Meet Your Military: Provost Marshal Holds Sixth-Degree Black Belt
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif., March 22, 2016 — Before most of the junior-enlisted Marines serving under him were born, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Gregory Rooker started on a journey to become part of an elite group of warriors.
Now 31 years into that journey, Rooker, the provost marshal here, is among an elite few who hold the title of sixth-degree black belt in Wado-Ryu karate.
Wado-Ryu, a mixture of Shinto-Yoshin-Ryu jujitsu and karate, was developed on mainland Japan in the early 1900s. It consists of eight belt levels with three degrees of brown and 10 degrees of black.
When he was 15 years old, Rooker asked his parents to enroll him in karate classes at a nearby community college for his birthday.
“It’s definitely one of the best presents I have ever gotten,” he said. “It’s been a gift that keeps on giving, that’s for sure.”
The class was not easy, Rooker said. The instructor was notoriously tough and had a reputation for having few students because they couldn’t last.
“I still remember what he said when we got there,” he said. “I’m 15 years old in sweat pants and a T-shirt and he says, ‘Look to your left and look to your right because at the end of the month those people won’t be here.’ ”
Perseverance Pays Off
That wasn’t the case for Rooker. He kept training, and began competing in tournaments after he earned his blue belt.
“I won third place in my first tournament, and I really felt like I had accomplished something,” he said. “I had played baseball and some other things but nothing really challenged me like martial arts did.”
Rooker soon found his new routine was improving his life as a whole. His speed, balance and coordination improved and he became healthier.
“I was always kind of a small, sickly kid who had allergies like you wouldn’t believe,” he said. “But [while] doing karate, I started eating better, working out, and I was feeling really good, so that was a great aspect of it.”
Karate quickly transitioned from an extracurricular activity to an essential part of Rooker’s life. His focus on martial arts never wavered as he grew and transitioned through his life.
While attending Middle Tennessee State University, he became head of the karate club. After graduation, Rooker became a full-time karate instructor at a local dojo and spent three years as a professional kickboxer.
Seeking ‘Something Different’
Needing a change of pace, he ended his kickboxing career and signed up for the Marine Corps in 1995.
“I wanted to try something different, so I thought I’d give the Marine Corps a try,” Rooker said. “But I’ve never left the martial arts stuff.”
Through many years and multiple duty stations, he stuck to his training, whether that meant training alone, with different teachers or even learning new styles of martial arts to help him grow in his own style.
“Some people think that once you get your black belt that you are done,” Rooker said. “But if you truly understand martial arts, then you know that a black belt symbolizes an understanding of the basics. It’s just the beginning.”
As he does with most things in his life, Rooker attributes his success in the Marine Corps to his martial arts training.
“Karate teaches you discipline, commitment, endurance and many other things that are essential to succeeding as a Marine,” he said. “I don’t think I would be as effective or as successful as I am without studying karate.”
As Rooker nears the end of his Marine Corps career, he said he plans to open his own karate school and introduce a new generation to the martial art that changed his life.
“I have such a passion for it,” Rooker said. “No matter how good you get, there is always a way to get a little bit better. There is elusiveness to it that I am always chasing and I don’t think I could stop now if I wanted to.”
Written By Cpl. Alissa Schuning. Republished and redistributed by permission of DoD. ***SOT***