“I’ve always been considered a controversial fighter because I’ve always said things the way I believe them to be and not the way everybody wants to hear them at that time. Right or wrong, at least you got my version of it.”


When you’re first starting in the martial arts, it’s so much on your mind if you’re really into it. But as far as I’m concerned, 15 years ago my mind was so much a part of the physical fitness and fighting that when I walked down the street and people would be approaching me from the opposite direction, I would try to project my mind away from my body.

“As a guy’s walking toward me, my mind’s really focused on him. And at that point where I feel he’s just coming past me, I can feel my whole body move inside. Like, if he just twitches the wrong way, I’m going to hit him. I’m not saying I would actually do that to someone on the street. This has always been just a mental exercise I’ve done so that when I did fight, it would be a spontaneous reaction.”

“When I used to train to fight, I used to think as though there was a movie projector in my mind. And this guy that I would fight in my mind was so big, so strong and so fast — bigger, stronger, faster than any mortal living human being there ever was. And I used to beat him in my mind every time. So when it came down to fighting someone for real, it was a snap.
“When I was in the Army, I used to sleep with my left leg outside over the blanket. There was no real reason except that I was thinking about somebody attacking me while I was sleeping — really I had a psycho mind about being attacked and being overly defensive. But it was just that way of keying myself up.
“The state that your mind is in is what your body is going to be in.”

“I was arrogant when I used to fight. But there wasn’t anybody that could beat me. There was nobody on this earth that could ever beat me. It would never enter my mind. It would never happen. And it never did happen because I just wouldn’t allow it.
“I’ve never gone in there with a relaxed attitude, thinking, Oh, we are just going to play a game of tag. I think if I did that, I would have gotten hurt.
“I have always gone in the ring with the attitude that the guy is trying to hurt me. I’m getting in there with the idea of protecting myself. I’m not going in there relaxed.
“But at the same time, I’m not going in there with a vindictive attitude that I’m really going to hurt him. I do whatever I can to defend myself and no more. I make the necessary blocks and punches and attempts to score the point.”

“These guys that tell you they go in there controlling their punches are spitting off the wall. You go in there, you’re trying to hit the guy, to knock him out so you don’t get knocked out. They’re not controlling anything. They never controlled it when they were fighting without equipment. When I was fighting back in ’64, ’65, we never really tried to control it because you can’t trust the other guy. You’ve got to remember something:
“Here are guys moving within a 20-foot square, an 18-foot square. They’ve got a three-minute time limit. When you’re moving around freely and you’re excited and your adrenaline starts flowing and you’re actually fighting, you don’t stop to think about how much you’re going to control. You’re just trying to make sure you don’t get hurt. And when one person gets hurt, they are going to punch a little harder.
“And then you’re not going to let that happen. You’re going to punch them a little harder. And where’s it going to end?”

“I’ve always been a competitor. I’ve always wanted to really get involved in things. And when I did something, especially in athletics, I had to be the best. I didn’t want to settle for second best. I never won a second-place trophy. I either had to be the best or I wouldn’t play. So everything I ever did as far as athletics, I approached with that mental attitude. And it’s always been very successful for me.
“I lived next to a schoolyard, and there was always something happening outdoors in Hawaii. You played sports all year-round and everything was competitive — who was the best? It was that way even in grammar school. The best guy had to be the strongest guy. So it was not only being able to physically participate in sports but be physically strong.”

“The general public always go[es], ‘You guys are crazy to get in there fighting the way you do. You guys can get killed.’ But you can get killed walking across the street. I think for people that pursue fighting to the extent that I have, it is a thrill. It’s really a contest within yourself.
“You know you are playing a game within yourself. It’s not so much whoever they throw in the ring with you. That doesn’t make any difference. The real game is with yourself. It’s a mental game and a physical game to see what you can take, how much you can put out, what point of stress, mentally, you can go to until you break and you can’t compete anymore. I mean, you give up, you weaken, he finds that soft point and he makes the ‘kill,’ so to speak. You know it has to be. I’ve often told my students that they’ve got to have a little sadistic attitude.
“As a child, I got exposed to the Oriental culture. And not knowing it, I later found myself living that lifestyle for quite some time. I was born and raised in Hawaii, and Japanese culture has always been around me. Even though I was Hawaiian, I never really hung around with Hawaiian-ancestry people. When I was going to grammar school, I used to hang around with a lot of Japanese kids. And I kind of like the way they are. They’re extremely hardworking people. They’re diligent, meticulous. And when they do something, they really do it well.” 

Mike Stone was Black Belt’s 1971 Karate Player of the Year and 1994 Instructor of the Year. This Black Belt Classic was first published in 1977.

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"I just got home from Germany," McKee said. "In addition to teaching several classes, I was the keynote speaker at a large seminar in Munich, training attendees on marketing strategies and in how to implement new programs for martial arts schools.

"For the past 10 years, I've been advising and teaching various marketing groups and schools. I provide different services specific to the needs of the particular school or organization. One of the issues I worked on this morning in Germany was that many martial arts schools there can't get into public schools, so what can they do? I provided them with details and materials outlining how I overcame that same problem at my school in North Carolina.

"McKee is savvy enough to know that different countries impose different rules on the martial arts, which is why she advises her clients to review her presentations and then choose what works for them. It's a strategy that would make Bruce Lee proud.

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McKee's journey to Germany wasn't the only update she had. "My husband and I decided to sell the building," she announced in her best news-anchor voice. "I had some realtors come in and tell me what they thought it was worth, then I added another million and it sold in three days. We downsized to a smaller school I'd built a few years ago.

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A few months from now when she isn't chasing pumas off her deck, you'll be likely to find McKee sprucing up the place in between teaching beach-view classes, all while overseeing her school and her clients on her laptop — and watching the sun set on a perfectly executed exit plan. As of today, that exit plan includes being named Black Belt's 2019 Woman of the Year.

— Terry L. Wilson

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