Steve Blakeley has played a parent to thousands over the years. Though he and his wife have never had any children of their own, the taekwon-do instructor of Roosevelt County said his passion has allowed him to serve as a mentor to his students.
Blakeley, a native of Morton, Texas, grew up in Roosevelt County and has been teaching taekwon-do in eastern New Mexico since 1979. He has traveled to several countries, including Mexico, Korea, Ireland and Italy, through practicing the martial art.
Blakeley, who will be 62 in August, has given out 67 black belts as taekwon-do master.
Though taekwon-do is a major part of his life, it was his job as director of printing services at Eastern New Mexico University that paid the bills.
He retired from ENMU after 25 years in 2013.
What’s the hardest part of teaching the martial art?
The hardest part with me is spending 12 to 14 years with students who just stop coming or move. You miss spending time with those students.
Given your rural upbringing, do others in the sport notice the difference?
I worked on farms when I was a kid. I typically don’t wear cowboy hats but some of my students do. When we travel, people (in other countries) want to talk to the cowboys. People notice the cowboy hats.
Who would you say is the most underrated martial artist of all time?
I met Chuck Norris at a couple of tournaments, but it would probably be Bill “Superfoot” Wallace. I didn’t care for the man, he was kind of immature and a jerk, but he could fight.
How did you meet your wife?
I owned a restaurant on the square called Sands Restaurant. She came in and applied for a job. She worked there for four to five months before she told me she was going to quit to take a job at the Portales News-Tribune. I think that was a great idea because I wanted to take her out. We dated for about two years before getting married.
What is your dream job?
I’m doing it now, it’s the way it is.
What is something that people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m also a draftsman. I draw houses for people. I worked for a lot of the contractors around here drawing house plans. They offered drafting in junior high those years and I started when I was 12 or so drawing plans for my dad. I took several classes in it. It’s totally different from martial arts, it’s more creative.
What’s your favorite food?
I like a good steak with all the fixings.
Who would be your ideal person to train with?
Demetrius Havanas (a late Karate black belt from Dallas). I had the opportunity to train with him a little in the (1970s). He was a very small man, same body style as I have, but he was so incredibly fast. He always fought with a smile on his face and he was just a joy to be around.
What are some of your hobbies?
I’m a bow hunter, I like to hunt elk. I like to play tennis when my back’s not hurting me. I like to do karaoke. I sing mainly country and western songs.
What are a few things you want to do now that you’re retired?
There’s several places in the U.S. I haven’t been to so I want to see more of the United States. I want to take my wife to see Mount Rushmore. We want to see some of our own country now.
— Compiled by staff writer Christina Calloway