At the age of 10, Chris Herzog was convinced he would end up living on the other side of the world.
The year was 1984. Herzog’s father was working for Xerox, on a project for Fujifilm that had his family set to relocate to Japan. In preparation, they began to assimilate to Eastern culture.
“We started watching a lot of Japanese television,” recalls Chris. “One of the common threads with all of the shows was martial arts. I wasn’t happy about moving, but the thought of martial arts intrigued me.”
The Herzog family never wound up moving to Japan. Instead, Xerox relocated them to an office in Yukon, Okla. The South proved to be an even bigger culture shock for Chris.
“I was in Oklahoma for maybe a week before I got in a fight in school,” says Chris, with a coy smile. “It was a different culture and I didn’t fit in. I was challenged from the day I walked in.”
Seeing the scrapes and bruises on his son, Chris’ dad presented him with an proposition – “How about some karate lessons?” he said.
Chris enrolled in karate class when he was in the fifth grade. He hasn’t stopped training in some discipline of martial arts since.
Herzog found himself evolving in martial arts relatively fast. The fact that he was a little hard-headed certainly helped.
“Even as a kid, I would recognize flaws in that traditional system of martial arts,” he says. “I would ask questions, but I was just told to hush and do things the way they said to do them.”
Herzog’s frustration led him to the more functional and practical aspects of mixed martial arts. He began competing in jujitsu, judo and sambo, and, eventually, coaching.
Herzog is currently the head coach and program director at Rochester’s Empire Academy of Combat Sports and Fitness, an affiliate of 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu and one of the largest MMA training centers in the area with more than 100 students.
With his fighting days far behind him, Herzog says he now finds happiness in preparing others to compete in a sport that’s gone mainstream.
“I’m 37 years old now, with multiple reconstructive surgeries,” he says. “I’ve still got that competitive itch, but my quality of life comes from helping others accomplish their goals.”
– Story by Paul German, photo by Kyle Schwab