Kickboxing hits the spot

The teacher leads his students through a counterpunch exercise in the wrestling room in the Peter Stott Center. The students, sporting gis, warm-ups and even khakis, circle up and take turns waiting for the teacher to attack. This is what a Friday meeting of the Portland State Kickboxing Club looks like.

“Left leg front, I’ll be coming at your face,” he directs them. “Hit me with your left hand.”

The sensei is trying to get them to read him, to react to his punch with a punch of their own, to get their hands and arms to react the way their heads do, but when the soft, red pad he’s wearing on his left hand softly strikes the cheeks of most of the class, they respond with feints and big blinks. The teacher stops practice.

He explains even the best fighters get hit. It’s the ones that have learned to take a hit and give back one bigger who are the best.

“So we’ll get hit anyway, Jukucho?” a young woman seated on the padded floor asks the teacher.

Jukucho says yes.

“But you can react like this: (he blinks his eyes way wide open and then pinches them tight), or you can react like this: (he weaves his head way out, showing the students what they had been doing), or you can have the same reaction here (he points to his left fist). See?”

The students circle up again and Jukucho attacks them one at a time, using the pad to hit with his left hand, taking counterpunches with his right side.

“Hit me harder! I’m not your sensei right now,” he tells them.

Like a whirlwind, he works his way through the group of students. Gis flash like fish bellies in a feeding frenzy.

Later, after practice has wound down, Jukucho tells the class, “You can use this in other places besides fighting and if you can do that, you’re a black belt. But if you can do that in the world, you can do it here.”

“Think about a car,” he says later. “You can keep it brand new for a long time if you keep it clean, maintain it.” Jukucho Kent Kim is turning 40 this year, but he looks 25. The Kickboxing Club, with his help, will be hosting their first Club Challenge on Friday. A dozen fighters, matched by size and skills, will be matched up in full-contact kickboxing matches for a free exhibition Friday in the main gym of the Peter Stott Center. The kickboxing starts at 5 p.m. and there will be announcers, information booths and bleacher seating.

Tournaments are nothing new for Jukucho, who has won more than 200 of them. He also showed the stuntmen in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III” how to fight with swords.

Jukucho started as an extra and was promoted so quickly he ended up doubling for the movie’s villain. He took the money and started Kento Bento, a now-defunct chain of restaurants in Portland. Only one remains open.

Now, Jukucho runs a dojo in southeast Portland and teaches karate, kickboxing, power defense and a body sculpting boot camp.

“It costs $30 to $100 a month at my dojo. What’s so great is it’s practically free at PSU. People should totally take advantage of it.” The club costs $25 per term for students, and $35 per term for faculty, staff and alumni.

Mike Janezic, the club’s vice president, likes the club. “We go out together,” he says. “Everyone loves it.”

President Gordon Zimmerman, who started the club almost two years ago, loves that the three-times-a-week practices help him get through school.

“I really like that we do broad activities,” he says. “We don’t just spar. We train, do cardiovascular workouts. We do it for the exercise, to get that daily stress of homework out. Some people play basketball – we work our frustrations out this way.”

He started the club after noticing PSU had nothing like it. Since Zimmerman had been training with Jukucho for a few years prior, he asked him to advise. Zimmerman, who also likes to swim for a change, will fight in Friday’s Challenge.

“I’ve never done this type of fighting before,” Zimmerman says. “It’s more continuous sparring.”

Jukucho compares it to some of the styles seen in Ultimate Fighting Championships, more of an integrated martial art.

“We are emphasizing street defense,” he says. “Statistics show that one out of every three women will be sexually assaulted. That’s not a pleasant thought, so people put it out of their minds. But everybody should be prepared. And everybody should be in better shape!”

Jukucho says it would be exciting to get a huge group of people to participate in the club at PSU.

“If you’re happy, that’s great. But what about your health? Are you happy inside? A lot of times you can find answers in martial arts.”

The free Kickboxing Club Challenge starts at 5 p.m. Friday in the main gym of the Peter W. Stott Center.

The club meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 p.m. in the wrestling room, Room 203, of the Stott Center.

The Kickboxing Club Web site is Jukucho’s Web site is