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Not too many people in their 60s can fight, and win, against 20-something opponents. Wayne Smallwood Jr. - known in his fights as Wayne Fu Kung Fu - is one who can.
After 45 years in the ring, Wayne 'Fu' Smallwood still hits hard 082014 NEWS 1 CAPITAL CITY WEEKLY Not too many people in their 60s can fight, and win, against 20-something opponents. Wayne Smallwood Jr. - known in his fights as Wayne Fu Kung Fu - is one who can.

James Brooks | Ccw Photo

Referee Russ Stevens raises the arms of Wayne Fu, 63, who won the opening boxing match of the Solstice Slam June 20 in Centennial Hall.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Story last updated at 8/20/2014 - 8:41 pm

After 45 years in the ring, Wayne 'Fu' Smallwood still hits hard

Not too many people in their 60s can fight, and win, against 20-something opponents. Wayne Smallwood Jr. - known in his fights as Wayne Fu Kung Fu - is one who can.

In one way or another, Smallwood has been fighting almost his whole life.

He was born in Juneau in 1950 and spent most of his childhood - from age two to 16, off and on - in the Juneau Children's Home. He was also in the Minfield Home and School for a few months, and in a home in Washington for about two years when he was seven or eight.

"My mom had a hard time trying to raise four kids back in the 50s," he said.

The home in Seattle is where he learned to fight.

"A bully used to beat me up all the time," he said. "He used to beat me up just for something to do. Finally one day I beat him ... after that, I said 'I'm going to start learning martial arts.'"

After he returned to Juneau, his uncle, Dan Gore, began teaching him the basics of hand-to-hand combat. Gore learned hand-to-hand combat in the Korean war, Smallwood said, and was an expert in jiu-jitsu.

A teacher, Bernie Tackett, taught him boxing.

Smallwood went into the Navy when he was 17 and got out when he was 19, he said.

He worked transporting troops to Vietnam, so though he served during the Vietnam era, he didn't see any fighting.

After getting out of the Navy, he lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for about a year. He also lived in Washington, serving as a police officer on the Lummi Reservation, where he says he saw Bigfoot.

He got a black belt in Shotokan karate in 1976.

He was raised mostly learning fighting for self-defense, not for sport, so when he started doing mixed martial arts, he had to reprogram himself, he said.

Mixed martial arts consists of three different styles, he said - boxing, grappling, and Muay Thai, which involves elbows, knees, and shins. The variations can be endless.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of martial arts styles - Smallwood estimates he has 300-400 books on them at home.

For Fu, there have been almost as many fights as there are fighting styles.

Some fights he remembers especially fondly. One was with a fighter named Weeg Hewson, whom Smallwood knocked out in less than two minutes with a move called a spinning back fist. A 2012 video of that fight went viral, with almost 130,000 hits on YouTube.

He's earned two "best fight of the night" accolades, which he didn't get until he was in his 60s, he said.

"Most fighters quit around 30," he said. He credits a healthy body with his longevity.

"I still have more wins than I do losses," he said. "When you got that going, then you keep going."

He retired from the ring after a fight on June 20 (which he won.) He's waiting to get a knee replacement, and after that, doctors recommend against mixed martial arts.

"I can still do boxing, so I still might come back and do boxing," he said.

He'll referee some fights in Juneau in August, and he teaches lessons - among them, self-defense for women. Most of his students, he teaches one-on-one.

Some advice for would-be boxers?

"One of the things I try to teach my students is don't start the fight. Finish it," he said.

It's also important to stay humble and have a good attitude, Smallwood said.

"The night I retired from my fights, I told all the other fighters, 'Don't you ever be macho out there,' he said. 'Set a good example to other fighters, and be positive.'"

Fitness is part of his daily life as well. He lives in the woods two miles past the end of the road at Sandy Beach. He also collects devil's club to make walking sticks, which he sells at the Native Craft Coop in the Senate Building in downtown Juneau. In spite of his knee pain, he bikes every day.

"I block it out," he said of the pain. "I am not into pills."

He's been making the walking sticks out of devil's club for 13 years.

"I call them medicine walking sticks because of how we made medicine from their bark," he said. "And it (devil's club) is a cousin to ginseng. It's a cure-all."

He also makes devil's club crosses and sells them to people who have problems with ghosts, he said.

It's not always easy to make a living off fighting. Fighters in Juneau don't earn as much as they do down south, he said.

Smallwood earns $150 for fights he wins, and $50 for fights he loses. In the Lower 48, fighters can win much more.

Though he hasn't kept track of how many times he's fought, he knows he's been in the most consecutive fights of anyone in Juneau, he said.

He's an Eagle/Killer Whale Tlingit. His Tlingit name, Kah-tawn, means "male sea lion," he said.

He calls his style of fighting "Keet-Do," or, translated, Way of the Killer Whale.

He's been married twice, and has four children - one with his first wife and three with his second.

Fighting, he said, "is like chess. It's neverending. There are over a thousand ways to checkmate. There are over a thousand (MMA) moves. Chess is mental to mental sparring, and martial arts is actually physical sparring."

He's been fighting for almost 60 years, but he's still learning, he said.

"That's why I like it - because there's always something new to learn," he said. "It's better to know a little about all styles instead of just one."

Here's a YouTube link to Smallwood's fight against Hewson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ol8kBZYHA4


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