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Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

Karate...but not the Kid

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

(Photo)
Only days after being hospitalized, Ray Wiser went on to win three first place trophies at the Music City tournament.
(Submitted photo)
There was no "wax on, wax off" when Ray Wiser was learning karate, even though his teacher was the student of Mr. Miyagi.

The real Miyagi. Miyagi Chojun -- the founder of Goju-Ryu Karate-Do. Wiser studied under one of Miyagi's star students, but never did have to wax a classic car.

"It was a little more detailed than that," laughed Wiser when asked about the famous movie scene.

Learning experiences

Of course, when he first started to learn the martial arts, he wasn't an awkward adolescent in Beverly Hills -- he was an 19-year-old Marine who'd already spent time in Vietnam, dangerously close to the northern border and the Ho Chi Minh trail.

"Nixon pulled us out and sent us to Okinawa," said the 61-year-old veteran. "I had already been reading about Okinawan karate and I was lucky enough to find an Okinawan dojo with an Okinawan sensei who was brought up in it."

Life of achievement

Many things have changed for the New Herman native. He's been a Marine, a police officer, a deputy, and a security guard. Wiser is a third-degree black belt in Kenpo karate and has also studied and fought using the Goju-Ryu and Shaolin disciplines.

Wiser was one of the first paramedics in the state of Tennessee and went on to train more of them. He has taught karate as well as continued to study it himself, and he's raised award-winning goats, two children, and several generations of Doberman Pinschers. He's an OSHA advisor and has a wall full of weapons so deadly they make the Addams Family parlor look like Mary Poppins' cottage.

Oh, yeah. He's also Santa Claus.

"About 70 pounds ago, anyway," he said. "People don't always remember my real name, but they remember Santa."

Crops and karate

Ray moved back to New Herman from Carthage about four years ago and has spent the time creating an amazing garden filled with angel trumpets, fig trees and more than a dozen varieties of blackberries.

(Photo)
Ray Wiser studies with Randy Garrett, a 10th degree black belt, one of about five in the world in his discipline.
(Submitted photo)
"People ask me what I do all day and I tell them I garden in the day and do karate at night."

That's the one thing in 43 years that hasn't changed for Wiser. He still practices karate and attends classes three times a week.

Finishing on top

Two weeks ago at the Music City tournament in Nashville, just days after leaving the VA hospital, Ray won three first place trophies in his age division.

"They call it the 'Senior Executive' class, men aged 50 and older," said Wiser. "I was the oldest man registered."

He won first place in kata, the stylized pattern of moving that forms the foundation of karate. He also won firsts in weapons and in sparring, but admits one win may have been a little easier than the other.

"They just gave me the sparring trophy," he said. "I didn't have to fight anybody -- I was the only one who signed up for it!"

Still building

Ray said you never stop studying karate and there's always room for improvement.

"One of my senseis said, 'You must do every move 10,000 times before you know it and then you must do it 10,000 times before you perfect it,'" he said.

He has diabetic neuropathy and arthritis. His pancreas is giving him problems, he was exposed to Agent Orange when he was in-country and is a disabled veteran -- and he credits karate for keeping him going.

"If it weren't for the physical workouts three times a week, you'd find me in my recliner with my joints locked up," said Ray. "It's a physical workout and a mental workout."

Proper outlook

It's not just the physical aspect of karate that gets Ray through the day, it's the philosophical. One of the biggest misconception about it is that it is to be used offensively, he said.

"Karate and weapons are only to be used defensively, to protect yourself," said Ray. "What's the first rule in karate? Always be a gentleman. If you can walk away, do it. If not, do it to win."