At 16 years old, Roy Dean felt trapped in Anchorage, Alaska, so he left home for Japan as part of an exchange student program. When he arrived at his new high school, students were required to study one of the traditional Japanese arts, such as fencing (kendo), archery (kyudo), or floral arrangements (ikebana).
“Steven Seagal was popular at that time,” Roy said. “I was interested in aikido because I wanted to be able to take on five guys in a pool hall.”
Aikido was not available at his Japanese high school, but judo was an available art option.
“Initially, I wasn’t that pleased,” Roy said, “but judo changed the entire trajectory of my life.”
The judo program was conservative, so Roy was not allowed to wear a uniform until he first learned how to fall properly (ukemi).
“Judo is very tough,” Roy said. “I did hundreds, if not thousands, of hard break falls and ended up with huge bruises on my shoulders.”
After six weeks of falling drills, Roy was finally allowed on the mats and given the opportunity to spar with the judo team captain.
“No matter what I did, within seconds I was on the ground, looking up at the ceiling,” Roy said. “I would attack him again, and boom, like it was nothing. He must have thrown me at least 15 times in a couple of minutes.”
Roy was completely outclassed by the smaller and weaker team captain, but Roy was inspired.
“It was electrifying,” Roy said. “He was small and not intimidating at all. If I could do what he just did to me, no one would be able to mess with me. I wanted that same power. It was mind‐blowing.”
A lot of Westerners romanticize martial arts in the East, but that experience taught Roy the secret behind the mysticism. Continue reading “Roy Dean: Creating Art Through Combat”