Holding swords, Bill Negron and Judi Nicholson maneuvered around a yard, as their weapons reflected the sunlight.
“Mō ichido,” Negron said while giving instructions to do it again on what they called the Front Yard Dojo.
With each movement of the arms and the katana, Negron and Judi stepped back in time as they practiced to master a style of defense, dating back to the 1300s when it was used by mounted Samurai, a member of a hereditary warrior class in Japan. Horses were not available on the warm morning, but they’ve rode on the mammals during an event for the American Goshin Budo & Kodudo (AGK).
When they’re not training together, Nicholson and Negron can be found teaching self defense and the many lessons that come with it. It’s the reason they began the Clinton Chapter of the Mixed Martial Arts Club. Through the club, they teach different styles, such as hapkido, a Korean martial art characterized by kicking and circular movements.
“It’s also good for women, children, people with mobility issues because it doesn’t rely on strength,” Nicholson said.
After moving to the area to teach, he was looking for a place to train, but the closest groups were outside of Sampson County. But he eventually met Nicholson.
Together, they trade ideas related to different techniques. For 30 years, Negron has practiced Tai Chi and the style of Shōgō Kuniba, a Japanese teacher of karate and iaido. In a book, Negron was a model for one of the techniques. The picture was taken in 1984.
“A lot of Americans throw around the word ‘master’ like it’s a business card,” Negron said. “But he’s a true master of Japanese arts.”
They have no desire to hold such title. Negron and Nicholson considers themselves to be students and not masters of any style which may involve using different parts of the body or “weapons of opportunity,” something such as a cane into a weapon.
“That’s one of the beauties of continuing to study and being a student,” she said. “You can see the parallels that you learn in one style and apply it across the board to another style.”
With many years of experience, Nicholson and Negron began working and teaching together, which became the foundation for the club, which includes both adults and youths. Negron, a local teacher instructs students during the school year at Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School and Lakewood High School.
“We try to keep the numbers low to produce more quality,” he said. “How they perform is a reflection on us.”
Actual fighting is always the last resort for Nicholson and Negron. It’s a lesson they pass on to their students. The first rule is to always avoid a fight and the second is to run away, if it can’t be avoided. The third is to defend themselves, if they are being attacked.
“We do talk to them about how it’s a lot better to run away and be called a chicken than to end up in a fight,” she said. “In a real fight, at least one person gets hurt, sometimes a lot more than just one.”
Negron mentioned said if the rules are violated, a participant may get suspended or even worse, kicked out of the program.
It’s a continuing theme in the world of martial arts. Nicholson said it’s a way to make the mind and body become one.
“We train so that we don’t have to fight,” Nicholson said. “That’s one of the reasons for even training, we also train like this because you can learn peace. Going through the various steps and movement is like a meditation.”
Nicholson added how there’s no secret moves when it comes to the art form.
“You practice a move so many times, where if someone does something you’re going to react,” he said. “It’s not a magical thing. “It’s just something you can do over and over.”
The selected group of students are learning at a young age, but anyone can start despite their ages. To prove their point Nicholson and Negron noted how Tai Chi can benefit people with mobility problems or older individuals.
“You’re never too old,” Negron said. “The only time you can’t do it is when you’re six feet under.”
For more information call 910-379-6381 or visit the clubs Facebook page by typing “Mixed Martial Arts Club – Clinton NC Chapter,” in the search bar. The same action can be taken for the school club by typing “Roseboro-Salemburg Martial Arts Club.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.