Student of the Month
NAME: Kurt Komoda
Q: Which martial arts do you train at PAMA and which ones have you trained outside of PAMA? For how long have you been training in those arts? What's your favorite?
A: My father put me into Judo classes when I was 8 or 9. I think that it only lasted a few months. My next experience with martial arts wasn't until my junior year in high school, when I started training in Tae Kwon Do. After graduating from high school, I left to go fly around and hunt submarines for the U.S. Navy. I studied Chinese Boxing very briefly, while stationed in Jacksonville, Florida and resumed Tae Kwon Do at Ernie Reyes' West Coast Tae Kwon Do while stationed at NAS Moffett Field, California. With the flight schedule, a 6-month overseas deployment or two, and a detachment to Panama, my attendance was less than I would have wanted. Five years later, now a civilian, I joined a Progressive Fighting Systems school and trained there for about two years. In April of 2001, I finally joined PAMA and have been here ever since.
I am currently studying Silat, Kali, Muay Thai, and Jun Fan levels I & II. My favorite? It's between Silat and Jun Fan. Probably more Silat, since I find the techniques so fascinating.
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I'm a commercial artist at a studio in NYC. We mostly do storyboards for television commercials, but we also do occasional complete illustrations. If you've ever seen this odd commercial for some toenail fungus product with this little mustard-colored goblin hopping around- well, that's my guy. It wasn't even a very good design.
I also do freelance art and I've done some things for Sifu Rick for PAMA's print ads and such.
Q: I know you are very artistic. Can you tell us a little bit about the step-by-step technique drawings you make?
A: I guess you mean my notes from class. I have to put these things in picture form to really seal it in my mind. Words just don't have the same imprinting effect for me. I need to draw these things because I just can't remember them all. I just look it up, and there it is: Buah #2 from Silat, for example. I think it's very important to take these things down. you think you'll remember it: you won't. You think Sifu will go over it again class after class: you might not see it for a year or more.
In class, I scribble down everything I can about the technique or drill or whatever. A small scribble of a thumb position here, the angle of the foot and position of the heel there. I have my own little shorthand, and if you were to look at my rough notes, you wouldn't be able to make heads nor tails of it. Later on, usually during downtime at work, I'll work on a cleaner version. I guess it's kind of silly to take time to make a neat version- since I can read the sloppy shorthand version just fine, and since no one else is supposed to be going through my notes (everyone should have their own notes!). I guess it's the illustrator in me that wants to see a more aesthetically pleasing copy. Whenever we're working on something I already have in my notes, it's good to pull that page out, because there's always something new, something I didn't catch before, or something wrong with what I have.
Jun Fan or any kind of striking range techniques are usually the easiest to depict, since you can pretty much draw a straight on view, showing both opponents facing each other. When you get into things like trapping and Silat, the body angles and the intricacies of the hand- or even finger- positions become more crucial. For that, I often have to use a higher angled shot with close ups and maybe even little markers or a grid on the "floor," so you can see the movement and foot placement better.
Drawing the wooden dummy sets is still a challenge I haven't yet successfully tackled. There's no "one angle" to view the sets from. To draw them, I have to keep changing the viewing angle to best depict the technique, and that can be quite confusing. Right now, the dummy sets in my notes are mostly text with a clarifying drawing here and there. I guess that works.
Kali is the most difficult to take notes on, for me. The angles, the way the weapons and limbs overlap and weave together during disarms and locking- even on the simplest technique- can be very complex and difficult to depict clearly. I'm hoping that as my understanding of Kali develops, so will my ability to translate the techniques to the page.
I asked Kurt to give me a sample of his notes to share with all of you. Check them out. Click to enlarge.
Q: From your experience, what are some helpful ways to train in the martial arts we study at PAMA?
A: I think that sparring really helps me a lot, since it calls into play so much of what we do in class. During the Wednesday night sparring session, Sifu Rick and Sihing Bernie are usually right there to give instruction, both during and after the rounds, so it's like getting an additional class- one that a lot of people are, unfortunately, missing. Its a tough workout, but we all have a lot of fun trying new things and figuring out ways to counter and set each other up. In this way, its always a learning experience and we're always making some degree of progress.
At home, the living room has become the workout room. I have a "green man" heavy bag and a rocking bag, which sits on the floor and is weighted at the bottom. I also use a hanging paper target to practice my high kicks.
Q: How did you get your interest in martial arts and in PAMA?
A: My interest in martial arts? 3 words: Kung Fu Theater. I remember when I first started watching the movies, I didn't even know which one was Bruce Lee- though, I had heard that he was the best. One day when a movie called "Return of the Dragon" came on- I was absolutely amazed. I'd never even heard of nunchaku until that day. Well, after that, like for many of you, one's ability to imitate Bruce Lee became a form of status amongst my peers. Even with what relatively little I know now, it's completely laughable to look back on to what our concepts of Bruce Lee were. I think most of my allowance went towards buying martial arts weapons from Asian World or Englishtown. I learned the hard way that the 3-sectional staff isn't a toy. I never did learn how to use that thing.
PAMA was something that just kept reappearing in my life, throughout the 90s. It first stuck out because I saw an ad stating that the school was certified by Dan Inosanto- a recognizable name to any Bruce Lee fan. I ran into a PAMA student at a party, and, on his advice, I came down to see an impressive PAMA demo at the Bridgewater Commons Mall. Of course, PAMA was frequently mentioned in martial arts circles, and through this, it became obvious that PAMA was the place to be. After getting my studio job in NYC, I had a little more financial freedom and I was pleased to see that PAMA's class schedule more or less accommodated my commuting schedule. I wish that I hadn't waited so long, but I'm very proud to be training here now.
Q: What other hobbies or sports do you like?
A: I've never been good at other sports and I've never really been interested in other sports- I'm not actually sure which one caused the other. Actually, there is a sport in Thailand called "Sepak Takraw." It's basically Thai volleyball, where you can use anything but your arms or hands. The kicks they do in this sport are absolutely stunning. The one type of serve, which is a rear-leg vertical roundhouse kick that goes in a full arc with the player's hand touching the ground, is really beautiful. Look it up on the web- you can find some good sites on it and even some video clips. I'd love to someday see a tournament.
Of course, I draw and paint a lot. I work a lot on my website. I'm not going to plug it here, but it's easy enough to find. I occasionally dabble in card magic (you) know, that "pick a card" nonsense). I play video and computer games way too much.
Book of the Month
Spiritual Dimensions of the Martial Arts is a study of the meditative and religious elements that form the core of the great martial arts traditions. Unsurpassed in scope and detail, the book covers the spiritual beliefs and the practices of the fighting arts of India, China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Brazil, and the United States.
Subjects discussed in the book include:
Dr. Michael Maliszewski, noted researcher and martial artist, spent over ten years researching, traveling, and training with the world's top martial arts masters to gather the data for this book. Certain to be a classic in its field, this book is unparalleled in its exhaustive study of the spiritual aspects of fighting arts around the world.
Kickboxing 101 - PAMA at Princeton U.
This semester the students of Princeton University were given the opportunity to participate in a semester-long kickboxing class taught by instructors of Princeton Academy. Sifu Rick, Michael Lee, Neil Acevedo, and Mary Jo Colli all taught this class which met twice a week on a rotating schedule for the entire semester. This recreational class was a hit with the students and developed quite a loyal following. The class consisted of kickboxing basics blended from several arts and the students developed quite a strong foundation from their training. The participants enjoyed learning and giving it their all while training. The students sad to see the course draw to a close and we hope to be able to share the arts with them again next semester.
Dietary Supplement of the Month
Starting with this month the newsletter will tell you about a different dietary supplement every month. All dietary supplements covered in the newsletters are available at the Pro Shop. Students receive 10% off the marked price.
This month we will introduce Magnesium.
To learn more about Magnesium please visit the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center website.
Visitors from the UK
Instructor Keith Gilliland and his assistant instructor Joel Taylor from the Gilliland Martial Arts Academy all the way in Warwickshire England near Birmingham, visited PAMA at the end of April for private training from Sifu Rick Tucci in the details of the JKD, Silat, and Kali curriculums.
Technique of the Month
This month Sifu Rick demonstrates a Silat technique with help from assistant instructor Neil Acevedo.