By Ken Stern 

Curt McCauley: still kicking after all these years


January 2, 2019

STILL PROUDLY PUTTING ON HIS UNIFORM – Over the course of decades Curt McCauley has taught hundreds of students. He also put himself through paces: He is a Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan seventh degree black belt, a Korean martial arts practice.   – Photo by Ken Stern

Curt McCauley lives the adage, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The 75-year-old seventh degree black belt and teacher is once again on the mend: He is recently back home in Shelter Bay following 12 days at the University of Washington hospital in Seattle for pneumonia. In his 34 years of practicing and teaching the Korean martial arts Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan, he has probably voiced that sentiment in class.

Reflecting on his avocation last September, McCauley quoted his mentor: “we do [more] martial and not enough art.” The teaching and the art of his practice may be keeping McCauley going as much as his doctors and the devices they have installed.

He is grateful for the medical technology. In May 2017 he “had massive surgery” with a left ventricle assist device, “basically a fuel pump for a Mercedes Benz attached to the bottom of my heart,” he recounted. He said he had to learn to walk again.

But the commitment of his martial arts peers have also kept him alive. Recalling gaining his sixth degree black belt with eight or nine others and the several day ordeal, he said, “It is about hardship but it is not all about groveling, nasty people. It is all about love, actually.” McCauley was just out of the hospital for that test, too.

He had been on the sidelines, watching, for a week, too weak to get up. He said “it was pretty magical,” that he couldn’t get up from a meditation and “got help from guys to my right and left.” Soon, he said, he could stand up on his own. “I don’t know if I was sucking their energy,” but somehow he gained physical strength. For one demonstration, someone said “we got to get McCauley in here. He’s part of the group,” McCauley recalled, and his response: “‘Are you crazy?’ But I showed what I could do while they created the movement around me. I was so excited I could be a part of it.”

He held up both hands and showed seven fingers: “In February I got an email. I had passed the seventh degree.”

In August the seventh-degree belt was given to him in a surprise ceremony in Anacortes, where students of his, a husband and wife team, have a studio.

Showing a photo of the day, he said “I couldn’t have done it without all of them, the energy and encouragement – and the lady in the pink,” pointing to his wife, “Gretchen.”

He thought back on his years of teaching. Many in town remember the martial arts school he ran in Sam Cram’s barn, east of Maple Avenue off the lane that extends from Caledonia.. “It was 24, 25 years of teaching here. You lose count after a while,” McCauley reflected. He closed it around 2016.

His role now is advising. “I am the teacher of the grand teachers.” He is proud of the achievements of his students, some of whom are teaching in Anacortes, Burlington and Sedro-Woolley, also.

Undoubtedly true: Curt McCauley is still kicking, and teaching, after all these years.


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