DETROIT (WXYZ) — Richard Plowden says his lifelong passion is the martial arts.
His story begins on Detroit’s west side near Dexter Avenue and Elmhurst Street. When he was 13, he says his older brother Raymond came home excited as talked about signing up for karate.
“And my dad pointed at me and says, 'Take him with you,'" Plowden recalled.
That was October 1973. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, he is a 9th degree black belt and five-time martial arts world champion.
Plowden is the grandmaster at Plowden's Championship Martial Arts Academy at Franklin Athletic Club. He teachers students as young as 3 years old all the way up to the current oldest student who is in her late 50s.
“The martial arts is a conduit to getting inside the heads of young and old people, being able to motivate them," Plowden explained. "It’s more than just kicking and punching, and that’s what I’ve embraced since I opened my school in 1988."
“For me, being able to look in a martial arts magazine and see some of these stellar stars who happen to be African American, that was a huge part of my motivation," Plowden added.
He's traveled the world and competed against other top competitors like Steve “Nasty” Anderson, Billy Blanks and Terry Creamer.
Plowden says there are seven black belts in his family, including his wife Debra and their two children Morgan and Richard Avery.
He says his children are two of the top competitors in the world.
“I am blessed," Plowden said.
His martial arts academy is a family affair. He says it's a way to mentor, teach behavior modification and motivate students as they progress from one belt to the next.
When he’s not at the academy, Plowden is the chief martial arts therapist for Kids Kicking Cancer worldwide. In that role, he even met Winnie Mandela before she passed.
“And what we do there is we use the martial arts to help kids that have sickle cell, cancer and other diseases. We teach people who are in wheelchairs, we teach people who have a number of, maybe, different physical limitations. But they do the best that they can do with what we give them," he explained.
Plowden says he is also a big proponent of education and that's something else he got from his father. So he encourages his students to seek higher education in their respective fields and to consider teaching martial arts.