In this interview we sit down for a Q&A with family man, Green Beret, and ex UFC fighter Tim Kennedy. We touch on a range of topics: his history with Gerber, adjusting to life in 2020, and his philosophies about hunting, fishing, the outdoors, and learning new skills. To sum it up: embrace the struggle and life will become more fruitful and rewarding. Oh – and take care of your lawn. Without further adieu…
Q: So, for those who don’t know you – give us the 30 second rundown of who Tim Kennedy is. What’s the elevator pitch?
A: I am a man that, at a very young age, figured out that the only thing I’m going to be good at is trying to protect and help people when everything else is going really bad. When everyone’s screaming…I’m like, ah-ha this is my purpose. So, I’m in Special Forces, I’m a sniper, I’m a Ranger, I’m a hunter, I’m an EMT, I was a firefighter, I was a police officer. My soul purpose on this planet is to be able to provide and protect for my family and friends.
Q: So, it seems like linking up with Gerber was destined to happen, we orbit the same worlds.
A: [laughs] Yeah, yep.
Q: On that note, I feel like a lot of folks don’t know just how far back this goes…it’s kind of hard to believe it’s been over a decade that Gerber and Tim have been linked up. It’s been about 12 years, is that right?
A: Yeah, in an official capacity – it started when I was fighting professionally in the UFC and Strikeforce. But ten years before that, I was issued my first Gerber multi-tool while I was preparing to go to Iraq. And ten years before that, while I was part of the Royal Rangers, I was given my first Gerber folder knife. Where I had to make sure there was no one within arms distance before I could take it out of my pocket to whittle some wood. So for me, it goes back to kindergarten….literally kindergarten.
Q: So, you’ve kind of grown-up together [laughs].
A: [laughs] Through the good and the bad. Through it all!
Q: I love that. Because beyond just professional, you’ve kind of had this lifelong story with Gerber. From your first knife, to traveling the world on military deployments, to now being back home on your ranch in Texas, I think people may not realize how full circle that relationship is. So, let’s start at the beginning. Tell me about your first knife: what was it? How did you get it? How long ago was that?
A: So, I was a part of this Christian Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts group called the Royal Rangers.
Q: Well there’s a little bit of foreshadowing.
A: [laughs] It definitely was. So, the Royal Rangers gave badges for “Outdoor Expert” and things like that. One of the things was if you got the badge and you took the course, you were allowed to get a folding knife. Mine was a little 2.5” Gerber knife w/ Gerber written on the side of it, that was 35 years ago. I safely used that knife while I was in the Royal Rangers, but I also crawled into the back of my dad’s Suburban and I carved my initials in the upholstery with that same knife.
Q: [laughs] That’s awesome. I’m sure your dad wasn’t too happy about that.
A: Yeah…this surprises no one.
Q: So, Gerber created a monster is what you’re saying?
A: Oh yeah, yeah….
Q: So, you grow up, you join the military, and Gerber is issued to you. What were you given? Was it a multi-tool? A knife?
A: So, right before you go on a deployment overseas you get this cool kit. It was a multi-tool that had the hex bit adapter so you could put in Phillips, flathead, metric…
Q: The MP600.
A: Yeah! That was issued to me in my first combat deployment ever. You know, I’m 22 years old and you get this box and the coolest thing in that box was this Gerber multi-tool. So, I’m an 18B which is a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant and I’m responsible for maintaining the weapons – so I have a lot of mechanical work in austere environments. I didn’t have a good multi-tool but clearly I was gonna need one . . . Going out and buying a really good multi-tool was intimidating because I didn’t know what I needed and then I got exactly what I needed right before I went. It was heaven sent.
Q: So, fast forward to now. Anyone that knows you, knows that you literally never stop.
A: I have energy problems.
Q: But the opposite of what most people have! You’re always on the go, so what does a typical day look like for you? I know it can run the gamut: you could be training, on a hunt, fishing with your son, or working on the ranch…
A: While my life on the outside looking in looks crazy – you see me in Africa or the Middle East, you see me in the Octagon, you see me on television – view that as a 9-5 job. Then, you look at everything else I do at home – it’s fixing a fence, it’s repairing the chicken coop, it’s taking my five year old fishing. But yeah, you know I live in Texas and I hunt, I fish, I do all those things. We’re coming into hunting season now so I’m already prepping gear. Before I leave for a week overseas for my military work, I’m taking my family to the beach for some RVing and camping. Gerber has a place in all of that, I can’t make it through a day.
Q: I think that’s an important note. Obviously Gerber translates into your work world, there’s natural applications there. But it’s not all work, right? These are things you genuinely enjoy doing. What do you think it is that draws you to these activities? Is it the difficulty? The fact that there is some sort of struggle involved? That you have to overcome something?
A: Honest to God, I don’t enjoy doing anything that’s….easy. You know? I’m learning to fly a helicopter because I sat on the skids of helicopters for years. There’s something cathartic and beautiful about having that control, and it’s insanely hard when you’re half-troll/half-ogre like me.
Q: So, failure is ok.
A: Yeah! Not only is failure ok, it’s valued and appreciated. You don’t ever get better at anything unless you have to struggle at it . . . The same goes for hunting. When I go out there, I want to be able to feed my family with organic, grass-fed, low fence, wild meat because I believe in giving the best things to my family. If I go out there and I get skunked on a hunt, maybe it was the animals fault, maybe the winds weren’t in my favor, or maybe I messed up. Maybe my tradecraft isn’t as good as I thought – the only way to get better is to fail.
Q: That’s so perfectly said. We talked a little before about how our world has changed drastically in the last few months. It seems like more and more people are looking to the outdoors for food, freedom, sanity…and I know you’ve noticed that. In your world, you’ve always been doing those things and many others have to. But there’s a whole new crop of people that are looking into this lifestyle, tell me a little bit about your thoughts on the shift you’re seeing.
A: Yeah, there has been a huge shift whether it’s based out of social distancing or the pandemic or the fear of not being able to provide. When you’re looking in a grocery store and you’re thinking, is there going to be food in here next week? Or you’re looking at your family and thinking, can I find food for them? I think this could be the first time in this generation’s life where those thoughts went through their head.
Q: Definitely. At least at such a large scale…
A: And while that’s scary, through struggle comes opportunity and through opportunity comes growth. So, there’s a huge shift nationally and internationally of people wanting to be outdoorsy in a socially-conscious way – possibly even hunt. I’ve had friends that were so anti-hunting come to me in the past few months and ask if I’ll take them hunting.
Q: And to that you say?
A: Absolutely! Welcome to this side of freedom. If it was fear that brought you here, that’s okay. Whatever brought you here, welcome. Now we got to get you set up: that’s getting you trained, that’s getting you equipped, and that’s getting you to do. I’m just trying to get people out the door.
Q: There’s a comfort in knowing you can provide for your family. Be it food, security, knowledge…We’ve talked a lot about being a provider as it relates to literally providing food for the table, but I know you provide so much more than that. What does this idea, of being a provider, mean to you?
A: To me, provider and protector are overlapping. Being a protector, I have to also be a provider. While I can keep my family safe from the boogeyman, if they starve to death I still failed, right? You have to be able to do both. I think intent is really key in this: it is absolute, transparent love for what you are trying to provide and protect for. If we did a diagram they would almost be completely overlapping, the skills are so similar but most importantly the intent is identical – it’s love.
Q: Well, it’s so true. There’s a generational element to it too, right? These are things you want to teach your son or teach your daughters and give them those skills to move forward through life.
Q: What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I have a better lawn…than anyone.
Q: Lawn care, huh?
A: Yes, and that is relevant in this way. Back to loving, providing, and protecting, there might be a little controlling in me…
Q: [laughs] You don’t say.
A: [laughs] Yeah…so we have a beautiful pool and lawn and all the kids want to come to our house. I love my kids, I love my friend’s kids, but I also want to control it. It’s a compound, it’s the safest little Shangri-La on the planet.
Q: So, what’s next for Tim Kennedy? World domination?
A: I’ve got 3 big things on the horizon. 1) I got promoted in the military, so I’ll be taking a Special Forces ODA. I’ve been an 18B for 15 years and now I’m an 18Z, which means I’m a Team Sergeant and have 12 dudes to take care of. So, that’s my new job, it’s a big deal. 2) I thought I wrote a book, realized it sucked, and rewrote the whole thing. So, the book is super close. 3) I have a couple more tv shows I’m going to do. It’s going to be an awesome 2021.
Q: Back to those new folks real quick. What piece of advice would give to someone looking to get into a new activity: be it hunting, shooting, doing things around the house….
A: Measure twice, cut once. That analogy, if you apply that to everything in all activities, it’s telling you to prepare well and go do it. Do your due diligence, do your research, be passionate about it, and ultimately go and do it. You gotta go do it. I’ve been doing this 35 years and still to this day, every time I go out I tweak my kit. The only way to know those things is to get out there, do the activity, and then you can realize the struggle or a way to do it easier. Prepare
and do – everything you want is on the far side of hard work.
Q: Measure twice, cut once. Everyone can relate to that.
A: Yes. And to all the new outdoorsmen, whether you’re a survivalist, a hiker, a hunter, a fisherman: Welcome. Think of this as a big embrace from the entire outdoor community. Don’t be scared to ask for help. I still ask for help, I ask those who are better at it than me. Struggle is growth and growth is good, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Q: It’s such an incredible community of people and such a huge wealth of knowledge. I love that reminder. On a semi-related note, I wanted to be sure to
ask…are there any questions that you get frequently from folks that you would like to address here?
A: It’s the why. Why do you train so hard? Why are you doing so much work?
A: The answer is that the sweetest reward is never given to you easily. I don’t
appreciate and value anything that I get easily. The reason elk tastes so good is because it’s so hard to find and so hard to get. The reason why that large mouthed bass tastes so freaking good is because you had to work for it. The reason why my son is the light of my life and my daughters are the gleam in my eye, is because I struggle and fight for them. The reason why? It tastes and feels so much better when you work for it.