TOM BOLDEN - GROWING UP - EARLY CHILDHOOD - TEENAGE YEARS
Tom Bolden was born in 1944 in rural Southeastern Georgia, USA, near the small town of Reidsville. He spent his early
childhood and teenage years growing up on a small family farm which was owned by his grandparents. During his preteen years he spent
many hours walking in the plowed fields after heavy rains searching for and finding arrow heads and other Native American artifacts. He also enjoyed
fishing, swimming and boating in the large lake which was partly on the farm's property. As with most kids play was an enjoyable activity and Tom
spent a lot of his time playing (e.g. running, jumping, tumbling, wrestling, etc.), with siblings and other neighborhood kids.
However as he grew older Tom was expected to attend school, do his home work and assist with farm work such as planting, tending and harvesting market
crops (i.e. cotton, tobacco, peanuts, corn, Vidalia onions). Vidalia onions which are grown exclusively in this small region in Georgia, are known
for their sweetness and good taste (even raw) and are produced nowhere else in the world. In addition to this kind of work he was also expected
to assist with other tasks such as gathering and chopping firewood, feeding and watering farm animals, etc.
Many daily work tasks involved the use of traditional farm tools such as knives of various sizes and types, axes, hatchets, hand sickles, hammers, hoes, rakes, pitchforks, etc. Through repeated use and practice with such tools, farm kids mastered their use at an early age. Ironically it was his early mastery in the use of many of these tools that would provide Tom with valuable insights into understanding and excelling at his future passion "the weapons based Filipino Martial Arts of Eskrima and Arnis". His experiences with certain bladed tools in particular, would prove to be very beneficial in understanding and using such tools as self-defense weapons. These included machetes and bolos which were used for cutting sugar cane, corn, brush, vines, small limbs/trees, etc. Various other types of blades were used for such things as gathering, cutting and preparing fruits and vegetabes and included cleavers for use in butchering/preparing wild game, livestock, etc, for food consumption.
In addition to ongoing routine farm related activities, country life also provided a rich environment for learning various other valuable skills. Tom's grandfather in addition to being an expert farmer was also an avid woodsman and imparted much of his knowledge to his grandson. By the time Tom reached his teens he was already well versed in many ways of the woods including fishing, hunting, tracking, trapping, etc. Tom learned how to build and set traps for catching fish, birds and small game animals. He was also taught how to make bows, arrows and slings/shots for use in fishing and hunting. Country folk also have a rich tradition of understanding and using wild roots and herbs for food, medicinal purposes, etc. and Tom inherited this traditon as well. Since livestock (i.e. cattle, mules, pigs) were raised on the farm Tom learned the art of making and using bullwhips and was adept at using lassos for roping and tieing cattle.
It was around the time that Tom was reaching his teens that he also developed a real passion for his earlier childhood pastime of wrestling. He and friends would spend school recesses and free after school hours practicing in sandy areas or plowed fields honing their wrestling skills in what they referred to as "sandlot style". The name was such because they sought out and used these soft dirt areas to make training safer by lessening the impact of falling when being thrown, and to benefit from routinely training in the soft shifty sand/dirt which developed strong feet, ankles and legs along with excellent balance. Tom and his friends never had a trained wrestling coach and since there was limited availability of related recorded media at that time (1950s), they just picked things up from other kids or the street and practiced/refined it a lot which resulted in them becoming rather skilled at it.
Tom attended Tattnall County Industrial High School, located in Reidsville, Ga. where in addition to pursuing traditional liberal arts and science studies, he also concentrated in Agriculture and Industrial Arts (i.e. welding, electricity, stone masonry). He played trumpet in his high school band and having been an excellent student, graduated as salutatorian of his senior class in 1962. It was in high school during the Spring of his senior year that he first saw and was so impressed by members of the United States Marine Corps that he decided to enlist.