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How I Got Started in Martial Arts

How I got started in martial arts, by

Keith Sonnenberg

I was sixteen years old when I got my start in martial arts. I was a junior at East Detroit High School in what was then East Detroit, Michigan. It is now called Eastpoint. I was in a class called “Health.” The teacher mentioned that an instructor was teaching an 8-week karate class in the gymnasium. I was already interested in martial arts from being a fan of Bruce Lee from his role in the Green Hornet television series, and so I was quite excited about this.

I enrolled in the class and went through the whole 8-weeks. It was fun! I asked how I could go further. I was told that the best way was to go to the instructor’s school on 8 Mile Road in Detroit. To get money, I had to wait for about 6 months but eventually made it!

My instructor at the school of Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do was David Praim, 3rd Dan. He learned his skills while in the military in Korea. At this time, I had no car, so I had to walk the half mile to the bus stop and took the bus down 8 Mile Road to class for a while. While I was there, I asked my friend Thomas if he wanted to join too. He did. However, I was the one who persevered and climbed up the ranks. I constructed a post, sunk into the ground to mount my makiwara pad (punching pad) in my parent’s backyard. I also mounted a punching pad on a support beam in the basement and I would work out there quite often.

When it was time to test for my Red Belt (next step would be black belt), I sparred with a fellow student in front of the instructors and fell for a spinning back-knuckle to my nose!

They stopped my match, and I stepped forward to answer their questions. Leaning over to address Mr. Praim as we were told to call him. Blood dripped on his paperwork! He told me to give my nose some attention. I ended up going to the emergency room at a local hospital. They took five x-rays. My nose was not broken but “bent.” I was on my back at home for several days waiting for the nose to quit bleeding! I developed two black eyes, but I was awarded my Red Belt!

I was also scheduled to enter basic training in the Air National Guard at Lackland Air Force, Texas. It was late in 1969. My T.I. (training instructor) questioned my black eyes. He seemed to think I got into fights and that I was some kind of tough guy. I assured him that this was a case of an accident in martial arts training.

I made my First-Degree Black Belt, certified by the Moo Duk Kwan Association, May 3, 1970. After that, teaching various short-term classes in Tang Soo Do at Park and Recreation and YMACAs around the Detroit area kept me busy until I was discharged from the National Guard in 1975. My move to Arizona precipitated my start in Wing Chun then Wing Tsun!

#martialarts #karate #blackbelt #redbelt #tangsoodo #moodukkwan #makiwara #punchingpad #brucelee #greenhornet

#wingchun #wingtsun 

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