What can you learn from a 1 minute, 8 second YouTube video of a guy playing with—and then injuring himself with—Nunchucks in an empty grocery store parking lot?

Aamon Miller ’97 says you can learn plenty. The Illinois State alum is the creator of “Kung Fu Grandpa,” the viral video du jour that’s racked up more than 8.7 million page views since Miller uploaded it last Friday.

While it’s the “Grandpa” wielding the Nunchucks in the cell phone video, it’s Miller who’s the star. His off-camera narration of what he witnessed in the Food Lion parking lot near his home in Virginia is hilarious, spontaneous, and strangely poignant. But Miller takes a deeper meaning from Kung Fu Grandpa, whose bizarre public workout ends when he hurts his finger on a big Nunchucks toss.

Everyone faces setbacks in life, says Miller, a Baptist minister who’s been interviewed by WGN and several other media outlets in the past week. We all “drop our Nunchucks” at times, he says.

Aamon Miller and Kung Fu Grandpa

Aamon Miller ’97, right, with Kung Fu Grandpa himself, Tom Bell. (Courtesy photo)

“The key is to pick it back up again, and—that’s my phrase now—is to just keep chuckin,” Miller said.

Miller graduated from Illinois State with a degree in middle school education and now works at State Farm Insurance. His wife, Gabriella Caldwell-Miller ’94, M.S. ’98, is also an alum, and they live in Glen Allen, Virginia, with their two teenage daughters.

Miller has his wife and kids to thank for Kung Fu Grandpa. He spotted the Nunchucks-wielding man as he exited the grocery store and thought it was odd, but didn’t think they’d believe him without proof. So he hopped in his car, slid down in his seat, and flipped on his cell phone video recorder.

“That’s not something you see every day, I don’t care where you live,” Miller said.

So where did he come up with his iconic line of narration, “One man, one Lord, one faith, one Baptist, two Nunchucks”? It’s (mostly) a line from biblical scripture, and since the YouTube video was shot just a few days before Easter, the Baptist minister had been thinking about his upcoming sermon.

Miller uploaded the video to YouTube so he could share it with some friends. He accidentally forgot to make the video private, instead of public, so it went viral pretty quickly. An hour later, it was at 300 views, so quickly that YouTube froze the page view counter while it investigated whether it was a legitimate video. When the counter was unlocked, it spiked to 750,000 views.

Over the past week, Miller has been interviewed by local television affiliates, the WGN national morning news, and other publications. Now, he’s got a Kung Fu Grandpa Facebook page and website and is selling T-shirts and wristbands.

“This is all literally within seven days,” Miller said.

Miller has even gotten to know Kung Fu Grandpa himself, aka Tom Bell, who had started to use Nunchucks after finding them in his late mother’s home. Bell, as it turns out, found the video commentary really funny and taped his first TV interview with Miller earlier this week. He may even visit Miller’s church soon.

So, in a weird way, the video and its aftermath have revealed Kung Fu Grandpa to be quite normal, not the crazy person some would expect.

“I refer to myself as the crazy guy who shot it,” Miller said.

Watch the Kung Fu Grandpa video below:

Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.


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