes. And I thank him for always being gracious to me, by crediting me with such words as those in “Esquire” magazine (June 2007), “I’ve done karate for thirty years. I studied with Chuck Norris. That’s another reason I think I’ve lasted this long.”