By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS — Hapkido Grand Master James McMurray teaches martial arts to children and adults at the Harker Heights Recreation Center.
Ironically, years ago he ran away from his first karate lesson.
McMurray tagged along with his mother, a cleaning professional, to a job. Bored, he waited outside and spied a group of adults entering a building nearby.
"I saw people in these white pajama-like things going into this building," he said. "It was 1962 (in Pennsylvania), and the only people I knew about who wore white were the KKK (Klu Klux Klan). It freaked me out and it scared me."
Frightened but curious, he peaked into the window and saw the mysterious figures fighting with one another. He began to mimic them on the street in order to learn how to protect himself, until one of them came outside.
McMurray ran away, but later returned. The stranger came back outside.
"He asked me if I wanted to learn, and I said, 'But I'm black,'" McMurray, 61, recalled. "He just laughed."
McMurray learned that the strangers in the building were not, Klan members, but karate devotees. For the next three years, the young McMurray trained weekly at the studio in exchange for odd jobs, such as window washing.
From martial arts, McMurray learned a kind of discipline that would serve him well over course of his Army career, spent primarily in Special Forces.
McMurray retired in 1992 as a sergeant first class, but still teaches Fort Hood soldiers close quarter-combat skills and situational awareness on occasion.
Hapkido is an active form of the Korean martial art taekwondo. It means "the way of coordinated power."
Although formally retired from Hapkido competition, McMurray recently earned his ninth degree black belt. There is no higher degree.
McMurray lives in Killeen with his wife, Linda, who is also a martial arts master.
He spends Tuesday and Thursday evenings teaching the ways of taekwondo and hapkido.
He calls his "school" the House of Discipline, he said, and sometimes parents of students in his kids class require training about discipline and expectations, too.
Parents shouldn't have to yell to get their children to listen, he said. Kids should practice obedience all the time.
"I'm just trying to make things a little more peaceful at home."
McMurray said he could open his own school, but prefers to give back to the community through his work at the Harker Heights Recreation Center.
Karate was given to him as a gift back in 1962, he said, and he's still paying it forward.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559.
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Five questions for James McMurray
What's the last book you read?
"Positive Aikido: A True Story of Traditional Teachings" by Dave Rogers.
What's your favorite movie?
Anything adapted from a Tom Clancy novel, such as "Patriot Games" (1992).
What's your favorite food?
Ham and mashed potatoes.
What's your favorite hobby?
What's your favorite saying?
"If you know yourself, and know others, you will always be in control."