The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

64° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Uprooted by Katrina

    Randall Heller has lived a far-from-perfect life.

    “”I was the person with the cloud over their head that nothing is going right for,”” Heller said.

    The 58-year-old now owns a kuk sool won martial arts club at the Historic Y in Tucson. However, he walked a long, bumpy path to get there.

    “”From 1995 to 2005, I had a successful martial arts school in New Orleans,”” Heller said. “”I started with six students in 1995 and it grew to an enrollment of 250 students just before the hurricane hit.””

    Heller’s good fortune began to degenerate due to a degenerating hip and Hurricane Katrina.

    “”Just before the hurricane hit, my wife and I decided that we would evacuate and I’m glad we did,”” he said. “”Because I’m originally from Arizona, we decided to come back.””

    Upon relocating to Tucson, Heller was able to have his hip replaced and open a new martial arts school.

    “”I was able to open up my school in June of 2006, and in the first three months we recruited 35 students and things were going great,”” he said.

    Soon, the rain clouds would reappear as Heller’s shadow. In October 2006, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

    “”I got a virus somehow that attacked my heart,”” Heller said. “”The doctor said that it was in the heart transplant category.””

    Heller was put on an extensive medication regime, and over a year-and-a-half, miraculously recovered.

    “”So I was able to exercise and get myself back to shape,”” he said. “”In January, I opened a kuk sool won martial arts club in the Historic Y.””

    Throughout the turmoil, Heller relied on his martial arts training to push him through.

    “”Even though it’s a physical training, it’s a mental training as well,”” he said. “”Part of that training is that you never give up, you have a positive attitude, and that you are never pessimistic, you’re always optimistic, you’re always persistent, and that got me through a lot of the rough times.””

    Heller teaches the ideals that pushed him through the challenges of his life- the ideals of kuk sool won.

    “”Kuk sool won is the official martial art of Korea,”” Heller said. “”It’s a circular art, a redirection of energy.””

    Heller describes kuk sool won as a three-legged stool.

    “”The first leg would be family or tribal martial arts,”” he said.

    He compares this section to the movie Braveheart, where individuals were fighting for their tribe or family groups.

    The next leg is Buddhist martial arts.

    “”In Korea, the Buddhist monks had gotten a special allowance to fight when Korea was invaded,”” Keller said. “”They helped the Korean army and Korean families who were attacked, but they couldn’t kill. In Buddhist martial arts, you have the breathing and the joint lock and pressure point strikes.””

    The final leg of the stool is royal court Korean martial arts.

    “”These are martial arts that were taken from the royal courts of Korea and those who defended the king and queen of Korea, and they were specially trained,”” he said.

    Heller says that kuk sool won combines all of the techniques of Korean martial arts.

    “”There are thousands of joint lock techniques,”” he said. “”There’s also kicks, hand strikes, traditional Korean weapons – like the sword, the staff, a fan, a rope, a cane, double short swords, double long swords – as well as traditional chi breathing and meditation techniques.””

    Heller teaches what he calls the four P’s of kuk sool won: patience, practice, persistence and a positive attitude, and believes that these skills are applicable to the rest of their lives.

    “”The life skills they learn are the life skills that allow you to survive the world,”” he said.

    Heller points to the features of kuk sool won that teach each life skill. Patience is taught by the time it takes to advance to a black belt; practice is emphasized in the time that must be spent to learn the exact, and often rapid, motions; persistence is highlighted by the need to keep trying until success is found; and a positive attitude, as well as self-confidence, is enforced in the meditation techniques.

    Heller also tries to communicate his new value of the time he has and the lessons he has learned to his students.

    “”Things happen; bad things happen; and you just have to keep working through those bad things, knowing that one day they’ll get better,”” Heller said. “”But if you don’t work through it and you don’t try to do something, the end result is that nothing’s ever going to get better. No one’s going to hand anything to you, so I knew that and I just kept hoping.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search