A slice of local life -- George Evans gets a kick out of teaching martial arts

GEORGE EVANS watches his charges as they work on vigorous, yet precise, Tae Kwon Do moves.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.
GEORGE EVANS watches his charges as they work on vigorous, yet precise, Tae Kwon Do moves.

George Evans gets very excited about martial arts.

Maybe that’s because the owner and head instructor of Northwest Taekwondo, located at 1203 12th Street in Hood River, has practiced martial arts since he was five years old.

“I started with Kung Fu, and that was because I watched a Bruce Lee movie and I had to learn the karate chop,” said Evans. Since then, he’s practiced many different forms, including traditional Muay Thai, Judo, Aikido, Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Evans has owned Northwest Taekwondo for the past four years, although both the dojo and his involvement with it go back much further. Opened by Gary Muma in 1974, Evans worked as an assistant instructor for 20 years before purchasing the business when Muma retired.

Evans describes Taekwondo as “a stand-up martial art that is self-defense centered.” His pupils range in age from five to 70.

Because of that age range, there are several different Taekwondo experiences at the dojo: For younger kids, the focus is on body awareness and coordination; for preteens, that changes to “bully-proofing.” Self-defense comes during the teenage years, and for adults it’s “a deep practice of the art.”

Students enter a belt ranking system, working their way from white (the lowest level) to black (the highest), which takes an average of three years.

He also teaches Jiu-Jitsu. That’s a relatively new one for Evans, who started practicing at the age of 52.

Brazilian Jui-Jusitu is “a hard workout, an exciting workout, a smart workout — it’s like athletic chess,” said Evans. “You’re thinking your way through Jui-Jusitu all the time.”

The martial art began in the 1990s, and is gaining momentum. It’s the other side of Taekwondo, Evans explained — where Taekwondo is practiced standing up, Jiu-Jitsu is more “grappling on the ground, generally speaking. It’s the other half of the self-defense package,” he said. “If you can stand up, you’re not really there yet; you need to function on the ground.”

This is particularly important for young women. “For young ladies, (an attack) is going to happen up close,” he said.

Taekwondo and Jiu-Jitsu make kids “safe in the world,” said Evans, “They can defend themselves against trouble.”

Although Muma didn’t take kids younger than six, Evans takes five year olds. “I wanted to take the kids who are ready,” he said. “Five is a good place to start — younger than that and it’s not really a martial arts experience.”

Evans enjoys every aspect of his job, but particularly seeing his students grow. “Take the little kids,” he said. “I just love the little kids because we’re giving them so many skills—life skills and physical skills—and I get to see them turn into humans from little babies.”

A lot of his students stay with Taekwondo “from when they sign up to college and beyond,” he said. “A school teacher gets them for a year, and I get them for ten years or more. I just love that — we go from ‘can’t stand still’ to serious fighters. Taking children through that learning process is just so exciting.”

Evans is originally from Northern Ontario, Canada, and came to Hood River via Boulder, Colo. He attended the University of Colorado and majored in business, taking martial arts classes as well.

“Boulder was nice, but it hasn’t got any water,” said Evans. He moved to Hood River because of — what else?—the wind. The only martial arts studio in Hood River at that time was Muma’s, and he began practicing there soon after enrolling his son, Alex.

“I took him to do marshal arts and I was just sitting there anyway. I thought, ‘What am I doing? I’m a martial artist, I may as well be working out.’”

Commuting to Portland to work at a variety of tech jobs—the list includes startups, Fortune 500 companies and some aerospace—he always made sure he was off in time to teach class at Northwest Taekwondo.

“With each job I’d say, ‘I need to be in Hood River by 3 to teach these kids,’” he said.

He’s retired from the tech business now, and his days of commuting are over. Instead, he spends his days by sharing his wealth of martial arts knowledge with his students, and feels blessed to have the opportunity to do so.

“I’m so lucky,” he said. “I think it every day. I was a tech salesperson before I ‘retired,’ and I’m so lucky to do this. After having a regular career in sales, this is just such a blessing, to be able to work there. It soothes your soul.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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