Bill Taylor fights "Little John" Souvithong in 1986 in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo Submitted)
Films such as “Kung Fu” and “Enter the Dragon” have their own relevance in American film culture, but little did this town know they were also early inspiration to what has become a Murfreesboro institution – Bill Taylor’s Bushido School of Karate.
After 40 years, Sensei Bill Taylor will celebrate the studio’s anniversary on Saturday, May 11, with a jam-packed day of activities taking place across both of his Murfreesboro studios, which range from classes, demonstrations and awards presentations.
Taylor cut his teeth in the martial arts arena around 11 years old, but he took it to the next level when he was 17 years old in the professional arena.
“‘Kung Fu’ and ‘Enter the Dragon’ had come out. It was intriguing. I was small in stature so it’d be good to defend myself,” Taylor said.
“Later, I was interested in applying martial arts to see if it really worked or not. I went into full contact kickboxing and had my first fight as a senior in high school in Atlanta, Ga. I enjoyed the intensity and techniques. It was a testing ground, and I got to travel,” Taylor added about his start in the pros.
During his pro career from 1980-1988, he obtained a record of 24 wins and six losses, with seven of the wins coming in the form of knockouts. In due time, he had a No. 2 world ranking and fought several world champions.
At this time, kickboxing was on par with what most would liken to today’s mixed martial arts competition. Most of the top performers in mixed martial arts trained in traditional martial arts at some point in their career, Taylor explained.
“MMA is a great measuring stick of your martial arts ability. Can it work; can I apply it in a real situation? It’s a great laboratory to see what works and doesn’t work,” Taylor said.
As for the school itself, its origins trace back to 1972 with Newton Harris and Bill Herzer, which at this time the school was located on Vine Street.
Taylor was around during the early days but didn’t officially take over the school until 1980. The timing coincided with his professional career and owning a business wasn’t always the first thing on his mind.
“In 1972, we had 30 students and in 1980 we had 30 students," he said. "I was 18 years old and in high school so I could make a living teaching and doing my own thing. I never thought it would grow into what it is now.”
Taylor’s way of managing the school was a little different than his predecessors.
Taylor took the school to a new level with guerilla marketing techniques and a new approach.
“I never thought about marketing it until the 1980s. What if I put an ad in a local newspaper? What if I put an ad in the yellow pages?” Taylor said.
In the same way, movies had been inspiration in the past; films such as "Karate Kid" in the 1980s also helped the business as well.
“I think it helped a lot. A lot of kids started doing it,” he said. “It helped the profitability of martial arts studios all over the nation. It raises the public consciousness of martial arts.”
With this strategy and his own work ethic, it has all paid off as he now has more than 700 students total, with 40 percent of them being adults.
Taylor’s students are what drive his business and he understands this wholly with ages ranging from 3 years old all the way to 80 years old. He has a way to follow up with students and their behavior and aims to set all up for success.
He indicated the reasons kids need karate vary so much.
“Parents want kids to work on discipline and listening skills. Work on ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir.’ A skill can become a habit, and we have the tools to help with it,” he said. “It can be a child that’s being bullied with no athletic ability, it can be an adult who was intrigued and can utilize it as a way to get in shape.”
Taylor’s teaching style is known as Wado-Ryu, one of the four main styles of Japanese karate. It is a union of Shotokan and Jujitsu, which are styles based on standing up and being thrown to the ground, respectively.
At the same time, the “Bushido” title that is in his business name, refers to “way of the warrior.” While it is not a specific style, it was famous for being the code of the Samurai.
At the current time, Taylor has two studios, which added up to more than 16,000 square feet total of studio space, and are considered the top in the United States.
The studios are also in the middle of a new lighting remodel that will be finished by the anniversary weekend.
“We are exited to showcase the latest in LED lighting technology in a highly visible business here in Murfreesboro and encourage any one who is interested to stop by the 40-year anniversary to take a look,” County Wide Electric Operations Manager James Scheele said.
Taylor and County Wide Electric are on board with the green approach and will be recycling 400 T-12 fluorescent bulbs and 200 ballasts in the 10,000-square-foot facility. As part of the overall project, County Wide Electric obtained proper recycle drums for the tubes and ballasts and will deliver them to a facility in Nashville.
With this initiative, the fluorescent bulbs that have been declared hazardous to the environment will be put to bed and replaced with clean energy with the LED technology.
As activities will span both locations, Taylor encouraged everyone to attend, especially former students.
Also on Saturday, Murfreesboro Mayor Tommy Bragg will be in attendance during the award ceremony at the Broad Street location at 11:30 a.m. At this time, the founding members will be recognized for their contributions to the school.
“We’d love for any former student to come say hi to us. Anyone that has ever trained at the studio, we’d love for former students to come in and say hey,” Taylor added.
For a complete list of the day’s activities, visit www.bskonline.com.