Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame selects Sugar Grove instructor
by Susan O’Neill
Linda (Washburn) Hurry was 10 years old in 1985 when she began taking karate lessons at Rocky’s DoJo and Gym. When she was a junior in high school, she became Rocky Troutman’s first student to earn a black belt.
Hurry, who was in town to visit her parents in Big Rock for the Easter weekend, was happy to learn that Troutman was recently inducted into the Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
“He was a great role model,” she said. “It was an honor to work with him. Even though it was more than 20 years ago, I still remember all the kicks and the questions.”
Hurry is one of the many students Rocky Troutman has dedicated himself to teaching karate and martial arts for almost 35 years. Troutman’s father opened the Champion Karate Studio in 1974 in Aurora, where Rocky earned his first degree black belt.
He opened Rocky’s DoJo and Gym in Sugar Grove in 1985.
Troutman said he and his five instructors, or senseis, have taught in the range of tens of thousands of students during that time. Troutman credits his induction to his years of promoting martial arts functions and his dedication and instruction to fellow students to keep the arts alive.
Hurry said it was unusual in the 1980s for a high school student to earn a black belt. She said she had always been extremely competitive and loved all kinds of sports. Although she was coordinated, she said she was not naturally flexible. Karate was something completely different, and it helped her to focus.
She explained that the winners of the sparring matches were determined based on points, not on hurting the other person. Points were awarded if you made contact with your opponent with your glove or your foot.
Hurry is currently a Lt. Col. in the U.S. Air Force and will be promoted to full Colonel in the fall. She is stationed at Scott Air Force base near St. Louis, Mo.
She said her karate practice helped her gain many of the skills that led to her success in the military, particularly as she was moving up in the ranks.
“I learned discipline from a very early age,” she said. “Karate and martial arts is a very defensive practice. You learn to protect and to take care of others, and to support each other, exactly what you need to be successful in the military.”
She said that when she attended the Air Force Academy, her experience with Troutman helped her stay focused on what she was learning and not become stressed about learning new things.
“That foundation was invaluable to me,” she said.
Hurry said that Rocky’s provided a great family environment, and all of the
students felt that they were a part of one big family.
“It was a great way to grow up,” she said.
Troutman is a 6th Degree Black Belt. He said his interest in the martial arts goes back to the 1970s, during the time of Bruce Lee. He said that watching Lee, who also had a smaller stature, gave him the confidence to do what he has been able to do.
He began working with others to help them gain self-confidence. He explained that when a child is insecure, that child will avoid direct eye contact. Showing the student how to use eye contact to develop his or her concentration will also gradually build self-confidence.
Troutman said that although every person is different, if students have the desire, they all get more flexible, faster and more coordinated.
“At first, they think about every little move,” he said. “Then it starts to look effortless. A lot of it is mental. The confidence thing is huge.”
He said he also uses the martial arts to help children and others channel their energy in positive ways. He explained that fighting and point sparring are very different, in that sparring involves contact, but not with the intent to harm.
“If you hurt someone, your trophy is worthless,” he said.
Troutman enjoys making the martial arts accessible to everyone. On his wife Angie’s advice, he recently began offering a women’s kick-boxing class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. For an hour, about a dozen women jump rope, perform air punching and kicking drills, as well as hit and kick the bags.
“It’s a great work-out,” Sugar Grove resident Lisa White said.
White said she has been taking the class since last September, and that it is good for cardio-vascular training, strength and balance, as well as flexibility.
She said Troutman is very knowledgeable and patient with everyone, and is able to give a good work-out to everyone at their own level in the class.
“It’s fun and it’s not as hard as you think,” she said. “I get a lot out of it for the hour that I’m there.”
Photo: Sensei Rocky Troutman of Sugar Grove’s Rocky’s Dojo and Gym was recently inducted into the Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame. A 6th Degree Black Belt, Troutman said he enjoys making the martial arts accessible to everyone. Photo by Sarah Rivers