I was born, in 1959, into a caring family. My father
was from a modern Mennonite background and my mother
from a city family. The big things in New Hamburg,
Ontario, the small Canadian town where I grew up, were
baseball, hockey and, to a lesser degree, lacrosse.
I was not a sports-oriented kid, so these things didn't
interest me. My father, on the other hand, loved sports
and enrolled me in all of these activites. He was disappointed
that I did not excel in nor enjoy any of them.
In early high school, he bribed me to take football,
saying he would buy me a snowmobile. I took the bait
and lasted all of two weeks. He finally let things
be and we learned to love to fish
With visions of Bruce Lee dancing in his head,
Peter Zehr wanted to do karate from a young age.
Here he is practising a side kick in his family living
room, in 1985.
I always enjoyed watching spy movies, such as In
Like Flint and James Bond. The fancy moves they
used to incapacitate the bad guys intrigued me and
I wanted to see more. In the early 1970s, Bruce Lee
was really making it big. I watched The Green
Hornet and was fascinated
by anything that I took to be karate. I became a fanatical
fan of the TV show Kung Fu and watched every move that
Kwai Chang Caine made. I recall once asking my sister
to punch at me and trying out some of what I had seen.
I pleaded with my parents to let me take karate. My
dad thought it was sissy stuff. My mom was a little
kinder and when we visited Kitchener, Ont., she let
me check out the dojo in the mall. For some reason – I
suspect it was the price and the 20-minute drive – they
didn't let me enroll in the club.
Even so, I was always fascinated by the way one person
could disarm, control and take out one or more assailants.
This fascination never left me and today, working as
an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer, I realize
from my experience dealing with criminals how effective
the moves can really be.