While other students spent their summer relaxing on vacation or lying low at home, freshman Rod Azghadi taught martial arts at KSMY Martial Arts (3200 Riverside Blvd., Suite A).
KSMY teaches Kuk Sool, a systematic study of Korea’s traditional martial arts. It focuses on body conditioning, mental development and traditional weapons training.
Azghadi said the school’s master, My Callison, decides when someone becomes a leader. Students who become black belts automatically become leaders. Listed as an assistant on KSMY’s website, Azghadi holds the 1st Dan rank (the lowest for black belts).
This summer, Azghadi ran the Dojang (training hall) with other black belts because Callison was pregnant.
Azghadi received his first black belt in Los Angeles at age 7 in Hwa Rang Do (a comprehensive system of self-defense and combative techniques) and another at KSMY at age 14 in Kuk Sool.
Azghadi said he became recognized under the South Korean government when earning his black belt at KSMY.
When Azghadi was 2 1/2 years old, his parents signed him up for martial arts.
According to Rod’s mother, Soheila Azghadi, his father, Sharam, always wanted his children involved in martial arts, because it “teaches self-discipline, self-control, connection with the inner self, physical strength and self defense.”
Sharam Azghadi holds black belts in two martial arts styles: He’s a 2nd Dan in Tae Kwon Do and a 1st Dan in Moo Yea Do.
“The process I went through involved rigorous stamina training and being able to perform any technique my master tells me to do,” Rod said. “There are over 200 techniques that I needed to be able to do out of order.”
Azghadi said the most challenging part was the physical training, which tested his discipline.
“There were several points during the test where I wanted to stop or felt like throwing up, but I had to push through it,” he said.
Teaching for the first time on his own, Azghadi spent 150 hours — two hours a day, five or six days per week — instructing younger students.
He worked with students as young as 3 years old to adults. He said the biggest class he taught had about 30 students.
Holding the attention of younger students for the entire class proved a challenge, he said.
Azghadi said he enjoyed seeing students apply what he demonstrated, whether they were minor concepts or large ones.
“I liked putting my own twist on the class,” he said. “You have to adjust your teaching based on rank, skill level or age,” Azghadi said. “I learned I’m pretty good at seeing what level (students are at) and adjusting my teaching to their level.”
Holding a fifth-degree black belt under the Korea Kuk Sool Association, Callison has dedicated over 26 years of her life to Kuk Sool, according to KSMY’s website.
Callison said Rod continues to impress her with his “discipline, focus and meticulous attention to detail.” She attributed his success in martial arts to his perseverance. Callison noted that his patience and ability to work with students at a variety of skill levels make him a strong teacher.
“(He) breaks down movements and takes his time explaining concepts in terms the students can comprehend,” Callison said.
According to Azghadi, “(Martial arts has) always been a part of my life. I want to pass on all the things I’ve learned to the next generation.”
Freshman Rod Azghadi poses for his black belt portrait. (Photo courtesy of Azghadi)
Azghadi performs an inner leg kick. (Photo courtesy of Azghadi)
During his seventh color belt promotion, Azghadi executes a jump front fall. (Photo courtesy of Azghadi)
Azghadi performs an aerial "no-handed" cartwheel. (Photo courtesy of Azghadi)
—By Ethan Monasa
Originally published in the Nov. 12 edition of the Octagon.