By FELICITE DARVILLE
HE was like the Karate Kid of the Bahamas back then. Brian Beckford earned a brown belt at age 15 and at 17 he was a black belt champion. Today, he is a 7th degree black belt Shihan who has sown the seeds of positivity and personal power with those who will carry the torch and take karate to the next level in the Bahamas.
Brian was 11 when this journey began. He was attending SC McPherson at the time. He saw adults entering the gymnasium in karate uniforms. Intrigued, the young student followed them. But, they told him that unless he joined them, he couldn’t stay and watch. He went home that day and asked his father. Brian got permission to explore an after school activity that would eventually become a way of life.
Before that, Brian had an interest in wrestling. Like many young boys at the time, he practiced his moves while watching television and imagined himself as the champion in the ring. Rick Flair was one of his favorite wrestlers – “he was flashy, inspired, motivating and confident”.
Brian’s father took him to Nassau Stadium on Fowler Street to see a live wrestling match. He wanted to know if Brian would still love the sport so much after this. Nassau Stadium, in its heyday, hosted incredible wrestling matches and a bustling crowd. Brian’s dad took his eager-eyed boy to see his first live wrestling match.
“When the first shot landed, my eyes widened in astonishment as the sound echoed down Kemp Road,” he said.
“But I was disheartened after seeing sworn enemies in the ring having a drink outside at Charlie Major Senior’s after the match. So I said, “That’s wrong.” I didn’t want to be part of something fake or repeated. My father and his brothers, to this day, swear the fight is not wrong.
So, Brian joined karate with high hopes that it was something he could believe in. “I wanted to do Kung Fu, which was my first love,” he said.
“There was nothing fancy or pretty about karate. But I joined anyway. I thought the step to getting to all the good stuff was quick…it took forever!”
Brian’s karate teacher was a police officer and strict discipline. Brian had to sit and watch the class at first, even though he couldn’t wait to jump in and start training.
“That was a lesson in itself,” Brian said.
“It taught me patience. It also taught me to study his moves and learn from them. You learn more outside the ring than inside.
The Sensei would teach Brian the basics, the basics of karate. “He told me that a roof can’t be sloped before walls, and walls can’t be erected without a foundation,” Brian recalls.
“The better the foundation, the better the martial artist.”
Karate classes were four days a week for at least three hours. On Sundays, the team would meet at the South Beach Canal or Fort Charlotte for “horrifying training.”
“I was the only kid in the class,” he said, “but that didn’t matter.
“I was seen like any other student – they didn’t take my age, weight or height into account. Every instruction or exercise given had to be done.
“I have reached one hour before class and one hour after class, destined to match or surpass those I have encountered practicing martial arts before me. Once you line up, anyone standing in your right is your eldest. I had a very long way to go, because there were about 35 people on my right.
Brian started to rise through the ranks as his adult classmates started dropping out because of hard work or because of their jobs. A few missed exams and slowly but surely young Brian became their eldest.
“My mind was up, being the youngest and the furthest to the right,” he said. “The years passed and I was still consistent. I was plowing harder than ever. I moved up this line until there were only a few people in front of me. I said to myself: ‘I can’t stop now’. Failure was not an option, nor was giving up. At that time, I was making a name for myself in the ring, competing with other schools.
Brian’s journey to becoming a karate teacher also started early on: “I was always ready to teach. I was always given beginners to teach them the basics.
By the time Brian reached purple belt level as a young teenager, nearly all of his siblings were also in the class, and they were all making a name for themselves on the tour.
“At some point after reaching the rank of black belt,” he said, “I became obsessed because my next rank would be black belt.”
“This exam would be the most difficult challenge of my life. I was still not an adult. But I’m going hard, I’m preparing myself mentally and physically. I was training all day, every day. Adults had to go to work. But I was able to train at will. Sometimes I would go out in the yard and hit the punching bag at 3 in the morning.
Once Brian earned the black belt, he took his training to a whole new level. He was determined to be the best black belt martial artist in the Bahamas. He competed in all the divisions that were available at the time: Kata, Weapons and Fighting. He would perform in matches at the Wulff Road Theatre, the Golden Gates Theater and the Sunshine Twin Theatre, which was like his home base.
Brian “Da Prowler” Beckford was also making a name for himself on the international circuit. The first time he became an international black belt champion, he was awarded by the Florida Black Belt Association. He became a multiple time Florida State Champion.
“Back home I was the most feared with few fighters wanting to fight me and tarnish their record,” he said.
In 1987 Brian’s karate career really took off as he gained international exposure. He traveled three times a month, representing the Bahamas in various competitions. He was paying his own bill; he had no godfather. As he succeeds on the international circuit, Brian receives offers from American schools to come and teach karate to children. He was offered a green card, housing and a good salary. He was even offered a position – twice – on the United States National Karate Team after defeating all of their fighters in his division at the 1994 Pan Am Games.
“I taught for a while in Florida; the pay was very good,” Brian explained.
“But I quickly went home, because my girlfriend at the time had just given birth to my second child. I told them that I missed home. So they brought my girlfriend and my children. I stayed one more week and then I left. I wanted to come home with my kids and my family. I also wanted to represent my country and put it on the map as a martial arts powerhouse. I never been interested in living somewhere other than my home.
Brian cherishes his Bahamian heritage. He was born in Nassau and grew up between Oakes Field and Golden Gates. He spent time with his family on Long Island, Andros and Exuma. Whichever family island he visited, church was always a big part of life. Both of her parents are educators and pastors, so there was “always a lesson taught” at home. There he grew up with his four sisters and two brothers. Brian comes from a musical family and his mother, a pre-marital Leadon, was a member of the Dixie Hummingbirds, a popular Gospel band in the late 1950s, early 1960s.
He attended Oakes Field Primary, SC McPherson and AF Adderley Sr High. While in high school, Brian attended Industrial Training College as a mechanic. He completed this course even before he graduated from high school. He also completed the one-year Executive Protection Course at the College of the Bahamas while in high school and graduated from high school and the College course at the same time.
He first worked as a mechanic’s helper, then moved to Butler & Sands. He eventually went to Pompano Beach, Florida to teach for a while, before returning home. He started his own company, which offers bodyguard services, and was hired to provide services for some of Nassau’s biggest concerts.
Brian continued to compete internationally, winning titles in Jamaica, Trinidad, Canada and across the United States. He also continued to teach karate and was president of the Bahamas Martial Arts Federation for over 20 years.
“Winning has become the norm,” Brian said.
“I got bored fighting, with few fighters rising. The game is the same – body language or movement. Once you know how to read it, everything should fall into place. I don’t remember how many times I won. But, to give you an idea, with us, the living room and the dining room could not accommodate all the trophies. We stored them in the hallways or gave them to family members. Then I started giving away trophies I won to kids at events or to adoring fans.
Asked about the current state of karate in the country, Brian said there are “many multi-talented individuals in the discipline with a lot to offer” – children and adults. The problem, he said, is that the sport, if you will, is underfunded.
“We had Coca-Cola from the states sponsoring us, but we were turned down by Coca-Cola here,” he said.
“There is growing interest from the public. We are constantly asked to compete. International fighters request to attend events here. We need support from government and private institutions to help fundraise and take us to the next level.
In the meantime, this father of five will continue to pour out his love for his children and his passion for karate, ensuring the next generation understands the discipline, skills and drive to be the best at anything. they undertake. do.