When he wasn’t reading manga, studying, or drawing in his college library, David Clark could be found reading about martial arts.
Clark trains and trains at Spartan Fitness, a martial arts and fitness gym in Homewood that teaches a variety of fighting styles, including muay thai, boxing, and jiu jitsu.
He began to learn all he could about martial arts in college, starting with “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do” by Bruce Lee, which describes the first mixed martial art created by Lee.
âI was the kind of guy in school who, if we didn’t finish the textbook or the lesson, I would read the entire textbook,â Clark said. “I did the same with regard to martial arts.”
His college library had several books on different styles of fighting that sparked his interest, including judo, karate and boxing, he said.
After years of training and amateur fights, Clark made his debut as a professional fighter, defeating fellow featherweight fighter Rae Thomas in the B2 fight series on August 28.
Clark won the fight in the first round with a final time of 2:23. He said he was able to take advantage of Thomas’ weak ground play and put him on the ground, where Clark was able to attack and force the referee to stop the fight.
At school, Clark’s newfound interest in martial arts gave him the opportunity to learn how to defend himself, he said. He said he struggled with bullying from a young age, but martial arts taught him not only to stand up for himself, but also not to care about how others perceive him.
He said there was one bully in particular who ruthlessly lashed out at him at school. When Clark was ready to fight his tyrant, he asked him why he was always picking on him, he said.
He found the bully was threatened by his behavior, accusing Clark of thinking he was better than everyone else, he said. He learned, through martial arts, not to care about how others perceive him and also how to express his “freedom,” he said.
âThe more freedom you have, the more conflict you will have in life,â said Clark. âLearning to master conflict and to be comfortable with it is learning to master your freedom. “
Clark said he learned from Lee that the hardest thing for people to do is express themselves freely at that time, without worrying about impressing people, yet still be attentive.
Conflict is inevitable and permeates every aspect of life, he said. Martial arts are comfortable with threats, not only physically but also through identity – like racism, Clark said.
âThis is the essence of martial arts and problem solving,â said Clark. âBe aware of your environment and take action accordingly. “
Clark’s passion transferred from the library to his local boxing gym in his hometown of Gadsden, where he was also able to practice his karate footwork which he learned from watching YouTube videos, he said. -he declares.
âWith the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, you have to be aware of the pitfalls of each style,â Clark said. âIn karate, you have no hands. In boxing, you have hands.
Soon after, he took part in boxing, wrestling and jiu jitsu competitions, all at the same time, he said.
Clark said he was fascinated by the world as a whole and saw martial arts as a way to see the world differently.
This exposed him to different Eastern philosophies as well as different schools of thought from different cultures and the way they are expressed, he said.
For example, a principle of jiu jutsu is “to bend but not to break,” he said. Another comes from Tibetan Buddhism and its three levels of generosity: material generosity, time and fearlessness.
Fearlessness is a way of giving people a different view of how to âget to the world,â Clark said.
“People will come to me and tell me that they are not strong enough to practice martial arts, that they do not have the mental courage to defend themselves, to get in shape or to learn new things” Clark said. “Fearlessness teaches people that through their actions and their time, they can do it.”
Martial arts teach people to control their thoughts when threatened, and it can’t be done alone, which makes it “beautiful,” Clark said.
âIt has been around for thousands of years,â he said. âThe things I learned have been passed down from generation to generation by other people. You have to open your mind and accept that you don’t know things. When you accept that you don’t know things, you can’t be a fool.
Clark is currently preparing for his next fight and to launch his new program, the Blue Belt Initiative, he said. The Blue Belt Initiative will teach staff from various police departments in Jefferson County the fundamentals of jiu jitsu with the general population of Spartan Fitness, he said.
âMartial arts, for me, is a way of showing people that if you give yourself the time and effort to master yourself, you can do all kinds of things,â Clark said. “Martial arts are like a thermostat to show you this principle.”