Like the 1974 Carl Douglas hit song said, [everybody was] Kung Fu Fighting back in the late 1960s and early 70s; thanks in part to the popularity of the late Bruce Lee – his amazing skills and entertaining movies.
Caught up in the “phenomena,” as he described it, was Port Hawkesbury’s Wayne Reynolds who, in 1969, became involved in the sport of judo. Fifty years later, he still is, and the Port Hawkesbury Judo Club, founded the same year, is still going strong as well.
“In 1969, a businessman came into town, his name was Morris Spicer and he ran a local business here. He had a yellow belt and advertised a [judo] club,” Reynolds said, speaking after a club’s award event June 22 at the Port Hawkesbury Legion, which also recognized its golden anniversary.
Reynolds alluded to the club starting during that heightened time of martial arts popularity.
“So he started a club and the first couple of workouts there were probably a 100 people there, half of town council was there … anybody and everybody was there,” he said.
“It quickly came down to a reasonable number and the next year it tapered down to a more solid group. Myself, John Ross and Eddie Walsh, we kept the club going for many years.”
Reynolds noted the trio earned their black belts the same day because they kept taking the courses and tests together.
“In Sydney, Halifax, Moncton, Fredericton; and going to tournaments and, basically, having the same results, winning some, losing some,” he said. “That was part of the early history.”
Reynolds said, prior to joining at the age of 19, he had never really thought of getting involved in judo.
“The interest wasn’t there,” he said. “But then he [Lee] just took the world be storm, and it seemed like an interesting thing.
“So I compare it to someone putting on a pair of skates at 19 and expecting to make the NHL; I didn’t make the NHL I can tell you that,” he said with a chuckle.
Reynolds noted the club has operated out of many different venues and the search is ongoing again. He has a prospect and is hopeful something can be worked out.
“We have lived, or functioned, in many buildings around the town; the old high school, the old vocational school, places like that,” he said. “We need facilities that are clean, [well maintained]; the better the facilities are, that will increase your membership.”
Concerns about facilities and membership are those of someone who sees himself continuing on, and that’s the case for Reynolds.
“I intend to, I would like to have more help,” he said noting that’s being worked on as well.
So what’s the key to his and the club’s longevity? Reynolds boiled it down into three elements.
“Dedication, commitment and a love of the sport; that is it for me and, I’m sure, any other long-term instructor would say the same thing,” he said.
“It’s a total workout and I really enjoy teaching the kids,” he said, noting he appreciates the younger participants will “try anything.”
Sometimes that means competing but, for other participants, it’s just the workouts and enjoyment of learning the martial art.
“There is that element,” Reynolds said.
“Some are not cut out to be competitive fighters and some really want to be competitive fighters. Years ago, we taught everything to be competitive. We would take van loads of people to Sydney, Halifax, Moncton; 15 kids in a van and we would come back with good results.”
Reynolds noted there was a stretch, 15 years, when he wasn’t involved, and was determined he wasn’t going to return.
“Parents approached me and asked if I would take over the club,” he said. “I was dead against it but I didn’t want it to fail. So I came back and have kept it going.”
A change when he did come back was increasing the training time from once a week for an hour, to two sessions of an hour and a half.
“It’s like hockey, you have to have a practice and a game,” he said. “So I bumped it back up to twice a week, three hours a week.”
And now, it’s on to year 51 which will start in the fall.
“Basically the same as school time,” Reynolds said. “And if they have a storm day, we take a storm day – it’s easier that way.”
After so many years at the helm, he would know.