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Monday, Sep 01, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Time for a martial arts throw-down

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Published:   |   Updated: May 18, 2014 at 09:58 AM

I say it’s time for a throw-down between two ninth-degree martial arts experts — Ed Maley and Vladimir Putin. And I know where my money is.

This week, professor Ed Maley became Dr. Ed Maley, which is what those in the world of judo now can call him. There are only a handful of others who have his ranking. But you can ask the more than 80,000 students who have been influenced by this Brooklyn-born, barrel-chested, gravely-voiced bowling ball of a man, and I would bet they all would attest to his abilities.

Now into his 80s, using an artificial hip and maybe a tad slower than he was a few decades ago, Maley still holds classes at the Brandon YMCA, although he now allows some of his students to demonstrate the moves.

Let me backtrack a bit — all the way to 1950, when U.S. Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay was building his Strategic Air Command (SAC) bomber fleet that would see the United States through the Cold War. LeMay was one tough dog; I know because my dad worked for him all the way from Tinian in the Pacific to Omaha, Nebraska, which became SAC headquarters. LeMay wanted some kind of program for his flight crews and brought in Maley to teach martial arts, as well as physical fitness. On the side, Maley set up a junior program for children on the base. I was one of those kids.

Half a century later, I walked into the Florida School of Judo on South MacDill, where Ed Maley already was something of a local legend and had a national reputation. The thing about the school was that it was more a cross between a Philadelphia gym and the laundry room in a federal prison.

It might not have been so bad if Maley ever had turned on the air-conditioning, or maybe painted the place.

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It really didn’t seem to make any difference to his students.

What you noticed, if you sat in the corner and watched, was that Maley was more interested in teaching values — especially discipline, respect and self-confidence. After a while, you could see that all his bluster and tough-guy demeanor was mostly show.

Not that you ever would want to cross this guy in an alley, or anywhere else. He knew his stuff.

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Maley was and is one of those guys you wish every kid could have for a mentor.

I saw a story recently that noted the Russian boss, Putin, is a ninth-degree taekwondo master (and a world champion in just about everything else, according to his PR people).

Let’s lay all our marbles on the table and have a throw-down, with Maley taking on Putin for the future of western civilization. Maley, who I believe stands in at about 5 feet 8 inches and has a couple of decades on the Russian, still is the kind of guy I never would bet against.

We’ve been blessed to have him for most of his 65 years of teaching young people. Receiving the honor of the ninth degree from USA Judo is a tremendous achievement.

sotto@tampatrib.com

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