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Karate master inducted into int'l hall of fame

Master Jeff Bryant (holding the microphone), of Oxford, utters some words of appreciation for being inducted into the International Karate and Kickboxing Hall of Fame on Saturday. To his left is Master Jim LaRocco, of Atlanta, GA, and holding the plaque to his right are masters Tom Perry, of Warren, and Ed Powers, of Cleveland, OH. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
February 10, 2010 - Only the best of the best get inducted into a hall of fame for what they've accomplished in their profession.

Jeff Bryant must be on his way to legendary status as he made it into his second hall of fame in two years.

On Saturday, the 46-year-old Oxford resident was inducted into the International Karate and Kickboxing Hall of Fame during the 2010 Michigan Sport Karate Open at Oxford Middle School (see related story and photos on Page 9).

"I hate to sound cliche, but it's 31 years of hard work that's paid off," he said. "Some of the greatest people in our organization have received that award, so it means a lot to me to follow in their footsteps."

Back in 2008, Bryant was elected into the World Council of Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

Bryant is a Master with a sixth-degree black belt in the Okinawan style of karate known as Isshin-Ryu, which he began studying in October 1979. For the past 10 years, he's owned and operated Bryant's Karate, a martial arts school located in downtown Oxford (29 N. Washington St.).

"My goal was to be one of the highest ranking black belts in the Isshin-Ryu system in Michigan," Bryant noted. "I'm kind of ahead of where I actually thought I would be at this time in my life. I'm 46 years old and I figured I'd probably be in my late 50s before I got here."

"I'm very proud of him," said Master Jim LaRocco, a ninth-degree Dan in Isshin-Ryu who is Bryant's master.

LaRocco traveled all the way from Atlanta, Georgia, where he owns and operates five martial arts schools, to welcome his student into the hall of fame.

"He's a tribute to Isshin-Ryu and the martial arts," LaRocco said. "He's a gentleman. He's a great teacher and he deserved what he got."

Over the years, Bryant's certainly accom plished a lot in the martial arts world.

He was the Michigan Karate Circuit Black Belt Sparring Champion in 1995-96 and the International Karate Circuit Heavy Weight Sparring Champion in 1996.

Bryant was named Instructor of the Year in 1996 and in 2004, he earned the title of Grand Champion in Breaking for breaking 10 one-inch bricks with his head.

A humble man, Bryant's main motivation is teaching his students and watching them excel, not achieving and reveling in his own personal glories.

"I get more out of them becoming champions that I ever did becoming a champion because it really shows that my work has paid off," he said. "I think that's probably the most exciting thing."

For instance, one of the highlights of his career came last year when a student of his, 10-year-old Oxford resident Rain Fredericks, traveled to Ireland and won a gold medal for the U.S. Karate Team. "He was one of very few Americans that won a gold medal for the U.S. team," Bryant noted.

Bryant enjoys using karate to teach kids the same type of confidence that changed his life when he was a young man.

During his school days, Bryant admitted he "got in quite a bit of trouble."

"A lot of people thought I was just a tough kid because I fought all the time," he explained. "I really didn't fight because I was tough, I fought out of fear. I had the fear that somebody was going to beat me up.

He basically practiced his dad's Upper Peninsula philosophy that said, "If you think it's going to happen, take the guy out."

But once he started studying karate as a high school student, Bryant gained the confidence he needed to make positive changes in his life and head down a different path.

"When I got into martial arts, I had no fear," he said. "I got in zero trouble after that because I knew I could handle myself."

Besides building confidence, Bryant also enjoys using his classes to teach students that it isn't good to be a bully because there's "always going to be someone bigger and tougher."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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