Holiday Closure: All Easton Schools Closed Dec.14 & morning classes cancelled Dec.15

Easton Training Logo Badge

May 21, 2024

Easton Muay Thai Purple Shirt + Former Pilot, Richard Seals: from Flight to Fight

Tatyana Grechina

Easton Muay Thai Purple Shirt + Former Pilot, Richard Seals: from Flight to Fight

For many of us who engage in growth-oriented activities, especially physical activities, we hope to add years, quality and more vitality to our lives. 

This week, we highlight the story of Richard Seals, an Easton Muay Thai Purple Shirt, retired pilot and an avid biker – the Harley Davidson kind – who launched a brand new chapter of his life at 80 years old with Easton, and has been going strong for seven years. 

Richard Seals

Richard first experienced Easton Training Center in 2017, when he took his grandson Jake to a Tigers class in Centennial. Watching how much fun he had, and seeing all the Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai students on their respective sides of the mats, Richard decided that this had to be more fun than lifting weights.

He found out there was an Easton in Boulder, and the very next day he went, greeted by Mike Tousignant (when Easton’s President was still Boulder’s GM) and Sachi Ainge

“I told them, I thought I’d like to try the Muay Thai stuff,” Richard said, “and they acted like some 80 year old guy was ok! Come on in!”

He took his first Kickboxing class and fell in love. Richard began to go three to four times a week, and the further into it he got, the better he got. 

Seven years later, the many benefits martial arts has

Richard earning his White Shirt!

added to his life include a loss of 35 pounds and the fact that Richard no longer has to take blood pressure medicine!

Along with the welcoming and supportive environment at Easton, he says in particular, the participation of women in martial arts is astounding to him. Back in the Golden Gloves days, there was nothing for women, who were barely allowed to play tennis.

Today, nobody thinks a thing about how many girls are in a class, and a lot of them are better than him, Richard laughs.

Life off the ground

Richard never liked being tied to the ground. Ever since he was a little boy growing up in Tulsa, he dreamed of being up in the sky – of flying. 

“When I was just a little kid,” says Richard, “there was a place they called a bomber plant nearby where they built B-17s for the war. I used to sit in the car and they’d be flying over, eight or 10 planes – taking off to deliver to some base somewhere.”

“I’d lay in the grass and watch them fly over. That’s when I first fell in love with flying. I loved the idea of flying those airplanes. You’d listen to them go over, the sounds of the engines, way different than jet engines.” (B-17s typically used piston engines.)

After high school, Richard joined the army and got sent to Fort Marmoth, New Jersey, to go to electronics school. His roommate there had a pilot’s license. 

“Let’s go flying,” he said to Richard one day, and the two went for a ride in a J3 Cub – a very light and basic aircraft, flying up and down the New Jersey coast.


The early days, with Richard on the left.

That’s how, amid learning how to fix radios and run a jackhammer for the US Army, Richard learned how to fly. After he got out of the army, he moved to Denver and got a job with Martin Marietta, a major American aerospace and defense corporation which also happened to have a flying club. 

Richard started taking lessons through the club, and shortly got married and moved back to Tulsa, where he decided he wanted to become an airline pilot. He got his license, spending time teaching in the air, doing charter work, teaching the ground school, even flying copilot to transport the Tulsa hockey team to rack up his flying hours. 

When Richard began sending out resumes, Delta hired him and shipped him out to Atlanta for school, followed by a launch in Dallas. Over the course of his 30 year career with Delta, Richard flew out of Dallas, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles for the last six years before moving back to Colorado, bringing his wife and kids along with him.

New beginnings

Throughout his life, Richard has tried every spot under the sun, he tells us, from basketball and tennis to golf. However, up until Easton, he had never before done martial arts – largely because it wasn’t really available.

“When I was a kid, back in the 50s and early 60s,” says Richard, “there were no martial arts. There was Golden Gloves Boxing. And the rest of the time, it was football or baseball.”

At Golden Gloves, children could learn boxing and once a year take part in a tournament. Richard would go with his family to watch the tournament, but his dad wouldn’t let him participate. 

A roommate at one point claimed to have a black belt in Karate and offered to give Richard a lesson. However, he was also prone to erratic outbursts which included punching walls, so Richard politely declined.

Aside from him, Richard didn’t know of anyone else who did martial arts. Even in the army, he says, they learned how to wash trucks and shoot machine guns, but there was no physical hand-to-hand combat. 

Richard’s retirement in 1996

After his 1996 retirement, he continued to lift weights, but gradually he found himself getting stiffer and more sedentary. Many of the typical physical activities in a typical weight gym setting – weight training, treadmills, stationary bikes – bored him. 

When he discovered Easton, and Muay Thai, it both piqued his curiosity (and his penchant for adrenaline, we’re guessing) and gave him a way to reawaken parts of himself he didn’t know he could still access.

“I am so much better off now than when I was in my 70s,” says Richard. “And I can’t tell you how much better I feel than my friends and cohorts. All the stuff I do at Easton helps me in daily operation, and it keeps my body going.”

As Richard continued to train, he noticed that so many of the little things – all of those tiny muscles that make you move daily – began coming back! 

Unlike repetitive activities like running, biking or lifting, in Muay Thai we use our entire bodies, working muscles and mobility we rarely think about in everyday life. Even if you never plan on fighting or competing, it’s about maintaining coordination and keeping all your joints healthy.

“I don’t think I’m the deadliest guy on the planet,” Richard says, “but if I ran into another 80 year-old guy with a fight to pick, I’ve some moves that’ll definitely make them think, ‘I wish I’d picked on someone else.’” 

[Am I Too Old For Martial Arts?]

Resilience subheadings

Richard’s grandson, Jake, just spent 3 months in Thailand and teaches at Easton Centennial.

On the mat, Richard keeps his primary focus honed on the kicks and the coordination, trying to emulate what he sees and achieve the movements. 

In Muay Thai, the timing and physical mechanics of the sport alone demand concentration, like “delivering a couple of punches and a kick, then recovering from the kick while you’re loading up to deliver a cross.’ The endurance of maintaining his cardio while keeping good form, his strikes long and kicks high, was one of the biggest challenges Richard has had to overcome.

Easton’s Muay Thai program puts a strong emphasis on cardio, with lots of conditioning to enhance your endurance. This means often doing burn-out rounds on the bag or with a partner – calling for sequences such as 10 round kicks, followed by 10 speed punches followed by more fast-paced striking techniques. Currently, Richard trains three days a week at Easton, with a day to rest in between each, and takes the weekend off.

“I firmly believe I’m still here because I’m doing this,” he says. “It keeps all my muscles and tendons lubricated and stretched. You can’t do that sitting at home doing the daily ten exercises. But getting down here, punching the heavy bag, doing that keeps you active and keeps all your joints and stuff loose.”

Along with having a positive impact on Richard’s physical health, Easton has also provided a rich community where he’s made new friends, including post-class lunch buddies. Even the BJJ guys at Boulder know him and all say hi. 

The positive attitudes and friendliness of his Easton family never fails to brighten his day – like walking into a family reunion. Having a community outside of your immediate family expands your world and gives you something to think about – like how many people are going to be in the class, or how your coach’s kid is doing. 

The two loves of Richard’s life.

To anyone that may be hesitating about starting martial arts, Richard says just come on in! From the health benefits you’ll get to the friends you’ll make – it’s 50 times better than getting on a treadmill. 

“You’re doing your body so much more good,” says Richard, “because the movements are all different. It’s not just walking on a treadmill or riding a stupid stationary bike – it’s all the different ways your body’s moving.”

“Come on in, welcome!” Richard says. “Nobody ever acts like you’re a stranger, like you can’t talk to him. Everyone makes you feel like I’ve known them for 15 years. That’s one of the things that struck me.”

[The People You Train With Become the People You Show Up For]

Richard earned his Purple Shirt in Muay Thai, October 2023 (left) and sparring with Coach Matt Bloss (right.) 

The community we meet at Easton is special because we’re all on a mission to better ourselves. We’ve made the choice to make a change, and we’re ready to go down whichever road those changes lead us down. Usually this means shifting habits, flushing out what no longer serves us and making room for more skills, friends and confidence. 

Life is long; take ownership and co-create the life you imagine. Even 20 years after retirement, you can fall in love with a whole new side of yourself you never dreamed you’d meet.

(Though in many ways, these new levels seem like natural iterations of our core selves.) 

In Richard’s case, the technical focus and attention to detail necessary to make something appear light and effortless are evident in both the cockpit of an airplane and his Muay Thai practice –  as he plays with gravity to deliver speed, momentum, form and grace. 

[From Concept Art to Martial Arts: Meet Easton’s Newest GM Phil Lietz]

Richard with Coach Matt Bloss at ETC Boulder.


Leave a Comment

Sign up for a free class

Sign up below