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FITCHBURG — Dr. Len Brassard has been practicing martial arts for 50 years, coaching for 44 of them, and while he said he felt like he was impacting people’s life, he never truly knew.
That was until Friday when, unbeknownst to him, he was inducted into the American Kenpo International Hall of Fame in front of many of the people he coached and worked with over the years.
“What a wonderful feeling to put in all of that time and have people really show their appreciation,” he said Saturday. “I guess we always wonder — whatever it is that we are doing — are we doing a good job? Are we accomplishing what we hope to? Last night was pretty much a confirmation.”
Brassard first stepped into a gym when he was 10 years old at the Leominster YMCA.
Most of his life since then has been spent in one. He began coaching martial arts when he was 16 at the Fitchburg YMCA.
Brassard had a martial-arts studio in Mississippi, then Arkansas. In 1989, he founded the Family Martial Arts Center, which has bounced around locations in Fitchburg and Leominster since.
Brassard said the word “family” is really why he stuck with martial arts, with a focus in American Kenpo — a self-defense martial art that also focuses on the mental side of defense — for a half a century.
“The biggest thrill is watching kids come in and them improve their focus, attitudes, the respect they show their parents, each other and themselves,” Brassard said.
“That is why I do this. It is corny and a little old-fashioned.
But in that respect, I don’t mind being corny. I really do this to help people get better at what they want to do. The arts are a tool to get people to learn how to organize themselves, structure themselves and learn all the attributes they need to get by out there.”
Brassard’s son, Lenny, said that from a young age, he took tips from his father about how to treat and deal with people that resonated in the studio and in life.
“To grow up in a place where I get to help people and watch them grow up is a remarkable thing,” Lenny said. “That was all started by him. Everything I have is because of seeds he planted 50 years ago.”
Lenny is expecting a daughter in two months and hopes to pass on to her the family tradition his father started. But Len Brassard, even after 50 years, isn’t done quite yet.
In an ever-changing world, Len Brassard still has work to do.
“It’s old, but it hasn’t gotten old,” he said. “There is still much that needs to be done.”
Originally published in the Sentinel Enterprise News
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