When I was only about 9 or 10 years old I developed two interests. The first was because I was watching an old movie starring Peter Lorre as a Japanese agent for INTERPOL named Mr. Moto. Now I loved old movies even then and I really believed that Peter Lorre was in fact Japanese. Whenever Mr Moto was attacked by the bad guys he used something he called "Judo" to defend himself. Well, all of these huge thugs would be sent flying by this little man. To my little boy self trapped in a wildly dysfunctional family that skill looked like a great idea! I convinced my Dad to buy me one of the first books published in America about Judo. He presented it to me with much solemnity one Christmas day with strict instructions not to use its deadly teachings on my brother. Of course that was why I wanted the damn book in the first place!
I immediately began to try and teach myself Judo in hopes of defying my father and giving my older brother what I viewed as a much needed lesson. Of course I failed. Sad to say a 9 year old can’t learn Judo from a book any better than a 30 year old can. I did manage to learn some of the falling down though. That definitely helped when my much larger brother would shove me over. An event that seemed to take place with fair regularity.
My second interest came about because I had a small transistor radio. The radio was very small and shaped like a rocket ship and you changed the dial by pulling the antenna up from the nose cone and you listened through a small earpiece. I have no idea where I got it from. I hope I didn’t shoplift it.
Anyway, while hiding out in my room instead of doing homework, I would listen to old radio shows. One of them was Sherlock Holmes starring Sir John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson. I loved that show. Somewhere in me was aroused a desire to do what they did and tell stories. However I had no more idea how to go about that than I did about how to learn Judo.
The theater came first because there are always plays in high school a kid can try out for. Once I figured out that girls were in plays and not on the football team the course of my life was decided! However martial arts was a harder thing to find in those days, especially for a kid in a small town. That changed in college when I joined the Judo club (finally!). For the rest of my life these two interests have run parallel to each other. Sometimes, early on, I had to make a choice between them. Sometimes I chose martial arts and sometimes I chose the play. As it turned out my choice of career ultimately gave me lots of time for both and my martial practice has deeply helped my life in the theatre.
A long time ago I was struck by reading something that Laurence Oliver said about the Actor being an athlete. I agree with that whole heartedly and my lifelong practice of martial arts has proved to me the value of his words.
Oh, and about my brother, by the time I got good it didn’t matter anymore. But if I could go back as a 9 year old with what I know now. Man, just watch out!