Fire and water 50 years and going strong in the Tri-Cities 

Published 4:12 pm Friday, September 3, 2021

Back somewhere in the mid-1990s I was working security at Northeast State Community College. At the age of 23 I became the supervisor. And one day a new man was brought in and I was training him and he began to tell me about a little known martial art called Aikido. I was intrigued because I have always had a fascination with the Asian martial arts anyway. He began training me in the art. The more I learned the more intrigued I became. Then he told me he had learned the art from a man named David Collins out of Blountville. So I gave Dave a call and his first words to me were “We don’t bow to anyone but Jesus here.” I immediately liked this guy. And so the rest as they say is history. Mr. Collins is the Founder and Chief-Instructor of the Fire and Water System of Martial Arts. He has over 45 years of experience in the martial arts and has studied under various masters throughout the world. In 1971, Master Collins founded the American School of Empty Hand Fighting and began teaching Fire and Water Mixed Martial Arts. This unique system is based upon his knowledge and experiences in the Asian Martial Arts, American Boxing, Kickboxing, grappling and military hand-to-hand combat tactics. Currently, he serves as a training advisor to various military units, law enforcement agencies and security teams. Master Collins teaches full time, offering instruction in the Fire and Water System, as well as several other purist martial styles. In addition, Master Collins is the owner/operator of Collins Expeditions with the goal of providing high-adventure, outdoor sports activities in a family friendly, Christian environment.

Years later my nephew was getting into trouble in school so I sent him to Dave, and now at age seven my son goes every Friday. His private lessons are an extremely reasonable $20, but it is his Friday class that impresses. He has no set price and charges with donation only. During the course of the Friday class, they begin with a run, then pushups, then a few obstacles in a very impressive courtyard. Then back inside, where everyone lines up to kick the bag and then the training begins. Everyone divides into whichever art form they want to learn. It ranges from Aikido, kickboxing, boxing, and Judo. 

And now 50 years later I attended a celebration he held celebrating his 50 years in the same spot in Blountville. Friends and family gathered to pay homage to the place where so may were trained. New and old students alike stopped by. There was a DJ with an amazing sound system. It was loads of fun and there was some very interesting people to meet as well. A couple of actors from Delta Force showed up, and artists from all walks of life, including Johnny Loobey who some may remember from American Ninja Warrior, who goes by the moniker the “Geriatric Ninja.” He and I hit it off well and together we are going to bring his character to life in a very interesting novel. Also in attendance was Mark Finley, who is part owner of Rezoom Motorsports. He was himself once a racecar driver and as Loobey, who trains people for American Ninja Warrior, Finley teachers others to drive race cars. 

The event itself was an overall success and I feel David Collins is a very special guy to have been in one location for 50 years in the field of martial arts. And his response to “why he has lasted so long?” His answer came fast and simple — “Because we put Christ first.”