Karate kids return home

Local martial arts studio recently had students take part in China trip.

July 17, 2009|By Matt Szabo

The five principles hang in a picture frame on the wall, giving visitors an inkling of what they might expect when they enter the dojo.

“Effort, etiquette, sincerity, self-control, character.”

These are words that mean a lot to Sensei Jeff Kash, the instructor at the United Studios of Self Defense in Laguna Beach. He tries to convey these things to the young — and the young-at-heart — who enter the doors of the small studio, tucked into a corner of the Albertsons parking lot on South Coast Highway.

Kash, 33, said it’s the only karate studio in Laguna Beach; he’s run it for about seven years. The instructors teach shaolin kempo — a mixture of karate, kung fu and jujitsu.


“MMA stands for mixed martial arts,” he said. “But martial arts is mixed. People unmixed it and focused on certain aspects, but kempo is still all of it. We cover everything — punches, kicks, knees, elbows, takedowns, throws, grappling, all of that kind of stuff. It’s very comprehensive, well-rounded.”

He has about 110 active students and probably a million stories, but there’s one he pulled out of the collection when talking about what his job means to him. He talked about a student who goes unnamed who Kash pushed hard, harder than others.

“He had to stop because of his workload in high school, and I thought the kid just hated me,” Kash said. “When he graduated high school, he got five tickets to his graduation – two for his parents, two for his youth pastors that he’d known forever and one for me. That kind of hit really deep, that we make a huge impact in these people’s lives.

“Professionals? This is their release. They get to drop their baggage outside and just come in and forget their world for a while, and leave with a smile on their face. That’s a great thing to be able to provide people.”

Late last week, several students also returned from an experience they probably won’t forget. Kash returned from China with six USSD Laguna Beach students who were testing for black or brown belts. In a 10-day trip, they visited Shanghai, Dengfeng (the city that contains the Shaolin monastery) and Beijing.

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