Thursday, January 03, 2008

If You Can't Beat Them, Outlive Them - Ferd Tihista

So the highlight of my holidays was probably my visit up north for the birthday party of Ferd Tihista.

I won't say how old he is, but by the looks of it, this page about Ferd is about four years old.

Ferd has been like a grandfather to me since I was young--those of you who were at my wedding may remember him.

He's always been a powerful man, physically, as this photo from 1945 can attest. When I first met him, I thought I was meeting the Kingpin from the Spider-man comics.

And he continues to be the world senior judo champion, generally winning uncontested every year (The title of this post is his take on his record for consecutive world championships in the senior division.

He's also an accomplished artist. This page has the only copies of his drawings that I can find online, and while his work is valued in the Judo community, it's his drawings of animals, insects, and other critters that I think is the most impressive. To see the amount of detail and delicate work put in by someone it would be easy to think of as a muscle bound behemoth is not only stereotype shattering, but just plain fun to think about.

He's also a fantastic guy. The cliche of the helpful martial arts instructor seems a little corny, but it's not corny at all when you're keeping real kids on track and helping real kids stay straight. It's moving, and it's something a lot of our public school teachers long ago gave up dreaming they could do.

As people kept getting up to talk about the influence he'd had on their lives, I couldn't help but be jealous of my cousins who got to live in the same town as him, take judo lessons from him, and be that close to him. For me, living on the other end of the tallest state in the union made him a fun guy to visit with, but not someone I ever got to know as well as I wished I could have.

But I know him well enough to say I'm grateful to have him in my life and grateful for his influence on my family up there. And here's to him continuing to live long enough to be an influence on my kids.

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