ABILENE, Texas—The pulsing beats of house and techno music help Don Chandler get in the zone. Once he’s there, the big, hulking man removes the headphones from his ears and steps up to a stack of bricks. There’s a surprising, almost eerie, sense of calm surrounding him as he focuses on the bricks, oblivious to everything around him. When he feels the energy coming off the stack, he springs into action. As his feet leave the ground, he lets out a powerful shout and comes down with the force of an anvil dropped from several stories, turning the stack of bricks into a pile of rubble.
The entire series of events is symbolic of everything Chandler does: No challenge is too big for the shop manager at U-Haul Repair Center of Abilene who has more than a dozen world titles in breaking, a martial arts technique in which a person uses their elbow, hand, forearm or foot to break things like bricks, boards and baseball bats. Breaking requires focus, drive and follow-through—things Chandler also applies to his personal and professional life.
Hitting the books
Much like bricks, a stack of textbooks is no match for Chandler, who earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management through the University of Phoenix in 2012. He used the focus he learned in martial arts to juggle a busy work schedule with the time demands of attending classes and studying every night. Anytime he felt discouraged or overwhelmed, he got the pep talk he needed.
“My wife, Darla, is my biggest supporter and motivator,” Chandler declared. “She’s like my mother hen, always asking me if my homework is done and pushing me to do more.”
After all the time and hard work paid off and Chandler put on his cap and gown, he wasn’t done, as he decided to pursue a master’s degree. Talk about follow-through!
No challenge is too big
When you can break several baseball bats with your elbow, even the most daunting or perplexing mechanical problem can seem pretty minor. Just like when he’s breaking, Chandler always steps up to the challenge.
“I enjoy the martial arts aspect of controlling your body,” he noted. “You get in your own zone; the concentration is very intense. That helps me focus at work, because things are always hectic here at the shop.”
Watch Don in action in a recent competition:
When he’s not working, studying or breaking bricks, Chandler is working with kids. He volunteers several hours a week to show kids how to break and teach them all about focus, drive and follow-through. He sees breaking as a way to teach life lessons and boost self-esteem.
“Watching someone break for the first time is amazing,” Chandler proclaimed. “You see a wave of emotion come over them and it boosts their self-respect and morale so high.”
Occasionally, Chandler does find time to sleep. He goes to bed around Midnight and is up again around 5 am, ready for a new set of challenges. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. Whether he’s trying to diagnose a difficult issue with a U-Haul truck, taking an exam or staring down at a tall stack of bricks, it’s unwise to ever bet against Don Chandler, because you know he’ll power through.