TRAVERSE CITY — A family tragedy led James R. Adkins to a lifelong quest of martial arts mastery.
Adkins, owner of White Tiger Martial Arts on South Garfield Avenue in Traverse City, said his father died when he was 9. His mother became incapacitated by grief and medications, leaving Adkins “a lost little 10-year-old who was seeking something.”
Adkins’s life changed forever when he came across an old flier on a telephone pole in his hometown of Case Grande, Ariz. The flier advertised karate classes, and Adkins never looked back.
“My first lesson was sweeping the floor,” Adkins said. “My mother paid for my first lesson on my birthday. I got $7 for my first lesson, I paid for it, and told the instructor, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to come back. My mom can’t afford it.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. You come back and we’ll make arrangements,’” Adkins said. “So I pulled weeds, I swept floor, I did everything I could to help pay for lessons ... ever since then I’ve been giving back.”
Today, Adkins is a 9th degree black belt. He’s traveled all over the world for martial arts and teaches American Kenpo and Shaolin Kung Fu. The United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame recently inducted him as a grand master.
In other words, don’t mess with him.
“You can walk in here today, I can give you a lesson, you can leave here with a technique that will protect you for the rest of your life,” Adkins said. “It’s that simple. Paint by numbers. Follow the rules. You can go out of here and it will work. No flipping, flying, jumping around.”
The business is doing well with a recent expansion to 1238 S. Garfield. His wife, Sarah, is a critical part of the success.