By: Linda Bustamante
Veteran, Martial Artist, Musician, Philanthropist, and Instructor are some of the many hats Robert E. Henry wears. As a Veteran, he fought for our country and is a perfect representation of a hero. As a Martial Artist, he learned and excelled in multiple arts and gained priceless knowledge from some of the best throughout the years. As a Musician, he has performed with some of the greats, is a star performer who shines when he plays, and takes it up a notch with each performance. As a Philanthropist, he utilized all his skills and talents in giving back to his community. And to encompass everything in one, he is an instructor. It is no surprise this well-rounded, respected man was a martial arts and firearms instructor and became an educator as a band director; teaching has always been in his blood.
Kickin’ Martial Arts Journey
Mr. Henry started his martial arts in 1970 and trained with numerous instructors and various styles. He currently holds a 7th Degree and International Master Instructor Certificate in Tae Kwon Do (this style is known as "the art of kicking and punching"), 6th Degree International Master Instructor in Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan (Tang Soo Do is known as “Chinese hand way” and Moo Duk Kwan is known as “School of Martial Virtue”), and 5th Degree and International Master Instructor Certificate in Hapkido (this style is known as “the way of coordinating energy”). Among the ranks he has earned, he had also served as a certified Referee and National Coach for the Tae Kwon Do Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and an instructor for American Women’s Self Defense Association (AWSDA). He was also a member for the Texas Black Belt Commission, a prestigious Corporation that educates and encourages the development of self esteem and discipline in the youth through the teaching of the martial arts and in 1995 he was inducted into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Self Defense Instructor of the Year. He garnered many titles and accolades throughout the years, was a sought after instructor, and continues to have the same passion for the arts as when he started back in the 70’s. At the age of 70, he continues to train and shine light that in life, one is never too old to do what they love. Although arthritis put an end to the competitive and teaching aspects of his martial arts career, I feel that the true essence of a martial artist will ignite in him forever and “once a black belt, always a black belt”.
Shooting for Protection
As a National Rifle Association (NRA) certified firearms, home protection, and personal protection instructor and Texas Department of Public Safety certified Concealed Handgun License instructor, Mr. Henry has taught and certified many. With 45 years of experience as a firearm instructor, he is also certified as a National Chief Range Officer for the United States Practical Shooting Association, is an active competitor for the Association, and had the honor of competing in the U.S. National Championships in 1996 and 1997. He is an individual who is revered by the U.S. Border Patrol for Side Handle Baton Program and received the Commendation Award. As a Graduate of Options for Personal Security tactical knives and defensive shooting, Options for Personal Security Tactical Weapons Level II, and Clint Smith’s Thunder Ranch 3 day Defensive Pistol course, he is definitely not one to be messed with on the shooting range.
Music on a High NoteMr. Henry’s musical career took him around the world. After attending Sam Houston State University for a year and majoring in music, he joined the U.S. Air Force and earned the title of Staff Sergeant E-5. During his time serving our country in the Viet Nam war, he joined the U.S. Air Force Band from 1966-1970 in which the band served as ambassadors for Good Will and toured throughout Europe playing for Presidents, Politicians, Dignitaries, Kings, and Queens.
After he was discharged from the U.S. Air Force, he returned to the Rio Grande Valley and continued his education at the University of Texas Pan American where his studies focused on trumpet and percussion. In the duration of earning his degree, he had the honor to perform with outstanding musicians such as Don Rickles, Dean Canty, Rene Sandoval Quartet, Myron Floren accordionist from the Lawrence Welk Show, The Four Lads, The Four Aces, Los Unicos with Mel Villarreal, and Los Fabulosos with Eddie Perez, just to name a few. Not only did Mr. Henry have the distinction of playing for Presidents and music legends, playing for Los Unicos and Los Fabulosos earned him the honor of receiving the Legacy Award from the Tejano Academy Awards for his contributions to the Tejano music industry.
In 2000, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Music from The University of Texas Pan American. He began teaching as a Band Director for the Edinburg Consolidated School District where he is still employed today. He continues to perform with different bands on the trumpet and drums in the Rio Grande Valley and plays an array of music styles from jazz, blues, rock, tejano, and country and enjoys playing for any occasion.
Making a Difference through Community Involvement
As a husband to one of the sweetest, caring, and kindhearted women Mary Lou Henry of 38 years and loving father of three, he has been blessed with the gift of an amazing family. With all the blessings he has received in his life, he believes that giving back to our community is ones way of blessing others through our involvement and action for good causes. Through his involvement with the martial arts, he felt a closeness of being able to utilize his knowledge of self defense to educate and teach women’s group courses on rape prevention. He taught rape prevention courses to battered women’s organizations such as Mujeres Unidas (Women United) and has taught self defense and rape prevention seminars at The University of Texas Pan American. He has also lectured civic and private organizations on personal protection and assault prevention. With his involvement in firearms, he served as the President of the Pharr Action Shooters Competition Club and was elected as the Gulf Coast Section Coordinator for the Gulf Coast section of the U.S. Practical Shooters Association. As he proceeds to be involved by taking action, his message of positivity, perseverance, and utilizing our talents for the betterment of society will continue making a difference in our community.
Mr. Henry has such a big heart and is one of the most down to earth individuals I have had the pleasure of knowing. He is a man who has been one of my martial arts instructors as a child, my band director in my teens, my mentor as a young adult, and dearest friend as an adult. He is a person to look up to, learn from, and continues to inspire children like he inspired and continues to inspire me. I feel so fortunate, lucky, and blessed to have the honor to know him, share his remarkable story, and be one of the many touched by the artistry of Robert E. Henry.