DENVER––You might say Diane Steele and Christopher Kulinski get a big kick out of the martial arts.
Kulinski and the combined team from his Denver dojo, Master Kulinski’s Martial Arts, and their Mooresville-based counterparts from the R.T. Berry School of Tae Kwon Do recently brought home championship belts after defeating their opponents at a big competition in Pittsburgh.
And talking of tae kwon do, the Korean martial art of complex kicking strikes that goes back more than 70 years and evolved out of Chinese and Japanese counterparts, Steele has a black belt in it, as Kulinski told The Herald on Wednesday. Steele is Kulinski’s senior leader and right-hand warrior, as signified by the eagle patch on the right arm of her dobok––the belted white robe-and-trousers outfit typically worn by practitioners of the Oriental martial arts.
Steele, said Kulinski, is “such an amazing person. Her leadership at the school is changing lives.”
The two met years ago when both worked in different capacities at a hospital. When Steele learned of Kulinski’s martial arts background, she soon enrolled both her grandchildren into his program.
“Mrs. Steele started seeing the positive changes physically, academically and socially,” Kulinski revealed. “It encouraged her to start training herself. Now over eight years later, Mrs. Steele and her grandchildren, Miss Eva and Mr. Seth, all hold the ranks of black belts. And because her grandchildren started at the age of 2, this put a special place in Mrs. Steele’s heart for what is known as the ‘Tigers program,’ a very unique and specialized class just for 2 and 3-year-olds, to help with their development, not just in the martial arts but also in life. Mrs. Steele started training on how to teach this class specifically. And once ready, she began teaching and leading the way in the 2 and 3-year-old Tigers program at Master Kulinski Martial Arts. No doubt it makes a different in families’ lives that can last forever! The school and the families are lucky to have her.”
More about the competition
Kulinski’s own journey in the world of martial arts began 32 years ago, when he was just 7 years old.
“And in 2005,” he informed, “I moved from Buffalo, N.Y. to North Carolina to train underneath R.T. Berry at the R.T. Berry School of Tae Kwon Do in Mooresville.”
Fast-forward to last year. That’s when Kulinski opened his own dojo (or martial arts training school) in Denver.
“My focus is on quality traditional martial arts,” he said, “learning the attributes of what it has traditionally provided, with a modern character-development program for students. My class at the school has groups for all ages, from 2-year olds to my oldest student, who is 76 years old.”
One recent night, Berry called Kulinski and asked if he wanted to go to Pennsylvania. There was a big team competition coming up Oct. 17 in Pittsburgh, hosted by famed national champion Grandmaster Robert Zang.
“He was hosting the event because of the 10-year anniversary of his school,” Kulinski explained.
He added that the competition Zang hosted featured traditional, 60-year-old rules, meaning controlled contact and no equipment, thus highlighting advanced black belt sparring.
“Each team, one from Pittsburgh and one from North Carolina, had five advanced black belts to compete against each other,” Kulinski said, adding that the contest was broadcast locally in Pittsburgh.
Berry’s team featured Rook Kolessar, John and Jacob Sims and Steve Paul. Kulinski joined and actively engaged them all in this high-stakes and high-reward competition of five matches.
“The event went as expected,” Kulinski said, adding, “In the end, the North Carolina team was victorious, bringing home the championship belts.”
As the senior ranking sensei (or teacher) and under specific instructions from Berry to lead this team and represent the state of North Carolina, Kulinski said he was very pleased by all the athletes.
“I am extremely proud of our team that competed against some of the best,” he said. “We came home victorious, representing our instructor and state.”