Reverbs from the ECHO Chamber — a Q & A with Mr. John Baldwin

Connor Carrico, Staff Reporter

Trinity teacher Mr. John Baldwin

Another in a continuing series of Q & A interviews with Trinity faculty, staff and administrators.

Trinity math teacher Mr. John Baldwin is a man of many talents. One might not think pre-calculus goes with kung fu, but they do for Mr. Baldwin, who moderates the school’s Kung Fu Club. He spoke about his involvement with Chinese and Japanese martial arts.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about the Kung Fu Club?

A: The Kung Fu Club, started here about 14 years ago, is a martial arts club and is primarily a Wing Chun (style, which requires quick arm movements and strong legs) and some qigong stretches that are put together for the club. We go to the first form of Wing Chun kung fu, and I just have a lot of fun with it. It’s great.

Q: When did you first start getting into kung fu?

A: I got into martial arts when I was about 12 years old. I was really bored and looking for something to do. I did judo for a while and then I did a little Tae Kwon Do. When I got into my late teens, early 20s, I got into Wing Chun kung fu with my teachers and stayed with that.

Q: What self-defense training did you provide at a school?

A: I spent 14 or 15 years working for the Kentucky School for the Blind, and we were an open school back then. In kung fu, (the school is) called a kwoon.

Q: What was your major role there?

A: I was an assistant instructor, and then later on I went out on my own and opened my own school and was the head instructor of my school.

Q: What’s the main thing your guys do in the Kung Fu Club?

A: The main thing is studying movement. You see how you move, see how other people move. You try move with the world in a harmonious way. Sometimes it is harmonious; sometimes it isn’t, but it’s movement. If I could encapsulate the experience with one word, it would be movement.

Q: Any stories you remember from teaching kung fu?

A: There’s a lot of stories, but I greatly benefited by working with blind students. They work off touch and feel, so you’re always maintaining contact with them as much as possible. Sometimes out in the world people try to take advantage of others, and there were a couple of instances where our students who happened to be blind were at the bus stop. Somebody tried to take advantage of them and ended up regretting it.

Q: Do you think this club helps students protect themselves?

A:  I think it is good for a lot of different reasons. It’s good to be able to move. A body in motion stays in motion, and when you’re young, you might get into kung fu because you’ve seen something on TV or you want to learn how to defend yourself. But the older you get, the more it’s about maintaining the ability to do things, the ability to walk, the ability to have your joints be mobile. I don’t want to be 70 years old and in a walker. I want to still be able to move around, so I to retain my movement.

Q: When does the Kung Fu Club meet?

A: We meet Fridays after school about 2:10. We’re all year round. I give my students something to work on, they take it home, and I see if they worked on it or not.

Q: Who should join the Kung Fu Club?

A: I think it’s good for everybody. I think it would be good to get some more teachers in there. You know everybody’s busy on Fridays, and it’s hard to keep people. But I think freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and people who work here — people of all ages and abilities — are always welcome.

Q: Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee?

A: I’m going to say Bruce Lee was a great martial artist. He brought a lot to the West — his teacher was Ip Man and his lineage of Wing Chun practice. But Jackie Chan is an incredible martial artist who grew up with the Peking Opera. When he was like seven, his parents dropped him off with the Peking Opera in China and split to Australia. He grew up there. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He stood up to a lot of the Triads, who wield some unsavory influences overseas and here in the United States, so I’ve got a lot of respect for Jackie Chan.