T Nation

Happy Birthday, Coach

Steve Bellamy, practicing jodo in 1974

In the few years that I’ve had the good fortune to call myself a member of Testosterone Nation, I’ve made a few mentions of my coach, Steve, whom I met in Japan in 1990.

I’ve been thinking about Steve a lot these days, partially because had it not been for Steve, I probably wouldn’t be here today (either “here” on T-Nation, nor “here” in this world), but also because it was his birthday last Thursday, and I have no idea where in the world he is. So if you’re reading this, Coach, a very happy birthday and many happy returns of the day.

Now, for those of you who don’t know Dr. Steve Bellamy, let me give you a little background. When I met him, he was thirty-nine years old; as old, in fact, as I am now. Six feet tall and 190 pounds, Steve was about the strongest man I have ever met. He had calves the size of most people’s thighs, a chest like a beer keg, and a grip like a Rottweiller’s bite. When you sparred with Steve, and those callused meathooks he called hands got you, there was no getting away.

I sparred with Steve a few times, and it always resulted in me picking myself up off the mat, and Steve drily informing me the name of the technique he’d just used to put me there. Never the same one twice, it seemed.

Steve studied Okinawan Goju-ryu karate under Master Morio Higaonna, kickboxing under Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, and Wing Chun Kung Fu under Joseph Cheng and Leung Sheung. He’s an instructor in the jo short staff, the Japanese katana, and the automatic pistol. Like me, he favors the Colt 1911 in .45 ACP.

Steve also did sumo, for a while, and he’s competed in the Ironman triathlon.

One of the first things Steve taught me was the difference between training and “working out,” a phrase he never used nor allowed to be used. “You can train hard,” he would say, “or you can train long. You can’t do both.” His face would crinkle into a wry smile. “Of course, this applies to everything.”

Steve introduced me to the joys of heavy squatting and deadlifting, the wonders of power cleans, and the absolute ecstasy of Arthur Jones-style Nautilus training. Yes, I puked. Many, many times. Steve is also the guy who sent me to the pizza parlor for an all-day binge, to shock my skinny body into growing at last.

As I suppose in inevitable in any man with a Testosterone level above 1000, Steve was ladies’ man of James Bondesque proportions. He had more girls in more ports than the lustiest of sailors, and had had sex, he said, with a particular young woman in every sort of conveyance imaginable.

“If it had wheels, wings, sails or a propeller, I suppose she and I did it, in it or on it.” He became thoughtful for a moment. “Not sure about a skateboard. But I imagine we would have had the opportunity presented itself.”

Steve’s chivalrous nature once landed him behind bars. One evening in 1982, while strolling near his home in Chiba, Japan, Steve came upon a sight that would send any true T-man’s blood boiling. A young Japanese woman was lying on the pavement. A Japanese man was standing above her, kicking her in the face, which was streaming blood.

With not a moment’s hesitation Steve strode over to the couple, and demanded that the man stop kicking the girl immediately. “Fuck off, you fucking barbarian,” the man spat at Steve. The woman, her words slurred by a broken jaw, said simply, “help me.”

Steve kicked the man once, in the side of the head, with a round kick. The coroner ruled that death resulted from a crushed skull, although it isn’t clear whether his skull was crushed by Steve’s foot, or by the concrete pavement. In any event, the man was dead.

The case caused a national controversy. The police, to their great credit, refused to prosecute Steve. The justice ministry tried to charge him with murder, then changed the charge to manslaughter. Steve’s defense was unprecedented in Japanese jurisprudence: “justifiable homicide in the defense of another,” a defence that had never been used by a civilian, much less a foreigner.

He eventually won, all charges were dropped, and the case sparked a reform of the entire judicial system in Japan.

That’s the kind of guy Steve Bellamy is. And it’s because of Steve that I’m the kind of guy that I am now. Which is, of course, only a pale reflection of him.

Happy birthday, Coach, wherever you are.