WINSLOW — It all started some 37 years ago for life-long Waterville native Ron Raymond.
“My daughter was eight at the time so I spoke to Master (Randy) Huard and he had started the school a little earlier than that, a few years earlier, so I enrolled her,” Raymond explains of how he first became involved in martial arts. “I saw that she was enjoying it, doing pretty well at it and I started right along with her.”
Now 37 years later, little has changed for the 65-year-old Raymond in that regard. His daughter, Tricia, along with husband Joe Rossignol, are each fifth degree black belts in shudokan karate, hakkoryu jujutsu and judo, as well as instructors at Huard’s Martial Arts.
The sport has also provided a much-needed outlet for Raymond, a Vietnam veteran who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.
“Between him, his daughter and son-in-law I have the whole family here. They’ve been working with me for 30 years,” says Huard, the founder and head instructor of the dojo. “They become part of your family after 30 years.”
Grandchildren Joey and Veronica Rossignol have earned their black and brown belts, respectively, while even 9-year-old Katarina Metten, another one of Raymond’s grandchildren, has recently enrolled.
“It’s been a family thing for a long, long time,” says Raymond, who a few years ago earned a black belt himself, “and I can’t say enough about the arts and what it’s done for my family, my kids and my grandkids.”
For as much as martial arts has meant to his family, it has been as — if not more — important to Raymond.
In 1969 Raymond began working as a police officer in Waterville in the Kennebec Country Sheriff’s Office, but after a few years he ultimately got the call to go to war.
“I was [a Marine Corps] Corporal in the Tank Battalion in Vietnam,” Raymond says. “It was a pretty rough adjustment. We didn’t talk about it for many, many years. They called, I went and came back luckily. After, I ended up going into law enforcement.”
Raymond returned to the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, but not in the same state as when he had left Waterville. As he would later find out, he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.
What he also realized though, was that enrolling his daughter at Huard’s Martial Arts was one of the best things he could have done for himself.
“For a PTSD guy, I believe it’s been a great distraction for me. It keeps me away form all that stuff that most combat vets deal with,” Raymond says. “More importantly than all the physical stuff that we do, is the mind, the body and the spirit. It helps retrain your mind a little bit, it keeps your body in a little bit better shape and it helps you believe in something a little bit more than just yourself.
“You’re not thinking about just yourself, you’re thinking about all the time trying to focus on either helping others and most of my life that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
Over the years Raymond has done just that, serving as a police officer in his hometown. His training in martial arts helped him manage his PTSD, but also on a handful of instances proved useful at work.
“(For) physical reasons it’s been very handy on a number of occasions and plus things are a whole lot different now. You have to really be careful how you treat people,” Raymond says. “I’ve always treated them how they’ve treated me for the most part. There have been several occasions where I’ve had to use my knowledge in order to restrain someone.”
There have been other ways Raymond has put his training to use over the years as well though, on a number of occasions suggesting people take up martial arts the same way he did.
“I used to bring some of them in from the street and some had lost their way, were going to get in trouble,” Raymond says. “The school is so really good about making sure they communicate with the parents. Are their grades OK, are things well at home, are you not being a bully? There’s a lot of respect and discipline that goes into it.
“…I would recommend it for any parents that have, for example, kids that can’t find their way. It’s like going into sports, having something else to do other than hanging on the street corners and getting in trouble.”
Even after everything Ron Raymond has seen over the years, he still loves martial arts. Raymond retired from the police force in 1992 — although he still helps out from time to time on a reserve basis — but he has proven retirement doesn’t mean the end,
He still takes part in the executive class at Huard’s, and recently competed in the 34th Annual Battle for Maine Martial Arts Championships — faring quite well also. Over the past few years Raymond has learned an important lesson too, one most should heed as well.
“You’re still capable of doing something,” he says. “For as long as you can, do something.”