By R.J. MORGAN
For Starkville Daily News
Longtime Mississippi State geology professor and martial arts instructor Chris Dewey turned in his retirement papers yesterday.
Dewey, an Englishman who moved to Starkville in 1984, is leaving Mississippi to start a five-year graduate program at the Academy of Oriental Medicine in Austin, Texas. His eventual goal is to settle in the Pacific Northwest.
â€śItâ€™s something Iâ€™ve wanted to do for 20 years but just kind of danced around it,â€ť Dewey said. â€śHealth is the other side to the yin-yang of martial arts.â€ť
Dewey has also owned and operated the Starkville Martial Arts Academy downtown for 16 years, but sold the dojo earlier this week to instructor Doug Bedsaul. Bedsaul has studied under Dewey since 1997 when he took a beginning karate class Dewey taught at MSU.
Bedsaul was one of many who honored Dewey with a potluck event at the dojo, now called Downtown Martial Arts Academy, on Thursday.
â€śHis interest drives his passion, and his level of knowledge makes him a good teacher,â€ť Bedsaul said. â€śBut itâ€™s his desire for and openness to new knowledge that gives him the mind set of an eternal student. And thatâ€™s something all great teachers have.â€ť
Dewey is leaving Starkville with his wife and son, but heâ€™ll take much more than family with him on his next adventure.
Â â€śIâ€™ll miss the community, the business, the people,â€ť Dewey said. â€śIâ€™ve never lived anywhere for longer than Iâ€™ve lived in Starkville, so in many ways itâ€™s my truly my home. Iâ€™ve met a lot of great friends and Iâ€™ll miss them, but Iâ€™ll say this: In life, you find what youâ€™re looking for. So I expect to find more great people at my next stop and surround myself with them as well.â€ť
Growing up in England, martial arts appealed to Dewey after a few run-ins with bullies at age 12.
â€śI didnâ€™t like being bullied,â€ť Dewey said. â€śI started martial arts, and the bullying stopped. I wasnâ€™t all of a sudden a deadly weapon or anything, but it was an immediate attitude change.â€ť
When he came to Starkville in 1984, he immediately got involved in the university martial arts program, which was very small. He worked with a small judo club in Hamilton for a time, then he and six others eventually started the University Judo Club.
In 1996 he moved his efforts into the community and started his academy, originally on Main Street. The dojo moved to its current location on Lafayette Street in 2006.
This is all in addition to his day job as a full-time professor. Dewey is an accomplished academic with multiple publications to his credit. Heâ€™s served as the sole academic adviser for MSUâ€™s general science degree for over 20 years.
But Dewey says his accomplishments in academia arenâ€™t separate from his accomplishments in learning and instructing martial arts.
â€śTheyâ€™re gestalt,â€ť Dewey said. â€śI donâ€™t put on different hats at the dojo or in the classroom, I just play in different environments. Being a geologist is just like martial arts. Itâ€™s all about learning, understanding and discovery.â€ť
His positive, self-assured attitude and purpose-driven mentality have made him a favorite among students and peers at both the university and the dojo. Cheryl Chambers took Deweyâ€™s geology class before eventually getting involved in his martial arts program.
â€śAfter that first class I remember feeling very welcome, not overwhelmed,â€ť Chambers said. â€śItâ€™s empowering. Iâ€™m a small girl, and basically everything Iâ€™ve learned to do here is something I didnâ€™t think I could do.â€ť
Chambers now assists Dewey and Bedsaul with the youth karate program and leads the new yoga program on Sunday nights at 6 p.m.
Â â€śItâ€™s one hour where I can forget about every other thing and concentrate on breathing, movement and ... self-awareness,â€ť Chambers said.
Yoga is one of several new programs that Bedsaul would like to see continue to grow.
â€śOne style doesnâ€™t work for everyone,â€ť Bedsaul said. â€śIâ€™d like to see us continue our current programs, but also branch out into new areas.â€ť
The academy, founded by Dewey and now led by Bedsaul, serves around 100 students and has a variety of classes for both children and adults multiple nights per week.
â€ś(The dojo) isnâ€™t about me; itâ€™s an idea,â€ť Dewey said. â€śAnd if an idea is good enough, it take on a life of its own, beyond you.â€ť