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Words of Wisdom: Dennis Brown

dennis brown

The editors of Black Belt called Dennis Brown one of the "25 Most Influential Martial Artists of the 20th Century!" The road to that rank began when he started learning wushu and tai chi from Chinese instructors and continued when he traveled to China in 1982 to train at Shaolin Temple, becoming the first African-American to do so. In 1998 he was the magazine’s "Kung Fu Artist of the Year." Dennis Brown shares his words of wisdom with the best advice he's had and worst advice he's been given.

Black Belt Plus

Best Advice: When God sends you a message, listen.

“I was scheduled to be on American Airlines flight 77 on 9/11,” Brown said. “I was taking 11 of my students to China for training. I woke up in the middle of the night because something told me to reschedule the flight to accommodate a weekend training session. So I took that advice and unknowingly put my fate in my own hands.“

On Friday, the airline called and said, ‘We have an earlier flight. Can you make it?’ I hustled everyone together and made the flight, not knowing that our original flight in a few hours would be hijacked and crash into the Pentagon, killing everyone on board.

“The plane was full except for 12 empty seats. Those would have been our seats. About that day, I told people, ‘I was scheduled to be on that plane. I was supposed to be in China. God doesn’t make mistakes.’”

The best tip Brown has received in the earthly realm came from his grandmother, he recalled. “She said, ‘Find something that you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I’ve been teaching kung fu since 1971, and I still love it.”

Worst Advice: Get a real job.

“One of my relatives tried very hard to convince me that I could never make enough money to support myself or a family by smacking my friends in the park with swords,” Brown said. “He told me I had to find a job that I could make money at, so I tried that for years.“

I didn’t enjoy going to work — nothing was fun. Then one day, I got up and decided to put my life in reverse and focus on the one thing that made me happy: martial arts. My journey in the martial arts has been very successful for me on many levels. I have three successful Shaolin Wu-Shu Training Centers and am proud to have risen from family poverty by teaching old-school traditional kung fu.”

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