Room for interpretation

| November 03, 2005

He has seventh-degree black belts in the goju-ryu, a kind of karate that allows both hard and soft techniques, and fujitsu disciplines, and a sixth-level black belt in American kempo. Kempo is a mixture of karate and kickboxing.

Not bad for a guy who got beat up by a girl when he was 7. “I got the crap kicked out of me by a girl at school,” Benavides says. “I didn’t have a dad, so Mom sent me to karate school.”

He had a black belt by the time he was 10 and was winning Ohio state karate tournaments at 16. “In a year I had 70 trophies. That’s all I did,” Benavides says.

After high school Benavides signed up for a hitch with the U.S. Marines, and after being discharged in 1992, he worked with the Guardian Angels watchdog group in Chicago.

“These guys’ skills and patrols blew what I did in the Marine Corps away,” Benavides says.

The Angels, men who patrol the streets of crime-ridden neighborhoods wearing red berets, helped old women with their groceries, took down the occasional crack house, and got Benavides a gun shoved in his face when he tried to break up a fight between two men.

Benavides says when he gets in situations like that, with a gun in his face and nothing but his martial arts training to help him out, the fear is not that he will get shot. “If someone doesn’t shoot you in the first three seconds, they aren’t going to shoot you,” he says. It’s that he will respond with too much force. He can break eight 2-inch concrete slabs with a single punch.

Benavides now teaches the skills he’s learned to others though private instruction. His students have competed in various cage fighting tournaments and Ultimate Fighting Challenge competitions.

Benavides himself was a cage fighter and wrestler in the Mexican Triple A Wrestling organization. He wrestled as “The Sensei” – his costume was complete with mask and cape – and Benavides says that was one of his toughest gigs.

“That was a frickin’ tough crowd!” Benavides says. Between fights 16-year-old boys would get in the ring and give weapons demonstrations. “If the crowd didn’t like them, they would throw their beer bottles at these kids!”

Besides wrestling, Benavides competed in a number of professional fighting matches in Mexico.

“My record in pro fighting is 6-1, and that one is why I’ll never do it again,” Benavides says. That one loss left Benavides with a torn ACL.

Benavides thinks his trucking career perfectly complements his fighter training. He goes out for hauls and gets back in time to teach a class, or at least see his students compete on the weekends. He’s a day-hauler in the Ohio area, but he wants to expand his training business.

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