LINCOLN, Neb. – It’s 4:30 a.m. and time to get the day started. Anthony Ray hits the road not long after waking up and drives down to Lincoln. He arrives at the Nebraska National Guard air base, puts on his gear for security forces, and then works in the area he’s assigned. He drives back home once his shift is over, lets the dog out and then changes for taekwondo school. Ray teaches classes until 9:00 p.m., comes home to clean up, hops in bed and waits to repeat it all the next day.
Tech Sgt. Anthony Ray, with the 155th Security Forces Squadron, has trained in martial arts for over 42 years and is the owner of Nebraska Academy of Martial Arts located in Omaha, Neb. Ray’s journey in martial arts first started in 1980 when his dad decided to bring him to a gym.
“I was getting picked on in school and was smaller in size compared to my classmates, so my dad thought it would be good that I learn how to defend myself,” Ray said. “I started protecting others as soon as I learned how to protect myself. I am the sheepdog in the analogy of there’s wolves and sheep.”
The protector can back up his talk with a list of accolades and accomplishments. Ray is a sixth-degree black belt in taekwondo, holds a third-degree black belt in unified martial arts, and is a two-time amateur Omaha Golden Gloves champion. He has also trained in MMA, hapkido, judo, jiu-jitsu, and kung fu.
Martial arts has taught Ray discipline, self-confidence and how to be an effective instructor. He has used these lessons while also working with Airmen.
“I loved teaching the wing members when I was combat arms. I took a big interest in teaching correctly,” Ray said. “I can train you to pass the course, but if I can train you to be a better marksman then I know you have the skills.”
Someone who has been able to see Ray grow through his time in martial arts is
Col. Mark Shirley, State Air Surgeon for the Nebraska Air National Guard.
“When Ray first started taekwondo I was one of his main instructors. He then became like a little brother to me,” Shirley said. “He started out quiet, but now gives direction and mentorship to others.”
First meeting in martial arts and then connecting later through the military was a sheer coincidence said Shirley.
“I did 20 years in the Navy Reserves and then got out in 2005. Then recommissioned into the Air Force Reserves in 2010 and finally came to the Air Guard in 2014,” Shirley said. “I come to the gate one day and he’s saluting! It’s very surreal and neat to be able and serve with him.”
Shirley went on to describe Ray as outgoing, disciplined and tenacious with a fighting spirit. That fighting spirit goes into the interactions Ray has and the advice he gives to others.
“Everybody needs to take a self-defense class. Self-awareness, knowing what to look for or how not to be in a certain situation makes all the difference,” Ray said. “It applies everywhere and that way you can look out for your fellow Airman, family, friends and yourself.”