Martial Arts, if you find the right teacher – the potential to better yourself is only limited by your own will – Ah! But you best pray to the ‘Combat Gods’ that they send you the proper teacher.
At the age of ten, my father decided to enroll me in something outside of figure skating that would help me deal with the teasing he knew would eventually find its way to me. Because to him all martial arts seemed the same, he went with the most generic term available – Karate. I was enrolled at the Fred Villari Karate School where they taught ‘Kempo Karate’ (Temple Karate). It was new, it was fun, and I loved it. By age 16, I was a black belt and already helping to teach others in the school… my martial art life was great, but my brother, Attila would open my eyes to a completely different world.
Attila had started training at an old style Kung Fu school in Toronto’s Chinatown called ‘Jing Mo’ under the guidance of Sifu Lore King Hong (or Jimmy Lore as he went by). After only a few months of training in Kung Fu, Attila would come up and train with me and he made my six years of training feel like I’d barely learned anything. It wasn’t the quantity of what Attila had learned – it was the quality. I was blown away by the efficiency of his footwork and body coordination after such a short period of training. I knew I wanted to learn more, but my training schedule was too full, and getting down into Toronto was next to impossible.
But fate stepped in to help me out.
One warm summer day I was in my driveway working on my motorbike when Attila drove up, but when he got out of the car, he wasn’t alone. I stopped what I was doing and walked over to greet my brother and he then introduced me to a little 5’4” guy with a big smile. Glen Doyle was 24 years old at the time (but looked the same age as me), he was very polite and seemed pretty laid back. Then, when Attila said this was one of his instructors at Jing Mo, I was the one that was surprised – I don’t judge people by their appearance, but my brother is as strong as an Ox and I just couldn’t fathom such a little guy like Glen instructing Attila in anything. So innocently I just blurted out at Glen, “So, what do you do? Show me.” In retrospect I was a bit rude, but Glen just smiled and took a few steps back and then unloaded a set of movements so explosive, fast, and precise that when he was finished I just screamed out “I wanna learn that!”
I knew at that precise moment, the Gods of Combat had sent me a teacher. But I wasn’t done testing Glen Doyle. Once he agreed to teach me, I said that I wanted something to help me on the ice as well as off of it. Glen said ‘no problem’… and so it began.
Glen started coming up to Barrie to watch me skate and then work with me afterwards (oh and did I mention he never charged me a penny for his teaching? Who does that?!). Well, I am grateful because proof is in the pudding folks… after only 6 months of working with Glen, I made my first world team, landed my first triple axels and quads, as well as ranking 9th at my first World Figure Skating Championships.
As the years of training with Glen continued and my skills increased, so did my win percentages, my jumping consistency, and most of all, my focus and inner confidence. It was an amazing time and I was on cloud nine.
But as with all roads travelled in life, there are stones that you can stumble over – and in a decision I regret to this very day, I stumbled in a big big way during the filming of my first TV special, Elvis Airborne. The show depicted all those people in my life that helped me become the skater I was – but due to scheduling, Glen was unavailable during the filming dates — and in a nightmare that I live over and over in my mind, I allowed the producer of the show to hire an actor to play my martial arts teacher and gave this actor all the credit for Glen’s work – and then to make matters worse, I hired this actor to help lay out my Bruce Lee program for Olympics, but after we had laid out the program, it just didn’t feel right… not even close… something was missing, big time… I knew what it was, but I didn’t want to face up to it.
When Glen finally arrived back in Toronto after his trip away – I came clean with him about what had happened with the TV show and asked him to help fix the Bruce Lee program for Lillehammer. I was surprised (but relieved) to see without hesitation, Glen agree to help me – and though we never did talk about the TV show fiasco, it did allow me to experience what a ‘teacher’ truly was, a selfless person willing to give everything to teach those asking to be taught, no matter what mistakes they had made.
In 1995 Glen and I got our student/teacher relationship back on track when we were invited to perform at the Opening Ceremonies at the World Wushu Championships in Baltimore MD. It was the first time the massive event was held outside of China and it was huge honor to be a part of it as we performed to a sold out crowd and to another billion people via satellite. It was an amazing experience and for the first time in my life I felt like I belonged just as much in the martial art world as I did in the skating world.
In 1996 I had the opportunity to put together a television show called ‘Elvis Incognito”. This show was a chance for me to express who I truly was as a skater and a person. At that time we didn’t have youtube and instant access to everything in the world as we do now. So I took full advantage of the opportunity to showcase more of my martial art training, but this time I made sure I worked along side Glen. We put together a section about the powerful emotion of “fear” and how it can be overcome. Glen choreographed the fight scenes on and off the ice (and even made an appearance as the Off-Ice Fear Character). The show was a massive success and went on to win awards.
After my retirement from competitive skating in 2002 I started to compete in the martial arts as a competitive outlet. Touring, traveling and doing show after show in skating was not feeding my need to compete. I took part in many open tournaments in both weapon and open hand forms and was on the podium on a regular basis.
The pinnacle of my Kung Fu competitive career was in 2005 competing at the world level. Glen was asked by the WKA to be the head coach for the Canadian team for the Kung Fu divisions (as Canada had never won a medal in this division). Myself and a few other of Glen’s students competed at his request. We swept the Canadian Championships to qualify for the world team. I won the Canadian title and Glen’s other students took Silver & Bronze. We went onto the World Championships and I took the silver medal and my fellow student took bronze for Canada.
As my life transformed from competitive skater to show skater, seminar teacher to motivational speaker, bachelor to married man — I can’t imagine where both my professional and private self would’ve ended up, had I not had the guidance of my martial arts training – and more so the guidance and friendship of Glen Doyle.