A Learning Curve That Bends But Never Breaks
The world is filled with intriguing people who have done interesting things in their lives. We dentists have many such intriguing colleagues within our very midst.
Dr. Ron Leach has been treasurer of our Southern District since about 1991. Before that he went through the chairs to become president of the Southern District Dental Society in 1984.
I asked Ron why he has done this job for so many years. He replied in his matter-of-fact way, “I just feel I should do my part. I was offered the opportunity to go through the MDA chairs years ago, but I felt this [the local level] is just as important.”
In addition to practicing dentistry and working in organized dentistry, Ron has another interesting facet of his life. He is an 8th degree black belt in Shorin-Ryu karate. This isn’t obvious when you meet him except for a sense that he’s in pretty good shape for a 61-year-old man and a certain disciplined intensity about him.
Twenty-seven years ago when Ron was 34 years old, he started on a path in something he’s always wanted to do. He found out about a karate class being taught at the Mankato YMCA by Dr. Harold Mead.
Ron can still remember vividly his first classes. He remembers feeling awkward and not understanding why he was doing these same few moves over and over. Now he understands how everything in Shorin-Ryu builds on these basic moves. In fact, he still begins each practice session with these same elementary kicks, punches, and blocks. Built on these basics is an elaborate system of additional judo, jujitsu throws and arm holds, and techniques for defending against weapons. There is as well an emphasis from the very beginning of study on learning the correct ways to fall.
I asked Ron if he has ever had to use his martial arts skills in defending himself. He shook his head no and said, “You see, this technique teaches how to avoid the need for using force.”
Ron says verbal skills are always the first line of defense. There was one time, though, that he feels his training saved his life, or at least kept him from suffering a serious injury. Not too long ago, he fell off the back of a large truck. He estimates his body was probably about seven feet above hard concrete, where he fell flat on his back. As he was flying through the air, he instinctively knew what he had to do. Consequently, he got up without suffering any injury whatsoever.
Dentistry is an occupation that cannot be performed if the dentist is incapacitated in various ways. I asked Ron if he has ever been hurt in such a way that it was difficult for him to do dentistry. He replied, “I’ve seen more injuries in one softball game of adult men than I have in my entire 27 years in karate.” The lack of injuries is due to a strong emphasis on the importance of control.
Dr. Ron Leach graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1970. After a two-year stint in the US Army, he started his practice in LeCenter, Minnesota, where he has remained ever since. He has been married 38 years to his wife, LuAnn. He has instructed all three of his grown children in the martial arts. When I asked if his wife has taken any instruction, he said they each have their own hobbies. “I don’t sew, and LuAnn doesn’t do karate.”
Ron continues to learn more under the same Dr. Harold Mead with whom he started 27 years ago. They have traveled throughout the U.S. to learn more moves and techniques. He practices several hours a week and teaches classes twice a week.
Ron says karate definitely keeps him limber and in shape. Even so, he says he can’t imagine not staying with it indefinitely because it has become such an integral part of his life. As well, an ancient Japanese saying states that, similar to the art of dentistry, it takes a lifetime to master the art of karate.