Master Artie Ferrell has built his life around the teachings of Shaolin Kung Fu
Words by Nick Norris | Images by Blakeney Clouse
If there is one thing that Grandmaster Artie Ferrell knows, it’s martial arts. Since the age of two, he has trained in the art of Shaolin Kung Fu.
Martial arts have remained a staple of his life for so long that the discipline has literally woven itself into his very identity. Now at 69 years old, he passes on all he has learned to younger generations at Master Ferrell’s Karate in Jasper.
“It keeps me young,” Artie says, “and it keeps me healthy. Here, I can pass down what I’ve learned to others, which is a legacy that keeps carrying on.”
With origins dating back to roughly 1,500 years ago, Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the most ancient forms of Chinese martial arts. It is believed to have heavily influenced most, if not all, forms of martial arts in the world.
“People from all over the world go to China to study Shaolin,” Artie explains.
Artie opened his first martial arts school when he was young, though he doesn’t recall exactly when. “I started teaching with my grandfather when I was six,” he says. “I opened my own place when I was 16 or 18. After that, I joined the Navy.”
It was in the Navy that he learned that his background in martial arts had prepared him for the military. He says that martial arts and the military go hand in hand, and that you never know what to expect when in the middle of a hot zone. “You just have to go by instinct,” he says.
Later, he retired from the Navy and shifted his full attention to training others. Many of his most treasured memories—training his children and grandchildren—came during this time.
“I have four children and five grandchildren, and I’ve trained every one of them,” he says. “Two of my sons are black belts and my grandchildren are training now. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.”
Today, Artie teaches ages 3 to adult. He finds it to be a fulfilling career, helping others and raising new generations under the teachings of Shaolin.
“Time just keeps going by,” he says. “You get older and you get wiser. Through time, you gain experience. My outlook in life has changed tremendously over my life. Problems that might have been difficult to settle before are typically settled more easily now. It’s like being able to see more clearly.”
Martial arts, for Master Ferrell, goes much deeper than a form of defense. It is a way of life, a code to live by. It’s his work, a way to bond with his family, a legacy that passes on through those he teaches. After this many years of dedication, he doesn’t just practice Shaolin Kung Fu.
He lives it. 78