Strange people

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Studio owners will probably join me in their understanding of just how strange people walking in the door can be. Mr. Parker used to say anyone coming in was “suspect before they were prospect”. Many of us had the physical challenge put to us, something I don t hear much of anymore, but used to be fairly frequent. But maybe the energy of a studio draws the weirdoes out, because we sure get some “interesting” people stopping by.
The guy with the sword
I was in my studio early on a Monday, working in my office. I heard the front
door open and saw a 30-ish man standing up by the front desk looking around. I started to walk up there and asked him what I could do for him. He mumbled something with his head down. I got about 15 feet away and asked him again. He then said he was looking to buy a wing chun “wooden man” dummy.
Now as I approached him I noticed a few things. He was young, and clean-cut. He was wearing a fairly heavy jacket with the collar turned up. That was odd since it was almost 80 degrees outside already. And he had been riding a bicycle, which was now leaning outside my door. Hmm. I had to wonder how he planned to get that wing chun dummy home on a bike. I told him we didn t have one but I could order it. That was when he told me was looking for Osama Bin Laden.
The wise-guy inside me was screaming to tell him Osama wasn t here right now. But I didn t since something was obviously a bit wrong with this guy. He told me that he had bought a samurai sword in Tampa that he was going to use to cut Osama s head off. He said he thought he knew where he was, that he was hiding in India.
OK. I understand – I d like to hurt Osama, too. I tried to get him to tell me about his wing chun but apparently he didn t know any. He thanked me, jumped on his bike, and pedaled away. I hate it when the week starts out like that.
The accused killer
Back when I had just opened the studio I was in my office, which was up near the
front door at the time, where you could look in the window if you wanted. I was at my desk when I caught something out of the corner of my eye.
I looked up and there was a man spread-eagled across my window, his face smashed against the glass, just like kids do. He was grinning, with his cheek pressed on the glass, nose displaced, and one big ‘ol eye looking at me. I m thinking “Great. Gotta do the windows again.”
He walks in and introduces himself. “I m the guy who was accused of killing all those people”, he says. “Great”, I m thinking, “I ll probably have to kill this guy.” As it turns out he had been a crop-duster, and he apparently had not handled his chemicals as carefully as he should. He d lost his short-term memory and was very good at getting lost so his girlfriend would often have to come get him. He told me he d been accused of dumping the chemicals over the then small town of Ft. Myers and it caused some deaths. I later looked into it and was told there had indeed been such an incident and, as he said, they were unable to prove he was responsible for anything.
As it turns out, he had been a Tae Kwon Do black belt. Which was why he decided to plaster himself on my karate school window. Maybe his instructor had a sense of humor, too. Naturally he starts punching the air when he s telling me about being a black belt, which kind of spices things up and puts Mr. Lee at DefCon 3. We shook hands and he left, never to be seen at my studio again.
Elvis s drummer
One afternoon I was at the studio when a man came in. He was rather short and
stocky. He was wearing big sunglasses, which went with the big sideburns he had. The hairstyle was vaguely familiar, too. It wasn t Elvis – everyone knows he s working at a 7- 11 in Kalamazoo.
He looked around at some of the photos on the wall and asked me if I knew Ed Parker. I replied that I did and he said he knew him, too. When I asked how so, he replied that he had been Elvis s drummer. “I powered him to stardom!” he exclaimed.
Naturally I had to ask what someone like him would be doing in Ft. Myers, FL on a hot summer afternoon. “Cutting a record for RCA, man.” he said. I didn t think anyone in Ft. Myers had anything bigger than an old Webcor reel-to-reel set-up. Needless to say, I was skeptical. I shook his hand and he left with a “Keep the faith, man”, fist raised and nodding his head.
I later told Huk Planas about the meeting and he told me it could very well have been Elvis s drummer. Hmm.
My very own stalker
When someone walks into your studio you usually greet them with something like
“Hi, how are you?” or Hello, Can I help you?”, or “What can I do for you?” If I d have known that s a come-on, I wouldn t have done it with this lady.
She was a young, slim woman, and as I found later, quite insane. She inquired about tai chi lessons. This was later construed to be “paying attention” to her. She left. She came back. She called, sometimes as much as 20 times a day. She came by again. And again, and again.
She dressed like a child of the 60 s, in a peasant dress, light color, with no make- up. She earned the nickname “Flower Child” from people at the studio who saw her, as her visits were frequent. She would look in the window, see that I was either alone or that she thought I was, and open the door. When she saw that I or someone else saw her, she d immediately take off. Sometimes she would actually say something like “Why is the sky brown?” Whoa.
The phone calls were driving my desk girl crazy. We both told her she needed professional help and even went so far as to give her names and phone numbers of the women s shelter, etc. (She had said somewhere along the line she wanted self-defense because she was being beaten.) We got to where we asked her to please not call any more.
One day she came in with a small bag of make-up she had bought at the drug store right next to my studio. She had obviously gone and purchased these items, then attempted to apply them to herself, most likely without a mirror. When she came in she looked like a little girl who had imitated her mommy getting ready to go out, but having largely missed her lips with a crazy sine-wave of lipstick. She showed me the contents of
her bag and then looked at me and said “Do you like it?” YIKES! I think I said something deflating, which either hurt her feelings or angered her, or both, and she left. Yay!
I went off to do a seminar In Atlanta for Robert Ray and while having dinner with him and his wife I told him about my rather amusing new friend. With a deadly serious look his wife told me that it wasn t funny. Robert joined in to tell me that female stalkers were far more dangerous than male stalkers, and we all have heard those stories. I was surprised and took their advice to contact the local police when I got home to Ft. Myers.
That next day I called the PD and spoke to a detective. He asked me all the expected questions, such as did I know her, was there a relationship that had gone bad, had she been a student, etc. No, no, no. He checked her out. As it turns out, this woman HAD been put away in the nut hut in the past. At one point she had beaten both of her parents. The police told me it was probably a good thing I had called them, and that that she was going away. I vaguely remember there being something else she had done that that merited a visit to the county charm school for women. The officer confirmed she was dangerous, and it was probably the fact that she knew I was a karate instructor that kept her from assaulting me. I do remember her telling me that she had been walking and the cops stopped her. She said the cop was white when he was in the car and black when he got out. I guess she and the cops had a working relationship.
The moral of the story is don t be nice to anyone who walks in your studio. Whoops, I didn t mean that. I think what I ve told you validates what Ed Parker said about suspects and prospects. It sure makes for some interesting days at the karate school.

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