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Thousands Inspired

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Ray Rice stands next to his sandwich board sign that sits on Main Street when his studio is open. It's full of encouragement and mementoes of his 45 years of teaching and competing.


With one word, Ray Rice wrapped up 45 years of teaching martial arts. His presence on Main Street, Forest City is highlighted by words like "attitude," and "humility," painted across the fronts of his two storefront studio.

His classes have touched thousands.

He has traveled the world and the United States fighting and participating in workshops, but his heart, no matter where he is, is with Jesus and his hopes that his students will learn, "discipline, character, and morals."

He showed a fish logo with the words, "Jesus. Don't leave earth without him."

He blames an early failure to pray and study the Bible on some setbacks. After kicking off his teaching efforts in 1976, his first studio was a total loss to fire with no insurance in 1982. He worked extra jobs to keep the school open and learned hard business lessons along the way.

To say that he never gave up is pretty obvious. A sign out front during class reads, "The years teach much that the day never knew."

45 years looks pretty good on paper. More than 16,000 days held their share of pain and disappointment.

"Disappointment is the devil's most powerful tool," he said, remembering how hard it was to bury his parents and show up for work, "with a smile on my face."

He added, "Grief can really take a toll."

But Rice lights up like a candle when he talks about his two sons, Brandon and Cory who have both earned black belts in Karate and his friend and co-teacher, Charles Carson, who has been with him for 44 of those 45 years.

"If you look up loyalty in the dictionary, his picture is next to it," Rice said of Carson.

He is also deeply grateful to his wife, Anita, for the support she has shown through those more than 16,000 days during which time his studio was egged, his house and studio broken into, and so-called "friends" swindled him out of personal finances.

Now, almost 66, he faces another challenging bout, prostate cancer. He feels laser treatment and early detection will give him a good outcome.

Among the most inspiring friends were Jack Adams, "Like a brother to me," and Stanley Webb, Jeff Twitty, but adds, "There's a bunch of them."

Another of the dozens of slogans written on his walls is "Tough times never last. Tough people do."

He also grins to remember Tommy Hicks, whose Amazin' Shopper preceded Rutherford Weekly. Hicks would often match Rice with fictional opponents like Chuck Norris and would predict battles between Rice and other local notables. Hicks put Rice's picture on the Hanes Tower in another of the former publisher's favorite gags.

"I loved that," Rice remembered with a laugh.

Rice's years of success have been colored with many disappointments, students who complain about the positive teachings, the Bible-based Christianity, and leave, only for Rice to later read their names in court records.

Despite many betrayals, attacks and bad fortune, Rice was determined to compete at the International level. With his father, Ralph's encouragement he won the world Middleweight Kickboxing Championship in 1991.

Ralph passed the following November 1992 and Ray returned to teaching the day of his father's funeral.

"I don't want anybody to feel sorry for me," he says in a long remembrance he wrote. "There's a price to pay to get ahead or to the top. I know I've gone beyond the standard. This is the reason I stay so busy. It has taken me years to learn how to deal with all these things." He added, "I love and care for each and every student no matter how young or old."

He said his energy for the work has come from cards, spoken thanks, especially from teens who say they have learned about Jesus and stayed away from gangs and drugs due to his influence.

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