When I was a kid growing up in St. Augustine, I took karate lessons from the great Taekwondo Instructor Ken Durling. Even then, more than thirty years ago, the always kind and soft-spoken Mr. Durling was something of a local legend. I vaguely recall one day before class, sitting huddled with other elementary or middle school aged kids, one of the older kids telling us with great sincerity and enthusiasm of how Mr. Durling had once killed an opponent by punching through his chest, snatching his heart, and showing it to the man before he died. Needless to say, at a young age when I was more willing to entertain stories like that, I was likely a bit quicker in snapping to attention that day and promptly obeying all of Mr. Durling’s commands during class.
I have no idea where this particular myth originated. For all I know, the “showing your opponent his heart before he dies” myth probably began with Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris and then found its way to local heroes or legends like Mr. During, to be endlessly repeated by young students and fans who lionize their indestructible martial arts instructors. The myth itself might be silly, but not the respect that young students have for such instructors. Martial arts instructors are often extraordinarily important role models for kids, who look to them for guidance not only in dealing with a bully, or any sort of dangerous situation, but also more generally in terms of character and discipline.
It was for this reason that almost two years ago I decided to stop in the Karate America martial arts school located off of Solana Road in Ponte Vedra, Florida. Continue reading