Gerry Blanck poses at his Blanck Martial Arts Center in Pacific Palisades where he’s taught for 30 years.
Gerry Blanck celebrates 30-years of teaching martial arts in Pacific Palisades
By David Rosenfeld
Gerry Blanck had been a professional kick-boxer for about four years when in 1982 he traded one ideal beach community for another. That’s when Blanck moved from Pensacola, Florida and opened his own martial arts studio in Pacific Palisades.
He won a world kickboxing title a year later, landed a few film parts in Hollywood and countless photos in magazines.
This year he celebrates his most lasting achievement with the 30th anniversary of Gerry Blanck’s Martial Arts Center, still in Pacific Palisades where he’s taught thousands of kids and issued hundreds of black belts.
“It’s really rewarding to see so many students come back and hear what they’re doing,” Blanck says. “It’s like being a part of their lives.”
In order to earn a black belt from Blanck’s studio, students must dedicate three to four years of training in the Yoshukai style of karate without any breaks. Other disciplines might require less time.
“To get a black belt through us is a big honor,” Blanck says. “We make you work for it. It makes it more prestigious that way.”
As a testament to hard work, Blanck keeps his world feather-weight title belt from 1983 behind glass in the studio’s retail store where he sells everything from candy bars to punching bags. Among the piles of memorabilia, Blanck took out an item he’s especially proud of and held up a type of baseball card featuring karate champions with Blanck’s picture and statistics on the back.
Carl Fredlin, who’s in his 60s, is one of Blanck’s oldest black belt recipients. Fredlin says he hadn’t exercised very much in the past and knew he had to do something. Karate helped him build muscle tone and increase flexibility, he says. Now he also has samurai sword training under his belt.
“I have been wanting to do this since I was a kid,” Fredlin says. “But growing up, the money wasn’t there or I didn’t have the time. It was just a dream to learn karate.”
For the younger children, Blanck says martial arts help to build confidence and improve discipline. Parents who might be having trouble with their kids often enroll them in Blanck’s classes where the teacher becomes a mentor and figure of discipline.
“A lot of times parents want me to talk to their kids because they are supposed to set an example outside of the dojo as well,” Blanck says. “A lot of them come in here and get the discipline, but it’s a great form of exercise as well. You really work you’re whole body.”
Gavrielle Wind and Kaegan Baron join instructor Gerry Blanck in practicing kicks.
Baxter Humby, known as the one-armed bandit, because he was born without a right hand, who’s taught alongside Blanck at his studio for 16 years says Blanck has a gift of working with children.
“I’ve known him for 16 years and I’ve only heard him tell the same story maybe twice. Everybody feels special because he remembers everybody and every situation,” Humby says.
Humby moved to Los Angeles from Canada to pursue a professionally kick-boxing career in much the same way Blanck did more than a decade earlier. When Humby came to the Palisades, Blanck let him spar in the studio for free. The two quickly became friends. Blanck was immediately impressed with the young man who fought with a physical disability.
“It’s called the art of eight limbs. I have seven of them,” says Humby, who’s still a professional kick-boxer at age 39.
Inspired to fight by watching Sugar Ray Leonard, Humby now trains the world boxing champion and considers him a close friend. He says his disability drives him to overcome what other people call a handicap.
“The first time I fought in las vegas they said I couldn’t fight. Went up a month later and knocked him out in 56 seconds. They said Ah, you can fight. I said I know I can. I just had to prove it.”
Nothing has slowed him down with a career record of 68-11-1 to prove it. His last fight is expected in April in Amsterdam. In the studio and among the kids, Humby is a huge inspiration, Blanck says.
Blanck first started taking martial arts for many of the same reasons students come to him now. As a young man he was always one of the smaller kids and wanted to be able to defend himself.
“I got into it because I was small and wanted to build my confidence, not because I wanted to beat anybody up but just to learn how to defend yourself,” he says. “And you learn respect.”
While still in Florida, Blanck met a Japanese master in his 30s at the time who visited his dojo. He says the man had a presence about him that was inspiring.
“Since then I was hooked,” he says.
Blanck earned his black belt in 1977 and soon after started competing in kick-boxing professionally. Pretty soon he won nine straight matches and began travelling the world. During a fight in Hong Kong, a photographer took a shot of Blanck that ended up in a magazine. Someone saw it and suggested he move to California.
Blanck, who’d been a surfer all his life, loved the Pensecola beaches and the laid-back Florida lifestyle. But moving to Pacific Palisades, he thought, wouldn’t be too different. So he lived on the beach and started teaching martial arts at a local health club. Soon he opened his own studio.
During the height of his career, Blanck was approached by lots of interesting people including a couple of Los Angeles Dodgers and the president of Southeastern University in Lakeland where Blanck had attended.
“And I didn’t even graduate,” he says laughing. “A lot of cool things happened.”
Blanck’s professional career culminated with a world title in 1983 in the super featherweight 130 pound kick-boxing division. From then on, he’s dedicated his career to teaching others.
“Everybody goes, ah 30 years what are you going to. Man I was just trying to make it this long.”