Medford man takes top honor at championships

Marty Holstien explained some of the pitfalls of the sport in which his son, Michael, excels.

"He's broken his nose several times," the dad said.

He's broken it?

"Well, somebody else broke it," said Marty.

When you've been a martial artist most of your life, those things will happen. But they've happened far fewer times to Michael Holstien than to others.

The Medford resident and Eagle Point High School alum recently captured his second straight Norris Cup at the UFAF International Training Conference and Chun Kuk Do World Championships last weekend in Las Vegas.

The trophy is named for UFAF founder and famed actor Chuck Norris, who presented it to Holstien after he won his division in fighting, forms and sparring and was named the male competitor of the year.

Holstien, 23, has been a student at Chip Wright's Championship Karate in Medford since the age of 4.

He now competes professionally in the National Blackbelt League, which has tournaments throughout North America.

Holstien had been ranked No. 1 in bo staff weapons for five years until recently dropping to No. 2. The bo is a long, slender staff martial artists twirl, spear and strike with in a choreographed routine.

Holstien favored weapons as a youngster but has since blossomed in both fighting and forms.

At 5-foot-6, 115 pounds, he was the smallest competitor in the male 18-34 age division for under 140 pounds at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.

"Basically," says Holstien, "you have to be a little bit faster and hit a little harder, if you can. As long as I can do that, I can pretty much take it."

Marty Holstien was into martial arts as a child. When he deemed Michael was old enough to understand what was going on, he took him to Wright's studio.

Wright, who served as Norris' stunt double in the long-running TV series "Walker, Texas Ranger" and in other projects, teaches Chun Kuk Do, or CKD.

The style was developed by Norris and is described on the United Fighting Arts Federation website as a Korean-based American hard style of karate. While in the military, Norris trained in Tang Soo Do in Korea. Using it as a foundation, he molded the style to make it more well-rounded.

He used it effectively enough to become the undefeated world middleweight champion an unprecedented six straight years.

"It's actually an art, with controlled punches, throws and takedowns," said Marty, who also serves as a coach for his son and travels to all his competitions. "It's not like a lot of them, where you go in and try to hurt somebody."

His motivation for putting Michael in martial arts was so his son would be able to take care of himself. A side benefit was that his son learned "tremendous self-control, and he's a better young man now because of it."

"You learn how to avoid certain situations in this style," said Marty. "You have the ability to do what you have to do, but it's absolutely the very last resort. Chip always teaches his students that the best weapon is your feet, so use them to run.

"If you just can't get away, you have the ability to defend yourself."

Speed is one of Michael Holstien's assets, and he uses it in competition.

"He knows exactly where to place his punches and kicks, and they come at you at lightning speed," said Marty.

Michael has gone against opponents as big as 6-6 and 300 pounds, said his father, and the fallen foe later lamented he couldn't catch Michael.

As for the broken noses, they are rare. Fighters face disqualification if they draw blood or break bones.

But Michael suffered a broken jaw once in a San Francisco tournament, got medical attention and insisted on returning to the fight. He wound up losing by two points, but the other guy had to work for it.

"He's never won a fight by disqualification," said Marty, noting his son demands to finish his fights.

Michael has been competing in the ITC since 2001 and in the NBL since 2005.

He hopes to parlay his ability and experience into work as a Hollywood stuntman, perhaps as early as next year.

He's on a CKD team that Norris sponsors and has visited with the icon on numerous occasions, mostly about the competitive season.

"Him and his brother (Aaron) are really nice," said Michael. "They do a lot for us. Every year in Vegas, we get to talk and hang out. It's kind of nice, actually. He's a normal guy more than a celebrity."

He's also a guy with such a larger-than-life persona, the internet is rife with jokes about Norris' power.

For instance, ghosts sit around the campfire and tell Chuck Norris stories. Or, Chuck Norris didn't dial the wrong number, you answered the wrong phone.

So, would the accomplished Holstien relish a chance to spar with Norris?

"I wouldn't," he laughed. "I've seen him fight in the past, and it's a little bit scary."

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com

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