TAMPA — When David "Ron" Slinker was a boy, he got into a dustup with another child. He narrowly lost the fight.
He never wanted to get that close again.
He enrolled in martial arts classes, and worked his way up to earn a second-degree black belt in judo and sixth-degree black belt in Yoshukai, a Japanese style of contact fighting. And he brought his family into the mix.
"He was pretty strict," said his son, David Slinker Jr., who took martial arts lessons from his dad. "He was the type of instructor that didn't just talk. If he wanted you to do something, he'd show you. He expected a lot of you."
At home, though, his children said Mr. Slinker was laid back. The family took vacations together to the mountains and had big holiday gatherings.
"He was lots of fun," said his daughter, Dina Myers. "He was just like a big kid."
Mr. Slinker, who died Friday at age 62, had a fun-loving personality and partied sometimes, his family said. He also had his share of struggles. He was arrested a number of times over the years, on charges including theft and a 1982 charge of conspiracy to deliver drugs.
David Slinker Jr., 34, says his dad struggled with addiction, including drinking that damaged his liver. But, he said, his father tried to turn his life around. And he never brought the troubles home.
Instead, he told them to focus on having a good work ethic, earning good grades and loving with a big heart.
Mr. Slinker joined the Marines at 17. He graduated from the University of Tampa and was a Tampa police officer for 10 years.
Once, his daughter said, he went undercover to catch a purse snatcher by dressing up as a woman. He taught self-defense to other officers. He was comfortable in tense situations and enjoyed patrolling the streets.
But his passion was fighting.
Mr. Slinker, 6 feet 1 and muscular, competed in 29 full-contact karate tournaments, winning all but two. He was a member of the United States judo team in 1971, his family said.
He was a professional wrestler with the National Wrestling Association, and his photos and videos of television appearances dot the pages of the Internet.
Sometimes, he competed under stage names such as "the Spoiler" and "Captain." He appeared on TV more than 200 times. In the 1990s, he was a booking agent, trying to revive regional wrestling in the Tampa Bay area.
When they were young, his kids and their friends would watch their dad's wrestling matches. Back then, it just felt normal.
But now, they admit, it was pretty cool.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8857.