One Of The Greatest Achievements Of My Life, To Overcome Racism And Ageism

How I Overcame Racism And Ageism

One of the greatest achievements of my life!

I’d listen to the podcast, if I were you, that old blog post is a bit of a messy narrative.

Your call, FitOldDog

I should really fix up this old narrative. I will, one day, but it’s time to ride the bike!

My life has taught me, in many ways, that it is not a good idea to give up too soon in any endeavor that you really care about.

I must admit, however, that due to no fault or credit of my own, I have enjoyed a really good life. Born during a war, of which I was oblivious, raised by my mother to respect education as the road to freedom from a life of drudgery, in the presence of intelligent and interesting siblings (which I am only just beginning to appreciate), and endowed with a fairly effective central processing unit, I enjoyed a university education and three years as a veterinarian in practice in England, which I then escaped to enter a 40-year research career that took me around the world and provided a good living with which to raise a family. I am now settled here in North Carolina with three great sons, six grandchildren (not to mention a great partner), and a new life of blogging for fun (daily) and business (eventually). Basically, I have somehow eluded the negative effects of ‘living in interesting times.’ In a nutshell, I am one lucky SOB!

What did I achieve with all that good luck? Well! I became an effective clinician in veterinary practice, obtained a PhD in Neuropathology, became a boarded Veterinary Pathologist in the USA and a member of the Royal College of Pathologists (I lost that because I forgot to pay my dues!), published a bunch of scientific articles and helped a number of doctoral and post-doctoral students with their careers. I also raised healthy kids, so I clearly wasn’t too bad as a dad. What else?

When I think back on the question, ‘What was my greatest achievement?’ the answer is always ‘Kenny.’

Who was Kenny? He was a black (should I say African American?) guy, about 28 years of age at the time, whom I met in my late 40s during Jeet kune Do training, when I was obsessed with martial arts. I have a tendency to become somewhat fixated on the ‘hobby’ of the moment – right now it is triathlons.

I was becoming jaded by Kung Fu and ready for a change, when I wandered by the dojo (an old empty office complex) and another group was using the barn of a room. They were practicing Filipino stick fighting, which is a kind of lethal dance in the right hands. You get your knuckles rapped all the time, but what a great workout. Here is a fairly tame example of stick fighting drills.

I was mesmerized! Then they started a Wing Chun drill. I was hooked.

The group consisted of one Filipino, the instructor, and five or six pretty tough-looking ‘black guys.’ Remember, I was a 5′ 6″ white man in my late forties. These guys were not pleased to see me, so I was ignored for an hour until finally the instructor said, “Yes! What do you want?” I replied that I wanted to join the group. “OK! Join” There are no fees, no belts, we just work out where and when we can.”

I then went to every workout I could and was largely ignored by everyone, except for Kenny. He was about 5′ 10,” tough as nails, mean (to me, at least) and it was clear that he wanted me gone. For the next three months Kenny went for me whenever he got a chance, and I have never been so beat up in my life. Remember, however, that I had just finished 18 months of Kung Fu training that was directed towards fitness, mind control and resistance to pain. I could handle Kenny’s attacks, just! It was endless, the constant unspoken aggression, combined with physical violence just within the rules of the sport.

Then one evening during a workout, after about three months of this constant battering four to six times per week, something changed. I was working out with Kenny yet again, in some kind of drill, and he was giving me everything he had, as usual. Then suddenly he stopped and came over to me, and put his arm around my shoulders, which made me a little nervous. He had never really spoken to me before, apart from via his feet and hands. Kenny said, quietly, “You know, man, you’re alright.” That was it! The aggression was over, and I had earned my rite of passage. I, ‘whitey,’ had earned his respect, and we enjoyed training together until I left that group a couple of years later. I felt that I had broken down a race barrier, or an age barrier, or some kind of barrier, and it felt like a great achievement. It still does.

I had some remarkable experiences whilst studying martial arts, such as attending a training camp held by Bruce Lee’s main training partner, Dan Inosanto. During a visit to China in 1988, related to my research work on the nose, I was invited to work out with the Chinese Kung Fu Team because my host knew about my martial arts enthusiasm. This was an intimidating experience not to be missed. Great kids with remarkable skills.

Tank Man Tiananmen Square, 1989. From:

I have fond memories of that visit to China, as I found the Chinese I met to be very welcoming and friendly – and they made great beer. I was housed in the student dormitories, near Tiananmen Square. Maybe I met ‘Tank Man,’ who knows? Now, that is intimidating – what a guy!

I  learned two valuable lessons during my few years of martial arts training. One: if you can avoid a fight do so, even by running away if that is an option. Two: if you can’t avoid a fight, find a weapon, any weapon, and use it to effect. So I now train for triathlons. The perfect sport for running away (Brave Sir Kevin):

I still feel good about my interaction with Kenny. I hope that he is doing well.


Kevin (Old Dog)



  1. Yes, you do tend to jump into things. I can dabble, take a taste and move on.
    There is a basic rule that you do not take a knife to a gun fight.
    Me I do not go to any fight and always run if I can. If I cannot then there must be total aggression, nothing less will do.
    To date I have generally got away but not always.
    To be Frank I would have got pissed off with Kenny the bully and gone elsewhere. I would feel no charity just see him as a sad case.
    It seems to me Americans are far too hung up on race. To me it is some cultures that cannot mix, all races (however defined) are able to mix.

    • Kevin Morgan says

      Hi Trevor,

      I saw Kenny as the product of his environment and history, but basically a good guy. In this society the ‘White Man’ has much of the power, so he was fighting back in the only way he knew how. He wasn’t being a bully, as stopped short of any level violence I couldn’t handle, but he still wanted me gone. I still think/feel that this was a small step forward with respect to prejudice, which in this case was against me. It is a long time ago now, but I still have good feelings for Kenny.

      Glass half full versus glass half empty, I guess.

      This is life!



      • Another hairy dog story to show experiences vary:

        I was “volunteered” for the boxing competition at HMS St Vincent. I hate boxing. So I had a chat with my first round opponent and got an agreement that I would let him win so long as he did not cause me excess pain or any harm. This guy was a ginger Glaswegian called Dougal. His nick name was the Poison Dwarf.
        Round one he came straight out and smacked me on the nose. He kept this up but I basically dodged and rolled. He was possessed. He seemed determined to do harm.
        End of round one on parting I reminded him of our agreement. He just sneered glassy eyed at me.
        Beginning of round two I walked out and as he charged at me I kicked him in the balls. As he doubled over in pain I kneed him in the mouth taking out two teeth. He went down and I did also landing with my knees on his chest. I was pulled up and he was announced the winner as I was disqualified and sent to the Chief Petty Officer for a reprimand. On leaving the ring I said “I knew you would ‘win’!”
        In the Chief’s office I was bawled at in a long tirade telling me that I had broken the Queensbury rules, etc., etc..
        It was the normal ranting bawling dressing down and I was orderer out of his sight. As I left I heard a clear stage whisper “Nicely done though”.
        I was never again volunteered for boxing and was put in the cross country team. This I enjoyed and became the fastest in the team
        Strangely as some sort of coincidence I was not picked on by other ratings for the rest of my time at St Vincent.
        I have no nostalgia for Poison Dwarf. He was just a vicious thick little shit who liked harming others.

        Experience teaches each ot us differing lessons does it not?

        • Hi Trevor,
          It would appear that Poison Dwarf had ‘issues,’ and that you gave him the perfect care he needed, kind sole that you are. Well done! I really like that story. Reminds me of the time that I was on duty as a veterinarian on Christmas Eve in Wellington. The partners invited me to the party that evening, but I was on duty and they knew it, but the head guy persuaded me to have a drink anyway, and then another. Later that night, somewhat inebriated, I fell over a cow whilst administering calcium borogluconate (successfully, as I didn’t drop the bottle!). The next day, the farmer complained to the boss of the practice that ‘the vitinary’ was drunk when he came to tend to the cow. The boss had me into his office and gave me a dressing down (no drink this time!), but as I left he said, with a wink, “Did you enjoy the party?” Same idea.
          As we say in the USA, you did good, Trevor!

  2. Kevin,

    DOUBLE KUDOS for “Brave Sir Robin!”

    Like the Kenny story. I earned my Black Belt in Hawaii and learned that you do not have to white to be racist. But when you work hard and long enough, ‘pay your dues’… the barriers all seem to come down.

    Been browsing thru your blog and I hope to be as awesome as you in 25 years! I am currently active as both a striking and grappling competitor at 45, and have no plans on slowing down as I age.

    The most dangerous man I ever had the “pleasure” of working with was one Wally Jay, who at 78 years of age graced my dojo with his Yoda-like presence. This was 1995. I never will forget being chased around my own studio, tapping… tapping… tapping from the pain as my wife and Students looked on.

    Kevin, thank you for your walk. I appreciate what you are doing in these pages for athletes of all ages.

    Keep Stepping,


  3. Hi Kurt, thanks for the comment. Yep! I’ll keep on stepping for as long as I can. Racism is a funny thing, and it comes in all sizes. Basically, I think it’s a built in ‘fear of the other.’ Deep in our survival systems, and inappropriately applied most of the time in the current state of human societies. The trick is to not do it oneself, if you can, though it can be very subtle. Like your attitude. Cheers, Kevin

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.