Martial Arts: Karate
An Open Letter To Chuck Norris
By Herb Borkland
It’s been a couple years since we last ran into each other in Vegas at the Martial Arts Industry Association SuperShow. You were Guest of Honor, and “Judo” Gene Lebell introduced you to the crowd by choking out MAIA Executive Director Frank Silverman on stage. You gotta love old martial artists – like you and me.
Chuck, it was also around then I first saw you talking politics on Fox news. That day, your on-air performance, like the acceptance speech you made at SuperShow, revealed you to be a confident and seasoned performer, but one who works best from a script.
Don’t get me wrong. I agreed with every strong, sensible and patriotic sentiment you voiced on Fox. Because, above all, what has sustained your career, it seems to me, is your heart being always in the right place.
Nobody has ever suggested you are a great actor, but you are the last in a distinguished line of post-WW II role models like John Wayne, Audie Murphy and Randolph Scott. You, too, have stood for the values of Superman: “Truth, Justice and the American Way of Life.” We shall not see your like again.
Even so, I took your first star turn on Fox News as a fluke, the sort of putting-in-media-time that public personalities do between gigs, to keep their faces fresh in audience’s minds. After all, “Walker Texas Ranger” is now a classic in rerun heaven. I remembered those internet jokes (“Chuck Norris’s cowboy boots are made out of real cowboys,”), the hip guest shot in “Dodgeball”, and the two kids named Walker and Texas Ranger in “Talladega Nights.”
The question for an international star at the height of his reputation is… now what?
Later, however, when I saw you were shadowing Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee at his campaign events and press conferences, I sat up straighter. The quality of your “adlibs” had definitely improved – you were learning that politicians, too, work from scripts. I turned to my wife and said, “He’s understudying Huckabee.”
Elena asked, “Isn’t he there to help draw a crowd?”
“That, too, but, I tell you, I feel it in my bones. The man’s seriously thinking about going into politics.”
New evidence seems to be supporting my intuition. Last October 15th in The Washington Times, I ran across a straight-forward piece in the “Inside the Beltway” column. You were described as “martial artist, screen actor, and right-leaning political advocate.” You spoke in a voice perfectly pitched to find the ear of every man and woman who shook your hand at a Huckabee rally.
Your great new book, “Black Belt Patriotism,” could be like “Audacity of Hope” or John Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” – the work that establishes your public seriousness. It’s that good. But there is also one more, to me even stronger, sign you will run for office, and I see it in your face, and, Chuck, it startles and impresses me.
When I saw you the other day, you no longer wore the Walker face. The heroic cinematic mask you created for Cordell has been put aside. Also missing was the supposedly “natural” face actors put on off-screen for public appearances. Instead you are now showing America the real man behind the actor – which is the single hardest thing any actor can do.
I was suddenly aware of somebody who has lived one of those magic American success stories people cite to prove what a great country we live in. You earned your lifestyle. No one who’s ever worked with you has come away not praising you. You are an Air Force veteran who understands and loves this nation from Main Street – where you helped pioneer today’s billion-dollar karate-schools industry – all the way up to the rarefied air global celebrities breath.
I observed a person whose breadth of experience and surpassing qualities as a man the Founding Fathers would have found suitable for a politician aspiring to any office in the land. In short… I saw a man I’d vote for.
Run, Chuck, run.
About The Author:
Washington, D.C. native Herb Borkland has been called "a
martial arts pioneer" because he was an original student at the first
taekwondo school in the United States. After taking his degree at The
University of Virginia, Herb went on to become a closed-door student of
the legendary Robert W. Smith, author of the first English-language book
about tai chi. An Inside Kung-Fu Hall of Fame writer, he was the first
journalist ever invited to train in SCARS, the Navy SEALs fighting system.
Herb scripted "Honor&Glory" for Cynthia Rothrock, featured
on HBO, as well as winning the first-place Gold Award at the Houston International
Film Festival for his Medal of Honor soldier screenplay "God of War."
For three years he hosted the national half-hour Black Belts cable-TV
show. Herb and his wife, the Cuban-American painter Elena Maza, live in