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Aug 5, 2018 | in Masters Speak

Steve Anderson is an icon in the sport-karate universe. The native of Toledo, Ohio, spent time in various parts of the country before settling in Southern California in 1973, where he rose to the top of the circuit and acquired the nickname “Nasty.” The Black Belt Hall of Famer now operates two schools in Ontario, Canada, and oversees the instruction of some 500 students. We caught up with him for the purposes of this interview. We’re confident you will find his recollections as enlightening and entertaining as we did. You started training with your first instructors, “Chicken” Gabriel and Reynaldo Leal, when you were 15. What was it about karate that appealed to you? Steve Anderson: It was the Bruce Lee thing. Karate carried a mysticism back in those days. All the Orientals were doing it, and I wanted to have their speed and power. I wanted to be able to touch somebody and then have that person die in a few years. (laughs)

Steve "Nasty" Anderson (left) and "Chicken" Gabriel
Steve "Nasty" Anderson (left) and "Chicken" Gabriel

How did you get interested in competition? Steve Anderson: Chicken’s school was the most dominant one in Southern California — and in all of California. It was right there with the Black Karate Federation. We were actually a bit better, I thought. Rey was one of the top brown belts in Southern California, and Chicken was one of the top black belts. What enabled you to build your phenomenal tournament record? Steve Anderson: Those guys were so competitive, and that helped me set my sights on winning. I thought, If they can do it, I’ve got a good opportunity to do it, too, because I was a better athlete than most of those guys. So I started going to tournaments every week — even when they didn’t go, I’d go by myself. And I’d win and win. It was an addiction. What was your first significant win? Steve Anderson: It was in 1980 at a tournament run by Steve Fisher. That was where I first beat Keith Vitali, the No. 1 fighter. Then I beat him again later that year in the U.S. Top 10 Nationals in Stockton, California. Then I beat him in Atlanta at the U.S. Open in October of the same year. So we had three fights that year, and I won them all. Karate Illustrated rated me the No. 1 fighter in the country — in my rookie year.