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Black Expat: Chuck Johnson – Kickin’ Butt in Japan


Black Expat Magazine has a great feature on fellow Detroiter, Chuck Johnson, martial artist and rising movie star. It would be great to meet Chuck and converse in Korean. I bet that would be interesting! 

 Movie Having lived in Asia, I know first hand how stereotypes Westerners bring with them (including myself) often obtained through the media can clash with reality. It is the things, and people, that you do not expect and don’t fit our perfect mold that make life interesting. Like the six foot North Korean on the opposing basketball team that slammed all over me in pickup basketball. There were many other excellent Chinese street ballers I tried my mediocre skills against. After a game, a girl walked up to me and told me “I thought I was going to see you play like on the ‘AND1′ video but I’m kind of disappointed.”

chuck-headI am sure many people think of Chuck Johnson this way in Japan. An expert and national champion in the United States in Olympic taekwondo, Chuck’s swift kicks, skill, and discipline have shattered the normal stereotypes of Blacks being hip-hop gangsters or unruly soldiers in Okinawa. Chuck currently resides in Tokyo, Japan but has also lived in Seoul, South Korea and has visited 30 other countries as a volunteer. Not bad for someone who first started being an expat in 2004

Chuck originally hails from the home of Motown, Detroit, Michigan. After moving north to Okemos, Michigan with his family in his early teen years, he first started learning Olympic taekwondo at age 15 and began winning victory after victory in local tournaments. By age 20, he had won gold medals in the state junior championships and began traveling back and forth to Korea for more intensive training. “While I was in Korea, and I saw just how big the world really was… and how much opportunity there was out there for people who were willing to explore it,” he tells Black Expat about his first experience abroad.In Korea, he lived for a time in Seoul and learned Korean. Though it was a culture shock living there, Chuck downplays the cultural differences and imagined antagonisms between Blacks and Koreans. As he stated in a Metropolis Tokyo interview, “culturally, the Koreans share a myriad of elements with African-Americans: they both have a strong Christian social base, community-first orientation, super-direct communication patterns, etc.” By age 23, he had won one national championship back in the US and was considering the Olympics but decided he wanted to continue his path in expat life and moved back to Asia, this time Japan. Click here to read more about Chuck and the cost of living in Tokyo.

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