| COMMUNITY |
Karyn Turner paces back and forth in her Scottsbluff, Nebraska office as she conducts business. The second-degree black belt and former International Karate Champion is busy speaking with a client at Bovidr Laboratories discussing how their products can help livestock owners keep their animals healthy.Written by: Irene North
Photographs by: Hawk Buckman
Published: June 30, 2020 Photograph by: Hawk Buckman
Turner never planned on running the family business. She never planned on being inducted into the Martial Arts History Museum’s Hall of Fame. Her training in martial arts, however, prepared her for her future successes.
Turner is a self-described “fraidy cat” who just wanted to learn self-defense. She began training at age 19, but had no interest in competing, partly because she was terrified of getting hit. That day eventually arrived during a sparring class.
“One day I got hit,” she said. “If you get hit hard enough, you don’t feel anything, so it’s okay.” It was a turning point for Turner.
“I got hit and went out,” she said. “When I came to, I realized I’m not afraid anymore.”
She started training harder and competing in tournaments. She found she liked it.
“For the first time in my life I was meeting adversaries I was afraid of and beating them,” she said.
As a green belt, she was often fighting those with black belts. Her instructor, Sifu Al Dacascos, arranged matches, but he also wanted her to study with others so she could get better.
“He (Lee) was an unbelievable martial artist,” she said. “I only got to train a couple of times with him before he died.”
At the time, pure martial artists looked down on people like Turner because she studied almost all martial arts, including Tae Kwon Do, Ju Jitsu, Kajukenbo and the Kung fu technique of Wun Hop Kuen Do.
||| WAY OF THE INTERCEPTING FIST
During that period of time, martial artists in the United States mixed with each other. They exchanged information and fought with each other.
“The other countries would call us bastards because none of us were ‘pure,’” she said. “We studied a lot of different things.”
Soon, she was fighting, and winning, at the national and international level. In 1977, she entered 23 tournaments and swept three divisions including the men’s black belt weapons kata. She has more than 100 first place Karate trophies
Lee gave Turner his principles of fighting, which she credits with catapulting her career. She became the number one female fighter for eight years in a row before retiring.
“I wanted to go out on top,” she said.
She studied Bruce Lee’s principles ( Jeet Kune Do ). She never felt she was a tough fighter, but she was smart and Lee’s principles helped her win.
“Instead of going out there and facing a new opponent, he said there’s only three,” she said. “Your job is to figure out which.”
||| KICKBOXING’S FIRST PAY-PER-VIEW EVENT
Once you learn what the opponent is likely to do, you can defeat them.
“Are they going to back up, do they go forward or to the side,” she said. “Once you figure out which way, then you know how to fight them.”
Over the course of her career, she has been known as the Queen of Kata, the First Lady of Kung Fu, and The Mother of U.S. Kickboxing. She has a list of accolades that all say one thing: she was the best. She took her skills in a new direction promoting kickboxing. She aspired to become like the National Football League’s George Halas.
“I decided I would do it for 20 years and if I hadn’t become George Halas, I was going to quit,” she said.
Turner landed television deals and raised awareness to the sport. Coors Brewing Company was the first major sponsor she landed. Her “Hard Knocks” troupe demonstration team performed in front of the Prince and Princess of Monaco.
“We were demonstrating weapons,” she said. “We come on the stage and these guards all come and stand in front of the prince and princess.”
In 1990, she promoted the kickboxing’s first pay-per-view event. Although she admits Coors was supportive of the organization and the goals they were trying to accomplish, it was tough to keep things going.
Turner was 50 years old. She had been a promoter for more than a decade, but was not making any money to secure her own future.
“Every dime I made or received, went back into the sport,” she said.
She had two options open to her when she decided to retire. Coors had offered her a position in their marketing department. She could also go work for her parents.
“If I go to work for Coors, I will have a boss and make a lot more money, but someone else might end up being my boss and they could fire me,” she said. “If I go work for my folks, some day I will have that company and have a chance to run things.”
She took everything she learned about promotions with Coors, the principles from Lee, and her years of discipline and training and put it into her family’s business, Bovidr Laboratories.
“When I first started with Bovidr, I was living in Denver and doing the marketing from there,” Turner said.
||| THE RISE OF BOVIDR LABORATORIES
Bovidr Laboratories, was founded by Turner’s stepfather, Joel Andrews, who managed a 23,000 acre ranch in Scottsbluff. Veterinarian Milton Green invented Nutri-Drench, which Andrews used on his ranch under Green’s direction.
Nutri-Drench is a nutrient-rich liquid supplement formulated to boost energy and provide essential nutrients when an animal’s reserves are challenged or depleted.
“It has the ability to bypass digestion and goes straight through to the blood stream,” she aid. “It’s almost the same as an IV, but it’s oral.”
Turner said 50 percent of the product reaches the bloodstream within 30 minutes and 100 percent within four hours. Sometimes, you don’t know the animal is sick until it goes down, she said.
“It’s vital to restore the immune system,” she said. “It’s the difference between life and death.”
Turner said digestion takes hours and you still won’t know how much of a medication will be in the bloodstream. It’s backed by two patents and has helped animals to thrive.
Turner helped take the small business with only dairy products internationally and expanded its offerings. The company went international in 1998 when it began shipping to The Philippines. Today, Nutri-Drench can be found in a dozen countries.
In 2006, her stepfather passed away. She was still doing marketing as well as sales from Denver. In Scottsbluff, they were overseeing the packaging and shipping of Nutri-Drench. She knew it was time to move to Scotsbluff and take a bigger role in the company.
Research and field trials allowed Turner to accumulate more data to show the product not only worked on cows, but pigs, goats and chickens, too. With turkeys, it was thought the product would be too expensive to use, but Turner found it to be cost-effective in the first four weeks.
“Since then, the poultry end has taken off,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing.” As a result, poultry-, sheep- and goat-related sales have outsold the dairy.
“Poultry has really taken off in the last six months,” Turner said. “We’re not sure why, but we think people raising their own chickens might be part of it.”
At the Denver Stock Show, instead of having a booth, Turner walked animal pens to “look for trouble.” Transportation is a big stressor for animals and they often stop eating.
“These people are taking their animals to show them so I gave them Nurti-Drench and said, ‘try this,’” Turner said.
She would come back and check on the animals, who were doing better.
“They would say, ‘wow, he was eating in half an hour,’” Turner said. “I swear, I got more sales by giving away the stuff than by advertising.”
Turner has a scar over her left eye from the first time she was hit. It’s a reminder of her accomplishments in life and to always rise to the challenges in front of her.
Inside Karate Magazine once said, “One doesn’t compare Karyn Turner to something. One compares something to Karyn Turner.”
Even today, Turner continues to use her skills to make everything she is involved in better.
The information in this article has been compiled from:
- A personal interview with Karyn Turner conducted by Irene North in June 2020.