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A Path of Martial Training


I was born, in 1959, into a caring family. My father was from a modern Mennonite background and my mother from a city family. The big things in New Hamburg, Ontario, the small Canadian town where I grew up, were baseball, hockey and, to a lesser degree, lacrosse. I was not a sports-oriented kid, so these things didn't interest me. My father, on the other hand, loved sports and enrolled me in all of these activites. He was disappointed that I did not excel in nor enjoy any of  them. In early high school, he bribed me to take football, saying he would buy me a snowmobile. I took the bait and lasted all of two weeks. He finally let things be and we learned to love to fish together.

With visions of Bruce Lee dancing in his head, Peter Zehr wanted to do karate from a young age. Here he is practising a side kick in his family living room, in 1985.

I always enjoyed watching spy movies, such as In Like Flint and James Bond. The fancy moves they used to incapacitate the bad guys intrigued me and I wanted to see more. In the early 1970s, Bruce Lee was really making it big. I watched The Green Hornet and was fascinated by anything that I took to be karate. I became a fanatical fan of the TV show Kung Fu and watched every move that Kwai Chang Caine made. I recall once asking my sister to punch at me and trying out some of what I had seen.

I pleaded with my parents to let me take karate. My dad thought it was sissy stuff. My mom was a little kinder and when we visited Kitchener, Ont., she let me check out the dojo in the mall. For some reason – I suspect it was the price and the 20-minute drive – they didn't let me enroll in the club.

Even so, I was always fascinated by the way one person could disarm, control and take out one or more assailants. This fascination never left me and today, working as an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer, I realize from my experience dealing with criminals how effective the moves can really be.


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