Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace still packs a punch
My interview with Bill Wallace when he visited Clonakilty, West Cork was published in the Evening Echo Newspaper on Saturday April 5th 2014.
The 68-year-old gentleman sitting in front of me could easily kick my ass. Yours too.
Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace is a living martial arts legend having gone 15 years and 23 competitive fights undefeated before finally retiring from a stellar competitive Karate and Kickboxing career back in 1980.
He still looks fit and agile enough to compete at a serious level.
Wallace is credited with popularising the sport of kickboxing before moving into the movie business and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Elvis Presley, Mickey Rourke, Chuck Norris and Jackie Chan.
Nicknamed ‘Superfoot’ because of his left leg’s devastating knockout ability (once clocked at 60 mph) nowadays Bill Wallace spends his time travelling the world and speaking at martial arts seminars which is why the South Florida native has ventured to West Cork on a wet Friday evening.
The West Cork based Warrior Martial Arts club have arranged for Bill to conduct martial arts classes for over 160 youths and adults at the Darrara Agricultural College Events Centre near Clonakilty.
“I’ve visited Ireland several times but this is my first visit to Cork and I absolutely love the place, apart from the rain”.
“I conduct seminars all over the world just to give people and instructors new ideas on how to master the art of kicking. I have a masters degree in kinesiology (movement exercise) so it is fun to travel the globe and explain to people the benefits of movement and flexibility” stated a beaming Wallace.
Wallace’s ultra-friendly demeanour in complying with multiple autograph requests helps form an instant rapport with the children in attendance and they along with over 100 adults hang on his every word and movement.
Superfoot’s story is all the more remarkable considering he suffered a horrific knee injury before embarking on his highly successful career.
“I joined the US Air Force in 1966 after leaving college and signed up for their judo team. Unfortunately, I tore the medial ligament off my right knee after a 190-pound opponent fell on me during a training session whilst preparing for the California State Championships”.
“The doctors looked at it and wanted to operate immediately because there was no arthroscopic (exploratory) surgery back in those days. I decided against it and it took over 38 years to finally wear it out before I underwent complete knee replacement surgery” commented Wallace.
Hang on. How did Wallace stay undefeated for over 15 years with a dodgy right knee and didn’t his opponents know about the injury?
“I never saw it (knee injury) as a deterrent because I knew my opponents were watching it so I used my left leg like a boxer would use a jab. You see martial arts are points scoring sports so I needed to be faster rather than stronger and that’s why I developed a unique style using my left leg”.
“You see I used the speed of my kick to keep my opponent at bay, hit him high or low and use it to counter-act whatever approach he made to go after my right leg. My mantra was if I keep it away from you well you can’t get to it” stated the 68-year-old.
So what does the future hold for the most agile 68-year-old I am ever likely to meet?
“Well, I am involved in two upcoming films, one shooting in Florida and the other in Indiana. My future involves more and more seminars. I am 68-years-old but have good flexibility, speed and just love working with kids”.
Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace, martial arts legend, movie star and genuine nice guy.
On Elvis Presley
“I was completing my graduate work in Memphis Tennessee for an instructor who taught Priscilla Presley. I was teaching on his behalf one afternoon before a huge commotion occurred outside the front foyer and in walked Elvis”.
“He knew I was USA national champion at the time and wanted to speak to me so I walked over and mentioned how much he enjoyed watching my fights. A couple of days later Elvis calls me up and asks me to come down to Graceland and run a martial arts school on his behalf”.
“I accepted, ran the school and worked out with him a lot over the years. I’d spar with his bodyguards whenever he came over but Elvis’ record company couldn’t afford to have him injured so we just worked out instead. Elvis was an amazing person who really loved martial arts”.
On Mickey Rourke
“Mickey is a really funny guy. I worked with him on a film called ‘Prayer for the Dying’ in England and we sure socialised a lot. It was fun just to sit back and watch Mickey in action on those nights out”.
On Jackie Chan
“Jackie is lovely, gentle person who actually believed he was a good fighter. I pointed out his film’s fight scenes were choreographed but Jackie kept asking to spar. We went a few rounds and Jackie decided to stick to film-making after that!”.
Follow Ger McCarthy on Twitter: @germccarthy74