Baylor professor kickin’ it with students in class, at local studio

By Shannon Findley

For some, martial arts is a valuable means of self-defense. For Baylor professor Gary Richardson, martial arts has been a lifesaver.

Richardson, who has taught martial arts at Baylor for six years and elsewhere since 1989, said after a stroke left him bedridden for six months in 2003, martial arts, along with his wife’s support, is what helped him get back on his feet again. Prior to his stroke, Richardson taught classes at Shin’s Martial Arts Studio in Bellmead.

When Richardson was finally able to get out of bed, Richardson’s wife of 45 years, Linda Richardson, would take him to sit on the bleachers at the studio and make him watch the classes.

Eventually she forced him to go on the floor and start going through the motions of martial arts that he taught his students.

“He’d just sit at home and watch TV after his stroke” Mrs. Richardson said. “He looked like he was going into depression. I thought, ‘Well, he can still walk, he can still make himself useful at the studio,’ so I made him get back out there. This is what I call rough love.”

Although he had to walk with a cane for a while, Richardson was able to start teaching classes again, and he is certified to teach martial arts even while handicapped.

Mrs. Richardson said she continuously told him he was going to get through his post-stroke period and reminded him there were a lot of people worse-off than him.

Richardson said thanks to his wife getting him back into martial arts, he can now move his arm, which were paralyzed for a while after the stroke. He can also walk, for the most part, without a cane.

“Because my wife forced me to get back into martial arts, I’m doing things normally today,” Richardson said. “One of the most valuable lessons I’ve gotten from martial arts is never to quit.”

Richardson, who has been one of two headmasters at the studio since 1994, was promoted to seventh-degree martial arts grandmaster last August – two degrees away from the highest martial arts status possible.

“The moment that I got grandmaster was just unbelievable,” Richardson said. “The grandmaster is just the pinnacle of degrees.”

Richardson said the theory at Shin’s Martial Art’s studio is people of all ages can – from 5 to 105 years old.

“Martial arts is something that is individualized,” Richardson said. “You’re learning at your own pace.”

Richardson’s own grandson tested at 9 years old as an adult for a martial arts black belt. Richardson said the child did better than most adults.

“After passing the test he threw his arms around me and told me he loved me,” Richardson said, choking back tears. “That meant a lot to me.”

Dublin, Ohio, senior Stephanie Voltmann, who is currently enrolled in Richardson’s Baylor Martial Arts class, said she is grateful for the skills she is learning.

“I think it’s valuable in that now I have this skills set,” Voltmann said. “If I have to use it I know what to do.”
Voltmann said she sometimes has a hard time thinking she may actually use martial arts skills in real life, but Richardson said not long ago there was an old marital arts student of his who got attacked by a man in another country. Using techniques she learned in Richardson’s class, she was able to get away.

“In my class at Baylor we learn how easy it is to control people who are bigger than us,” Richardson said.

Waco junior Clayton Mills took martial arts as a part of Boy Scouts for three years before taking Richardson’s class four semesters ago.

“I started as a white belt in Master Richardson’s class and advanced to two different belts in his class alone,” Mills said. “Richardson is very fun. He’s very hands-on.”

He said he took Richardson’s class with a few other students in Alexander Residence Hall which, made the course a lot of fun.

“If we had a particular technique that was more difficult than others, we would practice together at our residence hall,” Mills said. “He’s a really, really great teacher and a really fun guy to learn from.”