McALESTER — Ray Harp, a sixth-degree blackbelt, stares down the two gray concrete blocks resting a foot off the ground in the parking lot of his school, McAlester Tae Kwon Do. He begins to bounce, darting towards the blocks, then away, then back again.
After a few bouncing steps, Harp pauses for a moment, drawing himself together like pulling back the hammer on a gun. Then he strikes, slamming his palm downward.
With Harp’s 30 years of experience with the Korean martial art, the blocks never stood a chance.
Born in 1961, Harp grew up in McAlester, graduating from McAlester High School in 1979. Working as a plumber with his father, Harp began his journey when a group of Christian missionaries from Wyoming introduced the 22-year-old Harp to martial arts in 1984.
Harp was immediately drawn to Tae Kwon Do, learning it from McAlester Tae Kwon Do blackbelts John Tapscott and Brett Jackson. Though he said he started out unable to do more than pushups, he trained every day, earning his blackbelt in just five years.
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