OVILLA -- It's not an image you forget -- Santa throwing punches and practicing Kung Fu. But for Chuck Lee, it's just as real as his white beard.
"You can be big, but you can be healthy. And you can be strong," said Lee.
He is quite possibly the most interesting Santa in the world, and he's ready to motivate anyone on a quest to get healthy.
Lee, 59, has played Santa for the last six years. During the holiday season it's a full-time job, but he retains the Santa look year-round. He keeps his very real white beard, and he favors round-framed eyeglasses.
But outside the red suit, he has a whole other life.
He's an accomplished banjo builder, handcrafting instruments in his home workshop in Ovilla.
"We've built 748 instruments to date, and we have instruments all over the world," said Lee.
A few years ago, Lee took up martial arts as a last resort. His knees and back were failing, and he walked with a cane. Doctors said he would need surgery. But then, someone suggested he try Tai Chi.
"Within a few weeks, I put my cane down and I never used it again after that," said Lee. "And a few weeks later, I said to the instructor, 'You have a Kung Fu class. Do you think I could do Kung Fu?"
Now Lee is working on his black belt. He's in the gym five days a week working, doing exercises, and iron bone training, where he strengthens his bones by rolling heavy metal bars on his shins and punches into bags filled with stones.
The regimen has changed everything for him.
"I've never felt better," said Lee. "And the whole process began to make me a different person from the inside out. I became a gentler, kinder, more thoughtful and more helpful person -- I learned deadly martial arts!"
Lee has also lost 60 pounds, and he hopes to lose 50 more.
"That's the figure I would like to present to children. I want to show them a healthy side," he said.
He helps teach a Kung Fu class for kids two days a week, who take punches at Santa and can't believe it.
Lee says that no matter your age, he has the same lesson for anyone who seeks to improve their health in the new year.
"What I tell children when they're sitting on my lap," he said. "I believe in you, and I know you can have success."