Mixing the arts: Bluffton resident explores passion for judo, painting

abredeson@islandpacket.comSeptember 9, 2012 

  • Michael McClendon of Hilton Head Judo Kombat Club and MBM Signs & Art offers classes in judo and art on Hilton Head Island.

    Details: 843-290-5502

Michael McClendon loves the arts -- but not just the creative variety. He also has a passion for martial arts.

The Bluffton judo champion is also an experienced painter. The two art forms might seem worlds apart, but for McClendon, they've helped him achieve a balance in life.

"Both (judo and art) relieve my tension and stress in different ways," McClendon said. "The art mentally and spiritually, but then I get another relief when I work out. It takes me to the limit physically. ... Both are definitely arts that I can appreciate."

The 58-year-old single father said he was bullied as a child. The kids made fun of him because he was so thin and not very good at sports.

He found an outlet in drawing at age 13.

"When I was very young, I found it as a way to express myself because I was pretty much an introvert," he said. "I couldn't find any words to express myself and the things I wanted to convey to people. I found out that when people look at my art work, they would start talking ... and I could be more of an extrovert through my art and show my emotions."

He also joined the judo team in high school, and the whispy boy with low self-esteem started to change even more. His body got stronger. And his self-esteem went up in the process. He ended up receiving a college scholarship for judo.

"When I got into it, I had so much fun, and it was so challenging," McClendon said about judo.

Now, after more than 40 years practicing the art of judo, McClendon isn't getting picked on anymore. In fact, the fifth-degree blackbelt, 2010 national champion and two-time international silver medalist has come full circle. He is now teaching others to protect themselves.

"I want to show kids how not to be bullied," McClendon said. "To build confidence, to build strategies to make their lives better and to succeed in school."

Owner of Hilton Head Judo Kombat Club on Hilton Head Island, McClendon offers classes in not only martial arts, but also art.

"My two loves in my life are art and judo," he said.

McClendon said he enjoys painting portraits and landscapes. He recently painted Bluffton Self Help founder Ida Martin. Next he said he would like to do a painting of Kayla Harrison, who just became the first American to win the Olympic gold medal in judo. He's also hoping to compete in the Grand Masters World Judo Championships in November in Miami, but he'll need sponsors to get there.

When McClendon is not teaching judo, he can often be found painting in a small studio in the back of the Kombat Club. McClendon also owns a company called MBM Signs & Art, where he does a variety of work, including murals, signs, T-shirts and dishes.

"I just love to paint," he said. "Sometimes I can't stop to eat. ... When I get the feeling, I don't stop."

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