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Columbia Missourian

FROM READERS: Kickboxing instructor shares his love of martial arts

May 17, 2012 | 8:00 a.m. CDT
Bill Rastorfer, right, moves in to take a swing at John Howard, left. Rastorfer, who won the 1991 World Heavyweight Shootboxing Championship, owns a kickboxing studio, which is located inside Christina's Hair Salon.

Bill Rastorfer is a kickboxing instructor. He started training in kickboxing in 1985 and had his first amateur fight in 1988. He has been a professional kickboxer since 1989 and retired in 2002. He won the United States Shootboxing Eagleweight title in 1990 and the IKKC U.S. Muay Thai Cruiserweight title in 2001. He has had more than 50 professional fights, including three world title fights in Tokyo.

Martial arts in general, and kickboxing in particular, have pretty much dominated my life since I was 12 years old. I was fascinated with the fact that through martial arts, a person of much smaller stature could defend themselves against a much bigger aggressor. Maybe it was because I was a tall, skinny guy with glasses that made me a target for bullies. I would always be intimidated by these “tough guys” that just assumed I was an easy pushover, that it made me infatuated with learning martial arts.

It was after watching a Bruce Lee movie that I saw for the first time the incredible effectiveness of martial arts. It wasn’t until I watched "Kung Fu" (TV series) that I also saw the philosophical side to martial arts. It is a very humble and respectful way of living. One walks with a sense of confidence and humility, knowing that one learns martial arts so they don’t have to fight.

I started out in Shotokan karate at the age of 12 because it was the only style of martial arts taught in my hometown at the time. I quickly skipped ranks and advanced rapidly, being so eager to learn. I soon found out the higher in rank I got, the more dedication it took. Later, in my late teens, I switched to another instructor teaching Tae Kwon-do. He was also a boxer and kickboxer, and he used his students as his sparring partners to help him prepare for fights. It was at this time that I learned traditional martial arts has its limitations in real fighting. I then started boxing at the local boxing gym, and discovered that combining the hands of boxing and the kicks of Tae Kwon-do was a more effective fighting style. When I started college, I was encouraged to participate in a kickboxing fight. I was then addicted to the sport and decided to dedicate my time and energy to become better.

The big difference in kickboxing, compared to boxing and other sports, is that besides the feeling of nervousness you get before competing, the main objective to winning is to hurt the other guy. It is almost a sickening feeling that you get right before you get in the ring, and it isn’t until you actually get your “bell rung” that you get the “fight or flight” phenomenon. So, not only do you need to be in exceptional condition as with most any other competitive sport, you need to have the recuperative skills to deal with being hurt and still fighting on. Not only will you lose the competition, you can lose your health and vitality.

One thing about kickboxing though, is that there are certain rules and guidelines that you must abide by. There are weight divisions and restrictions of techniques that still make it a sport. But in self-defense, you must use any means necessary to survive.  Some people would say that it is a brutal sport, but at the same time, you are matched with an opponent in your same weight division. As opposed to football, where you have guys differing by as much as over a hundred pounds trying to hit you from behind unexpectedly. MUCH more dangerous in my opinion.

I have found that after 14 years of competing in kickboxing, I still get the benefit from kickboxing by working out on a regular basis. Not only does it keep you fit, but you are constantly improving your technique, with the most important benefit being acquiring self-defense applications. Anyone can learn the techniques involved in kickboxing, from the very young to the elderly. As long as you don’t have any debilitating limitations, you can continue to practice indefinitely. It is a good way to vent your frustrations while at the same time becoming in tune with yourself.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's howSupervising editor is Joy Mayer.