From surviving burns to the face while serving as a volunteer firefighter at age 16, to spending years perfecting his craft as a martial artist, Jamie Cashion is a tough guy.
But he’s also a nice guy. With a friendly Southern accent and energetic personality, Cashion is big on giving back to the community. He’s still a reserve firefighter, serves as an emergency medical responder, and teaches — giving free self-defense seminars at places like Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth and karate lessons in churches through Christian Soldiers Karate.
In April, Cashion’s life story prompted a panel of 10th-degree black belts to promote him from seventh-degree black belt … to ninth, making him a grand master.
And you can bet he’s still kicking. Cashion sat down with Fort Worth Magazine to talk karate, what it takes to become a grand master — and the unusual hobby he takes on during the winter.
Q. In your arsenal of karate moves, which one’s your favorite?
A. Turn back kick. It is one of the most powerful, tactical kicks you can do that is very sneaky.
Q. What’s one of the hardest moves out there in the karate world?
A. Tornado kick was always difficult for me … It’s basically you’re spinning in the air, and you’re doing an aerial kick with your rear leg.
Q. Do you know how to do it?
A. I know how to do it, but due to a back surgery, I dare not now try it. Any time you are in the air, you are not grounded, which takes away power. It really is simply a very pretty kick you would see in a movie but not one that would save your life on the streets.
Q. Walk us through your typical training session.
A. I warm up by running, followed by 15 minutes of stretching, do a few warm-up kicks, then I gear up and kick box. Sparring is my favorite, so it has remained my main focus.
Q. What sort of training and preparation did you have to do to become a grand master?
A. After fifth-degree black belt, your skill level will not be the same when you first got your black belt, due to age. At that point, you’re judged upon what you give back to the martial arts. Few people continue to train hard, even though I do try to kick box three to four times a month at a minimum. So, to reach your grand master level, it’s based upon your peers on when you should be promoted up.
Q. Say, got a favorite karate movie?
A. Road House. And the actor that Patrick Swayze kills in the very end of the movie [Marshall Teague], who was the evil bad guy, is a local here.
He’s a great man.
Q. You’re also still a first responder. In your experience, what’s a memory that sticks with you the most?
A. Other than getting burned as a volunteer firefighter at the age of 16, I would say it was when I went to Houston to help in the hurricane rescues. It is a sight that I will probably never witness again. The outpouring of love from total strangers risking their lives to save others — a tragedy truly brings people together and shows the real spirit of love.
Q. In between punches and kicks, what other things do you like to do besides martial arts?
A. My friends that know me well know that my most favorite thing is to go out in the ice storms and pull people out of the ice.
Q. Wait, what?
A. So, every time it ices, and this has been going on probably eight years, I go out, and I’ll park somewhere that’s strategic … typically off I-30 but always in Fort Worth, Parker or Tarrant County. And in any given ice storm, I pull out 20-30 people.
It’s the most gratifying thing you can do. Especially when they try to give you money, they are shocked when you don’t accept it, and then you tell them to pay it forward and bless someone else. Several years ago, I came across a lady stuck partially in a ditch. The way she was stuck was very unusual, so I asked her what happened. She said a tow truck had pulled her halfway out and then told her it would be $350 to complete the pullout. She told the tow truck driver she did not have $350. He unhooked and left that 80-plus-year-old lady freezing in the ice. I understand they are trying to make a living, but who could leave somebody that’s an elderly in an ice storm? I just don’t get it.
Q. Any advice to aspiring grand masters?
A. Never give up. They say first through fifth-degree black belt, you’re taken in. From sixth to 10th, you’re giving back. But there’s a lot of cuts and bruises and thousands of hours of fighting. It’s a lot of discipline, but in my opinion, it’s the only thing you can do that can save your life. Soccer can’t, football can’t — martial arts can.