Decades later, karate still bonds husband and wife teamTaylors have taught martial arts to generations of Midcoast residents
Rockland — For 40 years, the karate duo of Larry and Linda Taylor have traveled along the East Coast of the United States, ventured through parts of Canada, taught, trained and became the pioneers who brought martial arts to the Midcoast.
After meeting at a high school dance in the 1960s, Larry, a Rockland District High School graduate, married Linda, a graduate of Georges Valley High School, in 1965. Ever since, the husband and wife have formed a decades-long bond — especially through their passion for teaching karate — that has proven unwavering.
With not much going on in the Midcoast during the mid-1960s, Linda set out to find something different. That is when she took an interest in karate and brought it to Larry. Together, the pair traveled twice a week to Augusta where the closest karate school was at the time.
"We went snowstorms and all," said Linda. "Nothing held us back."
At the time, Maine only had five karate schools. Other than Augusta, the Taylors traveled to Waterville and Portland to train as well. They trained with their first instructor for three years.
After that, they began to train with Alex Choi of Korea, a relationship the couple keep for 35 years. Sensei Choi was a sixth-degree black belt and master of Chinese weapons.
"It was Mr. Choi's Shaolin side of [karate] is what was prominent with me," Larry said of Choi's training.
Traveling to Connecticut, the Taylors trained with Dan Pai, who was from Hawaii. They've trained with high-ranking Shaolin master Yan Ling from China and Billy Blanks of Tae Bo fame.
The Taylors also trained with Chuck Merriman, who was the highest ranked American in goju systems and now lives in Japan as a Japanese Samurai. Merriman was a bodyguard for John F. Kennedy, Diana Ross and the rock band Kiss, among many other famous people.
The Taylor have also done a lot of training with people who have special needs. One man they mentioned was Ted Vollrath. Vollrath, a Korean war veteran, was in a wheelchair after having lost his legs.
Out of all the people that he has trained with, Larry said that Choi was his favorite. Choi made him dig down to the nitty-gritty of the techniques. "It took almost a year to learn anything well," Larry said. Linda added that their other instructors gave them a good foundation.
Becoming the first certified professional karate judge from Maine to judge at professional kickboxing tournaments, Larry would travel to various parts of New England when needed to judge tournaments often aired by ESPN.
While it was open, Splendid China, a theme park in Florida, held demonstrations of martial arts. It was rare for them to invite others to join in the demonstrations, but on one trip, Larry was asked to participate and Linda got the chance to take part in a wedding ceremony at the location.
Larry, a fifth-degree black belt, has also run the Boston Marathon twice. Together, he and Linda, a fourth-degree black belt, run many of the local 5-kilometer road races. Larry said that he used to run in high school, and started again to keep up with the "other guys" that he trained with and taught. He said that the students took an interest to running and marathons as well, and now he maintains with them, seeing it as part of his training.
Currently holding karate classes at the Lura Libby School in Thomaston, the Taylors have promoted 19 people to black belts over the years. They have also held karate camps and have worked with the Rockland football coach to get the team in shape for the football season.
"There was a lot of bartering with students," Linda said. "Some wanted to take the class but couldn't pay." The Taylors took things like clams, baked goods and handmade signs as payment for classes.
Of her karate teaching, Linda said that she liked being able to open the doors to many people and cultures.
A memorable moment for the teachers, aside from meeting Chuck Norris, was when they took some of their students to an international competition in Florida. One of their students, who was 45 years old at the time, won the championship. After defeating competitors from five different countries to be the winner of her individual group, the woman had to go on and defeat an opponent from Brazil in order to win.
"I call them my wayward children," Linda said of her students. One of their students was their daughter Laurie Mazurek. They've also taught their grandchildren, Taylor and Cameron Mazurek, Linda's great niece, Dianna Ross, as well as Dianna's two children, Dustin and Brittany.
Linda was profiled in the 1981 edition of the Mid Coast Working Woman. Linda formerly taught self-defense for the Rockland Police Department, the Air Force, Maine State prison guards and at the YMCA in Camden. Aside from teaching karate alongside her husband, she has worked as a teacher at a Montessori School, as a security guard at the hospital, worked at the MBNA daycare and maintained the Village Cemetery in Thomaston. All jobs she held for at least 10 years each.
Larry, like his wife, also worked full-time along with teaching karate. He worked for CSC for more than ten years, Bath Iron Works for 20 years and the Dragon Products cement plant for about 17 years.
Now retired, the Taylors have set off for Florida. However, it is not the same type of retirement venture most Maine retirees seek. The Taylors are looking to start a school in Florida. "Our students are allowing us to go for one year," Linda said. Adding that retirement will give Larry more time to dedicate to karate.
One of their students from Maryland, who was stationed at Rockland Coast Guard's port, will be traveling with them to Florida.
Despite the Taylors departure from Maine for the year, their local class will still go on. Ron Frontin will be the instructor in charge throughout the year. Larry and Frontin have set up a web camera chat in which Larry will be able to make sure that each of the moves are being done correctly. "We'll fine tune until they get back," Frontin said.
Back where they belong. In the Midcoast. Carrying the torch for the martial arts. A fire they lit four decades ago
VillageSoup Sports Assistant Holly Vanorse can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.