Father figure alert! Freddie Prinze Jr. says he can thank his uncle, James Barber, for helping shape him into the man he is today.

Before he even turned 1, the I Know What You Did Last Summer star’s father, the late Freddie Prinze, tragically passed away. This fact makes the 43-year-old’s story in The Life of Dad: Reflections on Fatherhood From Today’s Leaders, Icons and Legendary Dads all the more special.

“My uncle James Barber was a Vietnam veteran,” Freddie writes in Closer Weekly‘s exclusive preview of the book, available May 7. “He was one of the three main father figures in my life and was certainly the strongest. He believed in standing up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves. I remember when I was in the sixth grade I saw a kid getting beat up by an eighth grader. I didn’t do anything because the guy was big.”

The Life of Dad cover
Simon & Schuster

“My uncle taught me how to fight,” the Scooby-Doo star continues. “He was big into martial arts. Instead of learning how to throw spirals I learned the 1-inch punch. So after I saw this kid get beat up, I told my uncle. He got mad at me that I didn’t stick up for this kid. He asked me what kind of man I was. I asked him what he meant by that. I get kind of choked up just talking about it. He said, ‘A real man stands up for people who can’t stand up for themselves. If you are any kind of man of mine, you will know that.'”

It was this life lesson from his uncle that made him feel that he needed to intervene in the situation. It’s this moment, too, that impacted him to a point that he wants his kids with wife of 16 years and Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar — daughter Charlotte Grace, 9, and son Rocky James, 6 — to learn and grow from it.

“The next day at school I went up to the kid and whooped him up so bad,” Freddie adds. “I got sent to the principal’s office. My uncle came to pick me up. He acted mad in front of the principal. When we got out of school he patted me on the head and took me to Cliff’s, which was an amusement park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He called me a punk buster. Those are people who see a bully and let them know that they can’t do that anymore.”

“Now, I don’t want my kids to be a bully or get bullied,” the Star Wars Rebels star concludes. “I want them to be self-confident. I want them to know that they can take care of themselves. So those are the main things I try to instill in them. My daughter has been taking jiu-jitsu since she was 3 years old. She can choke me out already. Martial arts bring a lot of confidence. I hope that I can instill that in my kids. That would be the main thing.”

The book’s authors, Jon Finkel and Art Eddy, note that Freddie is far from the only father they’ve spoken to for the book who has preached the value of teaching kids martial arts. All that said, the fact that a pivotal moment changed him — and how he relates to his children — forever.

The Life of Dad: Reflections on Fatherhood From Today’s Leaders, Icons and Legendary Dads is available beginning May 7. It is available for preorder on Amazon here!

Excerpted from The Life of Dad by Jon Finkel and Art Eddy. Copyright © 2019 by Jon Finkel and Art Eddy. Used with permission of the publisher, Adams Media, a division of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.