One of the first big role models I had growing up was Chuck Norris. The Chuck Norris ‘Facts’ came out around 2006 when I was in middle school. I didn’t know much about the man, other than he was a famous martial artist, movie actor, and tough guy. My friends and I would sit around the lunch table and exchange our favorite ‘Facts’ and got into the whole Chuck Norris hysteria that became a pop culture phenomenon. I would go home and look up badass videos of him from movie roles; beating up bad guys, breaking boards and such.
I liked Chuck Norris and his whole image so much that I asked for his autobiography for Christmas: Against All Odds. This is the book that really made me admire him, not just for his toughness, but for his willpower and courage.
There were a lot of similarities between Chuck and I growing up. We were both shy and kept to ourselves. We both had bullies but learned to fight back. And we both decided to study martial arts and use it to change our lives for the better. In fact, I didn’t even think about martial arts until I learned about guys like Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee. Chuck wasn’t a naturally talented or athletic guy, just like me. He had to work really hard to get where he is today, and I could feel that message. As I read his book it motivated me to workout more and push my limits. I remember doing knuckle push-ups in my basement because I wanted to break boards like Chuck.
I liked reading how he never gave up. There was a chapter about how he had a big belt test when he was studying martial arts in Asia. He prepared for weeks to beat this test and had to wait in a cold room for hours for his turn. When it came time for him to show his technique to the master, he drew a blank and ended up failing. But did Chuck stop there? Of course not. He came back to that test and mastered his technique perfectly. He practiced ever strike until it was perfect. That is the kind of determination I want.
Chuck is a good guy too. He is a devout Christian and gives a lot of money to charity. He is strong and intimidating but is gentle and humble. It reminds me of a famous quote by Teddy Roosevelt: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” That’s how Chuck Norris has always been, he didn’t have to flaunt that he was a karate champion. He never bragged about how he could beat up anyone who challenged him. He was a tough guy but wasn’t cocky about it, that’s a big part of his charm.
I learned about his humble beginnings, to his time in the army, to his martial arts life, to his movie roles, and finally his life now. The man is in his 70’s and still kicking ass. He got to experience great things in his life and continues to inspire people. When I finished the book, I kept thinking what an amazing life this guy had. Chuck overcame so many obstacles and ended up being a world champion in karate and an international movie star. If Chuck Norris could work hard and create an awesome life for himself, so could I. That was my thought back then and it has stuck with me ever since.