A stickler for success

Linda Pulido, right, practices a form of Filipino martial arts known as Eskrima with Marc O'Hara, 17, during a recent class.

Linda Pulido may have gotten into Tae Kwon Do for all the wrong
reasons, but it would also be wrong to say the black belt and
10-time world champion has stayed involved in martial arts for
those same reasons.
Growing up tough on the streets of Gilroy, Pulido rarely backed
down from a fight. The only thing that made her start training in
Tae Kwon Do was so her foes would be the first to fall.

I got into it for all the wrong reasons,

Pulido said while sitting in her gym, Pulido’s Pro Fitness,
which also houses her training studio Champions Martial Arts.

I learned how to fight better, but it also taught me discipline
and respect.
Also with this story, a video of photo gallery.
Linda Pulido may have gotten into Tae Kwon Do for all the wrong reasons, but it would also be wrong to say the black belt and 10-time world champion has stayed involved in martial arts for those same reasons.

Growing up tough on the streets of Gilroy, Pulido rarely backed down from a fight. The only thing that made her start training in Tae Kwon Do was so her foes would be the first to fall.

“I got into it for all the wrong reasons,” Pulido said while sitting in her gym, Pulido’s Pro Fitness, which also houses her training studio Champions Martial Arts. “I learned how to fight better, but it also taught me discipline and respect.

“It saved my life really. I don’t know where I’d be otherwise.”

She certainly wouldn’t be traveling to Cebu City in the Philippines with the hope of earning her second title in stick fighting, also known as Eskrima. Pulido will be taking part in the 10th World Eskrima Kalis Arnis Federation Championships being held Wednesday through Friday.

Winning her first stick-fighting title in 2006, after just seven months of training, Pulido expects nothing to come easy this next week. As she says, in the Philippines, “They’re born and like, ‘Here’s a stick.’ “

That’s not to say Pulido feels she can’t win. Taking a group of her students along with her to the 2008 USA World Championships held in Las Vegas in late June, Pulido is coming off a remarkable 10th world title in Tae Kwon Do. Using techniques from other forms of fighting she has learned over time, and incorporating them into her strategy in Eskrima, Pulido has a style all her own.

“I think I’m still a bit unique because I do a it a little more like Tae Kwon Do, moving around,” Pulido said. Using a 26-inch stick that is light in the hand but heavy on impact, Pulido, 40, will be battling other women of similar age and weight in a padded robe as well as a mask that resembles that of a beekeeper.

Beekeepers, however, rarely feel the pop of a baton that comes crashing down on the legs, torso and head “like an extension of your hand, like a jab.”

While Pulido’s initial goal of becoming a better fighter was based on bad intentions, it soon transformed into an obsession with winning titles, staying fit and developing a high level of respect for herself and others. Her immersion into martial arts remains fluid as she now gains as much satisfaction seeing her students succeed as she does winning as an individual.

Frantically running from one mat to another at the World Championships in June, Pulido said she spent more energy cheering on her students than winning her own matches.

“It was a long day. I was exhausted,” Pulido said. “Running from their matches and running to my own matches – experiencing the highs and lows with each of them – you’re so excited you almost jump out of your skin.”

While her students have rarely seen her lose in tournaments, Pulido stresses that it’s important to know both sides of the spectrum.

“My fighters have seen me lose,” she said. “There haven’t been too many times … (but) sometimes I need that because sometimes I need to work a little harder.

“I always tell them, ‘You need to learn how to lose before you learn how to win.’ “

Sportsmanship is just one of the things she tries to instill in each student. With classes of all sizes coming into her gym six days a week, Pulido works with over 300 pupils, from elementary school students on up to adults.

“It goes back to helping individuals, and helping them help themselves,” Pulido said. “It’s about making them feel good about what they’ve achieved, making them feel confident and have a high self-esteem.”

One student who serves as an excellent example of this is 13-year-old Brianna Tankersley. After being threatened at school by other girls, Tankersley came to Pulido’s studio, and has developed more confidence in herself over the past year. “It works for me a lot because I’m not scared, and I know how to defend myself,” she said.

A similar development has taken place for 14-year-old George Howard, who admits he feels more confident in his abilities on and off the the mat.

“Away from the class, I hold myself up,” Howard said. “I behave a lot better in school and I get better grades. I used to get C’s. I’ve been getting B’s and A’s now.”

While showing her students how to grow as individuals, as well as trying to add another title to her resume, it would be wrong to call Pulido’s work anything other than honorable. Especially when you consider these days she’s doing it for all the right reasons.

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