by Herb Borkland
As a 16-year-old Kansas City Golden Gloves fighter, Bob Thurman ran up an 86–3 record. In 1977, Thurman joined legendary karate pioneer Jim Harrison’s bushidokan style. Thurman entered pro kickboxing in 1979, posting a 19-1 record before his stunning 1982 defeat of world Middleweight Champion Alvin Prouder.
Thurman defended his World title 10 times. But, in 1989, after a mugger’s murderous assault on his wife, Betsy, he retired from the ring to create and teach worldwide his “CounterAttactics” system. It’s designed to stress mental awareness, psychological strategies, and tactics and techniques for surviving and escaping from street violence.
Bob Thurman: I grew up in Kansas City. My step-father ran a hotel-management company.
My real father was a Marine Corps colonel — a Marine’s Marine. I get my ass-kicking from him,
but my step-dad was an amazing human being.
Herb Borkland: How did you first hear about martial arts?
BT: I had a friend who was a brown belt in karate. I was a sophomore in high school
when I started to earn my black belt under Steve Mackey at Jim Harrison’s school.
People think I began as a boxer, but the truth is I knew I wanted to be a kickboxer
and needed defined boxing skills. So, I put the boxing of Dave Cannady together
with the kickboxing of Steve Mackey, and Mark and Jeff Payne, and turned pro in 1979.
In 1982, Alvin Prouder and I fought nonstop for 12 rounds. I was worried because Mark Payne
was one of my teachers and Alvin knocked Mark out. But, basically, it was weird because I had no
doubt I was going to win. I just wanted to fight everybody, then, and I defended my world title 10 times.
HB: Your turning point?
BT: It was 10 o’clock, and my wonderful wife, Betsy, was meeting me for lunch and came with
a friend. She jumped out of the car in front of the dojo. A mugger walked up and said, “Hey, b****,
give me your purse. Drop it!” She did. He grabbed her with his right hand and shot her in the face
at point-blank range. She was seven weeks pregnant with Maggie, our daughter.
I heard the shot, but it was a good neighborhood, and it didn’t register. Her girlfriend came running in. We rushed outside. Betsy
was lying in a pool of blood. I thought she was going to die. They wouldn’t let me ride in the ambulance with her, and wouldn’t let me
into the trauma center at the hospital.
Betsy and my daughter pulled through. Later, the doc told me the bullet penetrated the scalp and ricocheted and coasted along
the top of her skull and came out the back. A better aim or highercaliber bullet, and she and Maggie would both be dead.
I fought the two fights remaining on my kickboxing contract and retired as the undefeated world super-middleweight champion.
With the help of Dr. James Rasicot, a former police officer and social psychologist, I developed a personal safety training program called
CounterAttactics. It uses not only physical self-defense but also the psychological aspects.
Self-defense starts in your head more than in your body. Be aware of what’s happening right here and right now. Listen to your
instincts; value “the gift of fear.”
Since 1991, I have dedicated myself to teaching groups and individuals worldwide the tactics, techniques and attitude to successfully respond to a personalthreat situation.
BT: Persistence in what I have going for me. Just like when I fought, I was swinging 24/7.
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