Dressed in a two-piece suit and a black brim hat, the slim man with the smooth dark brown olive skin walked slowly into the classroom.
His body erect, he politely greeted the class before patiently removing the small Bible from his back pocket and taking a seat.
Little did I know it, but I was looking at the man who would become my next Tai Chi teacher.
I watched intently as my current instructor, Mr. K. Wallace, performed a Push Hand demonstration with this new spectator to the class of Tai Chi hopefuls that Monday morning in Columbia, SC.
I didn’t understand it then, but my instructor had relied on physical force – a failing that had become all too popular in this internal art.
At that time, I was battling a chronic illness and had turned to the internal art for its gentle healing powers – perhaps, more out of desperation than any true conviction that it would work.
Though I had changed my diet to the point of near vegetarianism, and had followed doctor’s numerous recommendations, I could not rid myself of my Candida, an overgrowth of fungal yeast. Now, I was pinning my hopes on Tai Chi.
I was with my first instructor for three years, but saw no improvement in my condition. I assumed it normally takes years to heal with Tai Chi. I was wrong, as this spectator soon pointed out in a conversation after class. A few short days later, he became my teacher and amazingly I was healed within six months. Each year, I watched as my immune system strengthened and my health steadily improved. I’ve now been with my teacher for seven years and for the last three years I’ve not had any illness, not even the common cold.
Often my teacher, who now resides in Roswell, has shared his story with me and his other students. Born as a child prodigy who once worked for various agencies in the United States Government, he has taught many how to use the internal martial arts to heal and defend themselves. In a five-part series, I plan to share part of his peculiar story. His name is Mr. Andrew Williams, also known by many as The Qigong Boxer.
With one hand clutching his lunch box and the other shaped into a Dragon Claw, the 6-year-old child finally unleashed his pent-up fury.
It was the 1960s and at that time school desegregation and race relations were urgent issues in Lawton, Okla.
Black children drifted silently among a sea of whites, plunging daily into conflicts while the teachers and principals turned a blind eye.
With no one to help, these black children were on their own to be picked on, punched, beaten and bullied.
And in 1967, young Andrew Williams landed in the midst of all that turmoil.
Still, the first-grader was about to turn the tide.
For days, the same bully had been picking on him, calling him names and making fun of him at school and on the bus. Now as they sat on the bus, Andrew suffered silently, determined not to hurt the boy.
Then the boy began making racial remarks about his mother, calling her a “Jungle Bunny” even as he threw paper balls at Andrew’s head.
The other children laughed. The bus driver said nothing.
As Andrew soaked it in, his stillness became like a rushing torrent walled up inside him. He remembered his martial art instructor told him that there would come a time when a person had to fight.
And as the last paper ball hit the back of his head, Andrew stood.
No one on the school bus said a word as the lunch box smashed against the bully’s face and Andrew’s fingers clawed at the boy’s pale skin.
“I just went off on him. I was hitting him with my lunch box and then with my right hand I was scratching him, using the Dragon style,” Mr. Williams recalled. “The whole bus got quiet. I’m assuming no one expect me to lose control like that.”
The boy held out his hands to block the blows. But it was futile. Blood flowed until it mingled with the boy’s tears.
Seconds past before Andrew ended the assault and left the badly beaten boy crumpled in his seat, sobbing.
In the end, the school suspended Andrew and the boy was taken to the hospital. It was Andrew’s first fight, but it would not be his last.
For the next few years at Brockland Elementary, Andrew would get into fights every day, sometimes two or more times in a day. He would fight one-on-one in hand-to-hand combat or against gang members armed with chains, sticks and knives.
Small and skinny for his age, his opponents were always bigger, always white and always full of hate.
Breaking arms, legs, ribs and jaws, Andrew began leaving a trail of blood and broken bones. Soon he came to be known as The Street Fighter.
The child who once shied away from fighting, now saw it as his only way to survive.
On the school ground and in the streets, Andrew honed his martial art skills as he learned to defeat countless opponents to protect himself and his friends. In time he would develop an understanding of the true essence of the martial arts with the help of his instructors.
But long before he was instructed by men, Andrew was taught by God.
A Natural Born Fighter
The little child was playing intently with his lettered blocks until he glimpsed a Kung Fu commercial on television.
Andrew recognized the kicks, the punches and the acrobatic moves. They were similar to what he had seen in his dreams.
“I can’t tell you the first dream I had. All I know is they were normal to me,” Mr. Williams, now 49, said. “Through my dreams and visions, that’s how I learned martial art styles.”
At nights on his bed, Andrew would feel his body drifting like he’s floating in the air.
“The more my body drifts, it feels like I’m floating higher and higher into another space or time or maybe into Heaven itself,” Mr. Williams said. “There always be these lights like twinkling, sparkle lights shape like balls, like spears.
“And then the lights would slowly form into Heavenly beings, what we call angels. They look like us men and then they would teach me how to fight with my hands and feet, how to move.”
Andrew watched and listened, doing what they asked him to do. Sometime he asked questions, and they would answer.
“At that early age, I didn’t look at it as the martial arts. I looked at it as power,” Mr. Williams said. “I looked at them teaching me how to use power, how to manifest power; how to help others use this power; how to defend and protect myself, how to defend and protect others by using this power.
“That’s what I call it, I call it power. I call it The Power, The All Power.”
Every night these angels would visit Andrew, showing him different fighting techniques.
Now as he watched the television commercial, Andrew realized the angels were teaching him the martial arts.
“That’s when I realized that what I was experiencing in my dreams, other people knew it and I wanted to meet people like that,” Mr. Williams said.
His dad, who worked in the U.S. Army, introduced him to his first instructor, a man who studied Shaolin Kung Fu.
“He would take me into a room and he would show me different animal styles and I would easily pick up on that,” Mr. Williams said.
Then the instructor wanted to spar with Andrew. He soon realized the child already knew some Kung Fu.
As the instructor attempted to spar with Andrew, the child vehemently resisted. The instructor thought he was scared and decided to force the issue.
Andrew tried to explain he wasn’t afraid of him. He was only concerned about hurting him.
“I’m afraid I’m going to hurt you,” Andrew told him.
The instructor, who was in his 20s, laughed it off.
“You’re still a little child. You’re not big and strong enough to hurt me.”
“You don’t understand,” Andrew said, looking at him.
Helplessly, he watched as the instructor locked the door and then blocked it.
“I’m going to attack you for real and you have to defend yourself,” the instructor said. “I’m not worried about you hurting me.”
Then, Andrew’s body got warm, ready to hurt the man he now saw as a threat.
“The next thing I know this Voice whispered in my ears and said, ‘Don’t hurt him. Just let him know you could hurt him. But do not hurt him. This is call control.’”
The instructor got into a Dragon stance and attacked Andrew.
The child jumped over his head, and landed behind him.
“I don’t know exactly what I did. Only thing I know when I jumped over him, I land behind him and pushed him away.”
Andrew looked at the instructor and said, pointedly, “I can easily hurt you.”
The instructor stared at the child, surprised. Then, the man realized Andrew’s sincerity in not wanting to hurt others. But he also realized that there would come a time when Andrew had to fight. He explained to the child about the cruelty that existed in the world, that if Andrew didn’t fight back he would continually be attacked.
“To that point, I wouldn’t fight back because I was always scared I would hurt them,” Mr. William said. “I knew deep inside if I fought back I would hurt them kids.”
But that day on the bus, Andrew remembered his instructor’s words. And once he began fighting back, it became routine.
“It got to a point, I didn’t care,” Mr. Williams said. “I looked at it as a part of life. This is how life is. You have to fight to survive; you have to fight to hurt people. Then people leave you alone.”
But Andrew soon realized not everyone would easily back down. And when they didn’t, the fights got even more severe.
Note: In some cases, Mr. Williams could not remember the names of his instructors or the full names of his friends. Part 2 will be posted on Tuesday.
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