A blast from the past, I interviewed Chuck Norris back in 2006. It was one of my favorite stories I wrote in college. It was lost when the hosting for the Nevada Sagebrush expired, so here it is again for old time sake.
Denting the world, one kick at a time
According to “facts” floating around on the Internet, Chuck Norris never sleeps. He works out on his Total Gym 24 hours a day. And he only leaves the house when he feels the need to go outside to roundhouse-kick babies, steal the virginity of women around the world or challenge Jesus to a fight and win.
And they’re mostly right.
Except they forget Chuck Norris has lived forever, thus, he has also done many other things less noteworthy, such as created the KickStart Foundation which helped more than 4,200 at-risk children using martial arts, taught his brother Aaron Norris how to set goals and trained people, such as Bob Barker in karate.
Though Chuck Norris Facts are outlandish and often unrealistic, they pay tribute to a man who has earned his status as a legend.
“He’s taken a lot of people who would never do anything with their lives and without them knowing it, he gave them a life and made them go out there and be successful,” Aaron Norris said. “And being successful at life is not an easy thing to do.”
Though Aaron Norris is 11 years younger than his 66-year-old brother, he said the two of them bonded through martial arts.
“Martial arts is part of my life,” Aaron Norris said. “It’s like sleeping and eating. It’s something we do, us Norrises.”
Chuck Norris, an actor and martial artist, learned Tang So Doo in South Korea while stationed at Osan Air Base. He went into the military as a shy 19-year-old boy named Carlos Ray Norris and came out a determined martial artist named Chuck Norris.
In fact, the rough, definitive name “Chuck” came from a fellow soldier who decided “Chuck” was short for Charles, the English translation for Carlos.
While in South Korea, Chuck Norris found a Tang So Doo studio and started learning martial arts. These classes helped Chuck Norris gain self-esteem. But most importantly, they gave him the determination to do everything else in his life better.
“When he does something he does it perfectly or tries and won’t stop until he does it perfectly,” Aaron Norris said.
Aaron Norris remembered introducing his brother to bowling and though he didn’t succeed at first, Chuck Norris persistently got better.
“You learn to attain goals – my brother taught me that very well,” Aaron Norris said. “He told me there’s no limits to what I can do – he used to drill it into me. I think we’ve proven that.”
Chuck Norris epitomized goal setting after the military when he returned to the U.S. and started his own Tang So Doo school. But, he wanted to teach instead of fight in tournaments. In order to get publicity though, he started participating in local events.
“I lost the first four events I went to but finally wound up winning the Los Angeles Open, and that was my goal at the time,” Chuck Norris said.
Chuck Norris said he continued to set higher goals until he was offered to fight for the world title.
“So what I tell kids when I talk to them, is you set goals you believe you can achieve and when you achieve it, you can increase that goal,” he said. “And that’s what I did with my martial arts career.”
The “facts” say his exposure allowed Chuck Norris to appear in the video game “Street Fighter II” though he was later removed because each button caused him to do a fatal roundhouse kick. However, this is not wholly untrue. Chuck Norris said it’s his favorite move and he’s probably roundhouse kicked thousands of people. This has helped him throughout his martial arts career.
“I’ve knocked out more guys with that roundhouse kick than any other kick,” Chuck Norris said. “It was my big point scorer back in the old days.”
In fact, he went on to become a six-time undefeated World Professional Middle Weight Karate Champion before he retired in 1974. He was also the first person in the Western Hemisphere to receive Eighth Degree Black Belt Grand Master recognition in the Tae Kwon Do system.
“It was really an honor because I didn’t think the Koreans would ever let a non-Korean receive a Grand Master ranking,” Norris said.
The Grand Master ranking had little to do with Norris’ ability to fight and was more about what he did to promote martial arts as a whole. As the owner of the largest Tang So Doo school in the U.S., Norris more than fulfilled the requirement.
In order to promote his school, Norris appeared on many TV shows. One of those included Bob Barker’s “Truth or Consequences.” There he demonstrated some moves for the audience.
“I’d not only never done it but never seen (karate) before,” Bob Barker, former host of “The Price Is Right,” said. “I was so impressed I started taking lessons from him.”
Barker said he started martial arts in his late 40s, which was daunting at an older age. Chuck Norris came to his house and trained him for eight years after converting Barker’s garage into a gym. Now, Barker has a red belt in Norris’ Tang So Doo system.
“It was a lot of work and thoroughly enjoyable,” said Barker, who showed off his martial arts skills in “Happy Gilmore.”
Barker said one of the major reasons he can still work at the age of 82 is because he spent 21 years practicing Tang So Doo under Norris and his associates. And though the two of them rarely talk or visit each other, Barker said he still considers Chuck Norris a close friend.
Among some of their commonalities, they both strongly believe in self-discipline and respect for others. Because of these beliefs, Chuck Norris started the KickStart Foundation where at-risk, inner-city children are taught the same values through martial arts training. Chuck Norris said he especially identifies with these kids because he grew up in a poor family and was raised by his mother because his father was a drunk and rarely around.
“We had a loving mother,” Aaron Norris said. “When she had to work, my brother took care of me. We didn’t have a lot in those days.”
Chuck Norris earned his way to the top from the very bottom. Now, he uses his resources to help others. The KickStart program started with 150 kids. After 13 years it has 5,000 participants with 40,000 graduates. But, Chuck Norris said his goal is to expand the KickStart program from 5,000 to 500,000 students because seeing children change from destructive members of society to productive members has been the greatest gratification in his life.
So despite the Chuck Norris “facts” depicting Norris as a chief exporter of pain, he is also a humanitarian interested in leaving behind a legacy through his selfless efforts and genuine care for others.
“The main thing to remember is he’s the real deal, there’s nothing phony about my brother,” Aaron Norris said. “He is what you see, and sometimes people put on a lot of personas that aren’t really them. But that’s not true with him.”
Norris’ prized possession
“Well I shaved it about probably five years ago but it didn’t stay off very long ‘cause once I looked in the mirror and saw my face without a beard I didn’t like it.
“When I did ‘Lone Wolf McQuade ’ the director said: ‘You know, it makes you look tougher, you know, it makes you look tougher with a beard. You got such a, I don’t know if you’d call it a baby face but, you know a clean looking face or whatever.’
“But anyway he said: ‘Why don’t you grow a beard and see if it gives you a little more toughness look.’ And so I grew the beard for ‘Lone Wolf McQuade’ and I just liked the look of it. And so I pretty much have just kind of kept it on since then.
“But my wife, she likes it all right with the beard but she would really prefer if I would shave it off.
“But I just don’t know, I just like it. And actually, they did a thing a few years back on the Internet, do the people like me better with or without the beard?’ and the beard won 60 to 40. So I said: ‘OK 60 percent like it better so I’ll keep it.”
This originally published on May 9, 2006 in The Nevada Sagebrush.