Fredonia has a six-time Martial Arts Hall of Famer in its midst — and he wants to throw himself into helping the community.
Robert Olmedo traveled to San Antonio last month for his sixth induction, joined by his wife, Gina, and son, Alexander. The professional martial artist and bodyguard has lived in Fredonia for a little over two years and wants to share his passions and philosophies with his new town.
Olmedo, a Fredonia Fire Department first lieutenant, has led quite a full life.
Born in Chile, he took up martial arts as a boy so he could protect his twin brother, Alfredo, from bullies. He must have protected him well — Robert got his black belt at age 14. (Now he has six of them.)
However, he still had plenty to learn.
“At that time, you don’t know what is really martial arts. You’re thinking martial arts is kicking, who is more macho, who is kicking more high,” he said. “Little by little it started to change. … Avoiding conflict is the most important thing, no matter what happens.”
Olmedo emigrated to America in 1982, working at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. He later studied at John Jay College to become a bodyguard. He had a martial arts school, in Connecticut for a while and has been a certified personal trainer for more than 28 years.
Olmedo wound up guarding some very famous people. “First I started with John F. Kennedy Jr.,” he said. “He was a great man, I miss him … Princess Diana used to come in here to New York City, England, Argentina, other places, and I used to go with her all the time.”
He has also guarded musicians Sheryl Crow, B.B. King, and Carlos Santana.
“A bodyguard, you don’t have to be bigger,” he said. “If you know your skill at martial arts — you know, I can put you out with one finger. But, you know, before you use weapons (or) you use martial arts, you use the head… You learn so many things. You have to be an EMT — if something happens, they have a heart attack, take care of them right away because sometimes they don’t make it to the hospital.”
He also knows eight languages: Chinese, English, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish.
Olmedo has a long list of people he wants to dedicate his achievements to. There’s his parents, “who gave me the best values in life,” along with his wife and son, “for love, respect, discipline, harmony, support and patience.” He also gave a shout-out to his former students, his friends from around the world, his instructors throughout the years, the people of Fredonia and Dunkirk and their fire departments.
He plans to open a fitness and martial arts training center in the area, similar to what he had in Connecticut. Right now, he’s training people in his basement. His son Alexander, 24, assists him. Like his father, he holds a black belt.
Olmedo said, “For the most part, (people) don’t have respect, they think that they know everything. No social skill… I can’t wait to teach these kids, bring their parents, ask ‘What do you want, what can I do for your kid?’ Because some kids, they don’t listen to parents, but they listen to people from outside.”
Olmedo’s main goal is to offer a place for area youth to get mentally and physically fit. “We have nothing for our teenagers here. There’s nothing, only bars and bars and bars. It’s very sad,” he said.
“Sometimes we have to be humble. There’s so much machos here. They think that they know everything because they have a gun and knife,” he added.
“I’m a different person when I teach martial arts. Totally different. I’m the same guy, but a lot of discipline. If you don’t wanna listen, there’s the door, you can leave. I don’t want to waste my time.”
Olmedo encourages people to contact him at [email protected].