‘Champion maker’

Veteran martial arts instructor trains all ages – even U.S. Marines

Friday, May 04, 2007

When he was 8 years old, James Bowman of Orangeburg went to see a Bruce Lee movie with his father.

“It just seemed to catch me,” he said. “I got interested in martial arts then, and this is my 34th year.”

Bowman went into the Army right after high school and had some martial arts training while in the service.

After returning to civilian life, he began training on his own and attending what he calls “open tournaments,” where individuals compete on a particular level against contestants from many different groups, not just the ones in a single organization. This provides for stiffer competition, he said.

Bowman is a World Black Belt Bureau certified instructor and currently holds a fifth-degree black belt. The highest level possible is the 10th degree, and there are very few of those, he said.

In his Orangeburg studio, JB Martial Arts, Bowman teaches jujitsu and tae kwon do. Jujitsu originated in Japan and is characterized by grappling techniques, he said. Tae kwon do comes from Korea, and employs kicking maneuvers, Bowman said.

He teaches classes on martial arts for “Lil’ Dragons” as young as 3 years old and other age groups up through adult. He also teaches weapons classes such as kama, bo staff and nunchukus. In addition, Bowman is negotiating with Voorhees College in Denmark to add martial arts as a part of the regular physical education curriculum.

Bowman’s wife, Ursula, teaches self-defense classes for women. These classes focus on using simple tactics in combination with martial arts techniques to defeat stronger, more skillful opponents.

In 2004, Bowman became grand champion at the Universal Martial Arts Championship in Lancaster, and proudly displays his trophy belt.

“I am a champion maker now,” he said.

Last month, high ranking military officers attended a special martial arts seminar at Camp Lejeune, N.C., conducted by Bowman. The seminar was part of required training under the Marine Corps’ Martial Arts Program.

“The focus of this seminar was to fine-tune or improve what they already know,” Bowman said. He said the officers all had previous martial arts training, but with his extensive experience he could see a difference between his skills and theirs.

Bowman said he wanted to give the officers a shorter way of dealing with individual assailants.

“I wanted to teach them short, combative movements, where they could take someone out quickly, especially if there was more than one opponent,” he said.

According to Bowman, when someone is learning martial arts, they become better either at striking, or fighting while standing up, or grappling, which is fighting while on the ground.

Bowman said another purpose of the seminar was to show the participants how to use both methods equally effectively.

T&D Correspondent Loretta Demko can be reached by e-mail at eeshtenem@yahoo.com. Discuss this and other stories online at TheTandD.com.