When the publishers of KICKBOXX first informed me of this issues theme,
I thought “Celebs Will Be Easy” WRONG! It seems to me that we as a society have more celebrities than we need. A rock group has one hit and they become “Celebrities”, a martial arts student wins a tournament or two in their own city and they become World Champions which qualifies them as a “Celebrity.” In my whole life I can not say that I’ve met as many Celebs as I have during the last decade, every one is famous ( a legend in their own mind). Let me explain just exactly what a true celebrity is: “A famous person, a renowned person of notoriety.” Some great examples would be names like Elvis Presley, Michael Jordan, Robert DeNiro or any other person that has dedicated themselves to a lifetime of earning the title of celebrity. When these people walked into a room everything stopped. A true celebrity is known for an accomplishment that is unusual. A great entertainer, athlete or actor is considered to be a celebrity. The title cannot be given to oneself but must be awarded to them by their peers or followers.
Many of us have chosen a certain path to follow. In my case, the path has been decades of martial arts training, competing, teaching, coaching and officiating. I’ve been very fortunate because I’ve met and became friends with so many real celebrities. Not all of them became life-time friends but none the less, I was in the company of such notables as Grandmasters Ed Parker, Al Tracy, Helio Gracie, Ron Van Clief and a few other well known celebs. As I put this information into this column I can’t help but recall a few close and personal friends that are celebrities in the truest sense of the word. These people are well known because they really are the movers and shakers: the people that carved a path, no, they carved a passage, a passage large enough for hundreds of martial artists, past and present, to follow them into the future. Men like Masters Fred Degerberg, Joe Gangi, John McSweeney, Steve Abbate, and a few others that have paid their dues through decades of helping to build not only their own martial art systems, but helping to instigate the growth of kickboxing and N.H.B (No Holds Barred) fighting here in the United States.
These men and countless others are the real celebrities because they do it for the love and honor of their chosen paths. I’ve been fortunate enough to conduct martial arts seminars throughout the United States and I’m almost always amazed at how some local yokal insists on being considered a celebrity. But then I’m always very pleased to find someone else, the quiet, reserved professional that just does what needs to be done to help the growth of the martial arts as a whole.
I can only hope some young, impressionable martial arts students will read these words and realize that all of the loud, boisterous, self-proclaimed celebrities who aren’t even worth naming should not be copied, but ignored. If you must emulate someone, look around, notice the people that do not force their inflated titles and other loud claims upon you. These quiet men and women are to be truly respected and in my opinion, they are the real celebrities. I hope to someday celebrate the popularity of an up and coming martial artist that may be quietly building a reputation on deeds, not loud words, a reputation that will follow them throughout their lives. These individuals are tomorrow’s “Celebs.”