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Marysville martial artist a Hall of Famer
William Clingan's mother never wanted him to get hurt.
That's why she always prevented Bill from playing football, basketball, or any other sport when he was growing up in the rural town of Cumberland, Md.
At age 13, Clingan sought some way to keep himself busy during the "boring" summer months, living in the farmland of western Maryland.
One of Clingan's brother's friends had just returned from Japan and was frequently found in a garage practicing Shotokan, a style of karate, wearing his karategi, the signature white uniform of a martial arts practitioner.
"He was kicking on a bag and I thought he was wearing his pajamas," Clingan said.
Following that moment, more than 50 years ago, the now 66-year-old Clingan immersed himself in the world of martial arts.
His journey has taken him across the world from South Korea to the Pentagon and he is now recognized as one of the most influential figures in the art of Tang Soo Do.
Now a grandmaster, Clingan has operated Clingan's Korean Karate Academy in Marysville, the longest-running studio in the Mid-Valley, for 40 years.
For his contributions to the sport, Clingan will be inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame on Saturday in Dallas, Texas.
Clingan was going through his mail a couple of weeks ago when he saw a letter from the organization. Thinking it was "just another gimmick," he handed the letter to his son Charles to discard.
After Charles realized his father was being honored by the most prestigious martial arts institution in the country, he told him to take a second look.
Though extremely honored by the distinction, Clingan said if he had it his way he would hold the ceremony in his Marysville studio.
"If I go into the Hall of Fame it's because of the people I trained here and across the country," Clingan said. "(Marysville) is where I earned it. Never in my life did I think I would go into the Hall of Fame."
Clingan's come a long way since secretly sparring in a garage in Maryland.
He enlisted in the Air Force in 1962 and was stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea.
Seeking the best possible training in the martial arts, Clingan went off-base and discovered the dojang of Grandmaster Ki Yun Yi and the Korean martial art form Tang Soo Do, meaning "the way of the Chinese hand."
In 1963, before Grandmaster Hwang Kee in Seoul, Clingan became the youngest American to earn a black belt in Tang Soo Do. He earned master honors at age 27.
With post-Korean War animosity as his main deterrent, Clingan said earning that black belt in a foreign country was a huge character-builder.
"I was an outsider to the Korean people and had to earn their respect," Clingan said. "I had to learn a lot about people overall. If you want somebody to respond to you, you don't use threats, you show total respect."
Clingan made two return visits to South Korea to finish his training and, after being stationed at Beale Air Force Base, established his own studio in the Mid-Valley in May of 1971.
In that same month, Clingan established the All-American Tang Soo Do Association and later became the vice president of the International Tang Soo Do Federation.
He served 16 years in the Air Force and finished his 20-year career in the military with four years of service in the Army.
Clingan learned "confidence and respect" from his two biggest influences, Grandmasters Yi and Bong Soo Han, traits he tries to impart on his students daily.
As a grandmaster, Clingan gauges himself not by what he has accomplished, but by what his students have done.
"Look at your students, see how well they're doing and you take pride in that," Clingan said. "That's your pride when you're teaching. To learn something is alright, but if you're not ready to share, then why learn it?"
Clingan is now even teaching the grandchildren of some of his former students.
One of Clingan's biggest thrills was working at the Pentagon under former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.
He taught briefly in Arkansas and Minnesota before settling in the Yuba-Sutter area. At one time, Clingan operated studios in Paradise, Chico, Gridley, Beale and Yuba City, along with his current Marysville location.
Clingan's only remaining dojang is a quaint, blue building on 14th Street.
His office, located in the back of the building, doesn't feel like the domicile of a grandmaster of the martial arts, and it's not meant to be.
There are no plaques or certificates, just a rack with karategis resting on hangers. He doesn't believe he's "better than anyone," but that he just worked hard to get to this point.
Saturday he'll be accepting the highest honor an American martial artist can receive.
Monday, he's back to work, teaching the people who helped him earn it.
"I don't look for things," Clingan said. "I accept things as they are right now. I'm not going to be any different tomorrow than I am today.
"I'm going to teach the same way and have the same compassion for people."