Over the last 40 years George Bierman of Loyalsock has dedicated his life to practicing the martial arts. As a freshman at Bloomsburg University in 1973 he began training in Tae Qwon Do and Judo, but in the time since then he has truly mastered his craft, becoming one of the most decorated karate masters in the world.
Bierman is now an 8th degree black belt who teaches karate and self-defense classes locally. His assortment of skills covers everything from Akai Ju Jutsu to weapons disarming. He has been inducted to 10 martial arts halls of fame, and has won over 2000 karate awards, including two from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives acknowledging his outstanding accomplishments.
However, Bierman's most impressive victory in the martial arts world of competition came earlier this month when he competed in The Martial Arts Olympics "East-West" Open from April 11-14.
This event, which has become known by many as the greatest martial arts competition in the world, is run by the International Martial Arts Confederation. The competition takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is a forum for martial arts competitors to not only showcase their skills, but to also exchange their knowledge with those from different cultural backgrounds. In the absence of any real karate competition in the Summer Olympic Games, this competition is recognized by those within the sport to be the most prestigious.
In April of 2000 George Bierman competed in this competition for the very first time and won two gold medals. A year later at the East-West Open he won three more gold medals in Traditional Forms, Long Weapons and Short Weapons, while also nabbing a bronze medal in Kumite.
After these impressive victories in 2000 and 2001, Bierman became a poster boy for the competition for the next seven years, and since then has made regular trips to event as an Ambassador for the United States.
At this year's East-West Open in St. Petersburg, Bierman once again made the long flight to Russia to take part in the event's opening ceremonies with UFC hall of famer Dan Severn.
However, after completing their skit for the opening ceremonies on Friday, Bierman was surprised to learn that the event's coordinator had signed him up for a weapons competition on that Sunday. Now at age 57, Bierman reluctantly agreed, despite not having any of his weapons or fighting gear with him.
"I ended up buying a Bo staff at one of the vendors and practiced with that a little the night before to clear out some of the cobwebs," said Bierman. "I work out every day, but when I was competing before I trained for a year and a half."
Like the champion that he is, Bierman emerged with a gold medal in the event, topping 15 other opponents who have spent at least a year preparing for the competition.
"They're younger and maybe a little faster, but I probably know a little more, so I think they underestimated the old guy," Bierman said of his victory.
Despite winning his sixth world title at this year's East-West Open, Bierman feels that he probably won't compete in the event again.
"Once you get to this level you're talking about the best athletes in the world. And to be successful at this level you have to eat, sleep and breathe martial arts," he said "And for me, I'm starting to learn that once you reach the top you can really only lose or get hurt."