Craig Mattingly began training in martial arts 20 years ago because he was interested in the mechanics of it. A fan of kung fu films as a child, he was intrigued by how a man getting along in years could throw people around as if they were light as a feather.
The “cool” factor of martial arts may have drawn Mattingly into the field, but the lifestyle and way of thinking are what kept him there. He is now a third-degree Black Belt in two systems — Hakutsuru, commonly referred to as White Crane, and Shorin-Ryu karate. His experience and dedication culminated in September when Mattingly, the son of Francis “Toodle” and Joan Mattingly, Loretto, was inducted into the Universal Martial Arts Association Hall of Fame and named an Instructor of the Year.
The owner of Family Karate Center Ky. Inc. in Bardstown, Mattingly was humbled by the award and induction, not only because it came as a complete surprise, but also because the man who nominated him is considered one of the most accomplished martial arts practitioners in the world. A 10th-degree Black Belt in many systems, including Hakutsuru, Shorin-Ryu and Kobudo, the art of weapons, Grandmaster Tony Sandoval is the head instructor at Family Karate Center Ky. A longtime member of the UMAA Hall of Fame, Sandoval was given the Living Legend award in September, so he and Mattingly attended the black-tie ceremony together outside Washington, D.C., along with Mattingly’s wife, Jackie.
Sandoval is a modest man considering his achievements — which include a 1972 World Champion award for Black Belt Kumite fighting at the Tokyo World Games, a 1980 World Champion award for Black Belt Kata forms at the World Silver Cup in California, and feature stories in several martial arts publications, as well as being a highly decorated Marine veteran of the Vietnam War.
He is also a man of few words. When asked what he thought about Mattingly as a teacher and student — Mattingly has trained under Sandoval indirectly since 1995 and directly since 2006 — Sandoval gave the thumbs-up sign, adding that he appreciates Mattingly’s can-do attitude and perseverance.
In addition to teaching martial arts, Mattingly owns Mattingly Security Inc. and is the director of security personnel at Flaget Memorial Hospital and St. Catharine College. He is also a patented inventor and former Department of Military Affairs employee assigned to the presidential security detail.
Plus, he’s good with children, perhaps the most difficult age group to connect with, Sandoval said. Family Karate Center Ky. offers classes for ages 4 and up. The physical aspect of martial arts is only part of the picture.
“We put great emphasis on the importance of education pertaining to Knowledge in the mind, Honesty in the heart, and Strength in the body. We will do everything we can to motivate you to become a conscientious and strong future leader,” Sandoval and Mattingly write in literature given to new students.
“He’s given the community a good service,” Sandoval said.
Mattingly sees Family Karate Center Ky. as “a miniature model society.” He makes sure it is a place of openness and relaxation. Mutual respect is the key.
“You push yourself, but you don’t compete against the other person,” he said.
The school encourages positive thinking, Mattingly said, and the physical activity can help improve mental functioning. Someone dealing with anger or depression, for example, might need help learning to breathe correctly.
“The way you move reflects the way you think,” Mattingly said.
Martial arts also places an emphasis on responsibility — “One of the biggest things is we are where we are because of choices we’ve made,” Mattingly said — and peace. It’s about making yourself healthy and good, he said.
“When you quit thinking about fighting and you think about the peace part of it, everything works better,” Mattingly said.