World champ martial artist visits Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 10, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Hold up your hand, and make a fist.

Check out your handheld creation. Is your thumb reaching over onto your middle finger?

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If so, you did it wrong. But don’t feel bad. According to world kickboxing champion Joe Lewis, 99 percent of all martial arts black belt holders do the same thing.

The above technique is incorrect, Lewis explained at a seminar held at Triple T Gymanstics Club (sponsored by Wayne Spencer’s taekwondo Warrior Club) on Friday evening, because it allows the fister to be disarmed quickly.

&uot;If you do it like that, your opponent can twist your wrist around and make you release the fist,&uot; said Lewis, a 10th degree black belt who once studied under Bruce Lee. &uot;If you hold your fist with your thumb at a 45-degree angle to your index finger, it strengthens the nerves in your hand and wrist, and your opponent won’t be able to twist your fist.&uot;

Lewis has certainly had a great deal of practice in this regard; the Wilmington, NC native was the first person ever to win a world championship in both karate and kickboxing, and is commonly accepted as the father of kickboxing in the Western Hemisphere. He has been inducted into 13 various Halls of Fame, including the Black Belt Hall of Fame as &uot;Fighter of the year&uot; and &uot;Instructor of the year.&uot; In a 1983 Karate Illustrated survey of America’s top fighters, he was chosen by his peers as &uot;The Greatest Karate Fighter of All Time.&uot; Since 1984, Lewis has turned his talents and energies to a professional teaching career, and conducts more seminars in more places throughout the world, than anyone in the business. In 1987, for example, he taught 140 seminars in 80 cities in eight countries.

But martial arts &uot;isn’t all punching and kicking,&uot; he said. &uot;The science of martial arts is knowing how to hit without getting hit in return. Any fight worth fighting is worth winning.&uot;

One of the biggest assets to a child that martial arts can offer is aiding one’s self-confidence. Whether dealing with the school bully, a job application or a school exam that you just forgot to study for, self-confidence is important, and martial arts is known for helping in that respect. Lewis has his own definitions of the terms. &uot;Con-fidence is your ability to demonstrate skills at a high rate of efficacy and with absolute certainty and to maintain not only the willingness but also the eagerness to remain engaged in the face of any adversity or overwhelming odds.&uot;

He also taught students about how to handle themselves in fist-to-fist combat. &uot;There’s typically no arch in your back,&uot; he said, pushing his shoulders into a straight line. &uot;But if you raise or lower your shoulders, you lose power. I want everyone to hold their arms up high.&uot;

Everyone put their hands in the air, and most of the students had their palms straight up. &uot;If you do that, then you have weakness here,&uot; Lewis said, pantomiming a chop to the side of a student’s rib cage. &uot;Now raise your arms with your palms facing up.&uot; The students did so. Now that their shoulders weren’t raised, their lower body hadn’t weakened with the arm raise, as Lewis demonstrated with several more improvised blows. Obviously, balance inside and out is another benefit of martial arts.