2008-11-12 / News

Hall inducts karate, TSTC instructor

Michael A. Sullenger Michael A. Sullenger Michael A. Sullenger, a longtime karate instructor and general technology instructor at Texas State Technical College Harlingen, recently received special recognition for his years of service as a teacher and mentor in the martial arts community.

He doesn't claim to be a martial arts icon like Chuck Norris, star of the "Walker, Texas Ranger" television series, but the Academy of Masters - Masters Hall of Fame holds Sullenger, who is an American Karate System chief instructor and a retired U.S. Air Force major, in high regard as a leader. The Academy of Masters - Masters Hall of Fame presented him with a Golden Life Achievement Award in Anaheim, Calif., on August 16, as he joined the ranks of a select group. He holds the administrative rank of Hanshi as a Ninth Degree Black Belt after 48 years of martial arts training.

"The development of the person is what should be focused on for karate students and experts. Defense and technique are important and so is attitude. A champion must uphold peace and tranquility and be ready to stand up for the down trodden," he said in an interview.

In a column he wrote for the academy, titled "The Importance of Mentoring," Sullenger described a reunion with one of his former students - U.S. Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar, who he had not seen in about 30 years. Sullenger expressed the satisfaction he felt in learning the positive role he played in Aguilar's life by advising the young man to seize the opportunity of pursuing a career in the U.S. Border Patrol. Here are some excerpts.

" . . . we (teachers) each have a responsibility to help our students focus on their physical and mental abilities, to prepare them for life . . ."

"We must instill in them (students) the importance to be the best they can be, whether competing in the (karate) ring or as a functioning member of our citizenry."

"When I first put on a black belt it never occurred to me the importance of my actions as an instructor, nor the influence that I would have on the lives of others. As I've gotten older I've come to realize the importance of my actions, as well as the responsibility I had taken upon myself as I taught others who looked up to me as a role model and mentor."

Sullenger began his karate career as a 13 year old while living in Vincennes, Ind., in February 1960, with the goal of earning a black belt. The son of Dr. and Mrs. A.A. Sullenger, he was born October 4, 1947, in Indianapolis. He graduated from the Culver Military Academy Summer Naval School in 1965 and graduated from Lincoln High School in Vincennes in 1966. Sullenger enlisted in the USAF during the Vietnam War and graduated from Pan American University in Edinburg, with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice in 1976, the same year he became a USAF officer. He retired from the USAF Security Police as a major in 1993. He married Janie Lara of Raymondville, in June 1968, and they have two daughters.

He has taught martial arts in nine states and seven foreign countries. He has been a police defensive tactics and use of force instructor since 1967. As a Top Kata competitor in the American Karate Association and for the AKS in 1973-1974, he ranked second and first in the United States respectively.

"People should ask themselves questions like, 'Where is my heart? Where is my desire? Do I have the courage to walk through the doors of opportunity?' These issues are real; they're not from a fairy tale," Sullenger said.

"We're all going to face trials and tribulations, but how we meet them is the key. We've each got futures to build. So, we each should answer the question, 'What am I going to do with my future?' For me, my experiences, maturation process and community service have been a real interesting trip. I never would have imagined that I would someday leave behind the legacy I've been blessed with."

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