RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–Tom Bell of Richmond has only been the “Kung Fu Grandpa” for a few days, but he’s already known by that nickname by well over 7 million people around the world, and counting.
And yes, the 52-year-old salesman took some karate classes as a youngster, but he’s only been swinging his now-famous nunchucks for a little more than a year.
“My mom passed away and we were going through some of the stuff and I found an old wooden pair (of nunchucks),” Bell recalled. “I started playing with them. First thing you know, I had knots all over me. So my fiancée bought me foam ones.”
He’s the star of the viral Youtube video titled “Kung FU Grandpa in the Food Lion parking lot!” that showcases one of his high-flying workouts, filmed by a local pastor who provided humorous and spontaneous commentary that has helped the video soar through cyber space.
The pastor, Rev. Aamon Miller of Swansboro Baptist Church, formally met the man he dubbed “Kung Fu Grandpa” Tuesday afternoon in the Food Lion parking lot.
And he brought a T-shirt he has made in honor of the message he sees in the runaway clip, which has been also been made into a music video.
“If you drop one chuck, pick it back up, and keep chuckin –Kung Fu Grandpa,” the shirt reads. Rev. Miller said the shirts will soon be available online.
“That’s what I do a lot,” Bell said of dropping his chucks.
He can be seen chucking in parks and parking lots all around town. It keeps him in great shape. Local filmmaker Lucas Krost recently made a polished video starring Bell – shot in Richmond – for a Super Bowl commercial contest by Doritos. It didn’t win, but many believe it’s worthy of airing.
But late last week, it was the Rev. Miller’s first look at the silver-haired martial artist.
“When I came out of the store, he’s chucking by my car,” Miller recalled, laughing. “And I’m nervous. I’m like, ‘Oh, man, is this the repo man? Do I owe him money? What’s going on?’”
He said he got in his car, moved it around so he could get some over-the-dash-video with his cell phone, kind of ducking down in case the man with the nunchucks didn’t like being filmed.
But as he watched, he felt there was more to the story.
And like any good preacher, he found a mighty message in the unusual and funny video he shot.
“His mom passed away,” he said, watching the Kung Fu Grandpa have another workout on the Food Lion parking lot. “He was down. So he needed something to pick himself up. And he found it in this activity. And the whole thing of dropping the chuck . . . In life, we’re going to drop all kinds of things. But the key is not to stay down with the thing that you dropped. Pick it up and get back to what you are doing.”
The Kung Fu Grandpa approved of that message, happily accepting the T-shirt, his new name and fame and the idea that his healthful pastime has given so many so much pleasure.