By Dave Freedland
After competing on an athletic scholarship as a gymnast for UCLA, I embarked upon a career in law enforcement. At the same time, I replaced gymnastics with martial arts as a means for staying in shape as well as having practical applications to my assignment to uniform patrol.
I was on a mission similar to the search for the holy grail in my quest to find the most appropriate self-defense system that would be practical for law enforcement, that I could also practice well into my 70’s and 80’s. I studied Kung-Fu taught by the technical coordinator for the TV series, “Kung Fu,” starring David Carradine, but found it to be more artistic than functional.
I spent seven (7) years training in the Korean systems of Taekwondo and Hapkido, earning a 1st degree black belt, but found their reliance so heavily upon high kicks was impractical. Wearing a Sam Browne gun belt, holster, and pac-set radio restricted the hips significantly, rendering kicks ineffective.
In 1984, I happened into a Japanese karate studio (Dojo) founded by Dan Ivan, the first American to attain black belts in Japan in karate, judo, aikido, and kendo. His partner, Fumio Demura, was the All Japan Karate Champion, and performed actor Pat Morita’s karate sequences in the movie, “The Karate Kid.”
The system was very geometric, powerful, and combined all the disciplines found in the Japanese systems of martial arts. Japanese “Shotokan” karate contained 26 forms, or mini-battles called Kata, that enabled the student to practice karate in the studio, at home, or in a hotel room. Not only was I learning self-defense, but I had found an effective means of physical conditioning. By training at least three (3) days a week I developed muscular strength and cardiovascular conditioning, which I supplemented with push-ups, sit-ups, dumbbell curls, and elliptical machines to balance out my regimen.
Although I’ve experienced over ten orthopedic surgeries related to on-duty injuries, Shotokan karate has been a critical factor in my rehabilitation. I’ve continued to train for over 30 years, now into my 60’s, and have had the opportunity to train with the masters in Japan, and discover the roots of the art form to which I have devoted so much of my life. I’ve encouraged my fellow officers to follow in my path, but have found only a handful willing to make the commitment, and reap the physical and mental rewards. There is one more reward I have found attainable in that martial arts journey; it is called “Rokudan” – 6th degree black belt. The true answer to the fitness dilemma is to find something physical that you truly enjoy, and practice it consistently.
Dave Freedland is the author of Lincoln 9, a police procedural set in his hometown of Irvine, California. He is a 34-year veteran of the Irvine Police Department retiring with the rank of Deputy Chief. You can order Lincoln 9 at Oak Tree Press.