Winning Without Fighting

Qwan Ki Do Training goes beyond self-defense.

By Kathy Borsuk ~ Photos Courtesy Graceway Sports Centre

Blame it on my age, but I usually associate martial arts with finely honed Asians using remarkable fighting skills to decimate dozens of enemies, making high-pitched keening sounds in the process. I think it was all those Bruce Lee movies.
In the Turks & Caicos, we have instead a burly Romanian with a heart of gold who is transforming the lives of children and adults by teaching them the ancient art of Qwan Ki Do. Paul Ciurar is the Graceway Sports Centre’s martial arts instructor, where he offers Qwan Ki Do classes on a weekly basis.

Acrobatic and spectacular, Qwan Ki Do combines Chinese and Vietnamese Kung Fu.

By definition, Qwan Ki Do is the “art of winning without fighting and persuading without speaking.” The Am-Duong Club at Graceway Sports Centre offers students of all experience levels the opportunity to learn this mixture of traditional Chinese and Vietnamese Kung Fu. The program uses the martial art as a vehicle for teaching concepts such as respect for self and others, diligence, concentration, leadership and peacekeeping skills. Within several years, it has expanded to 30—40 students of many nationalities, one of whom, Rigal Auguste, has earned the first Black Belt, and now serves as an instructor when teacher Paul Ciurar is away.

What is Qwan Ki Do?
Qwan Ki Do has origins in the Chinese martial art schools of Shao Lin, Wo Mei and Tang Lang, along with the Vietnamese Martial Arts or VO. Qwan Ki Do was founded in 1981 in France by one of the most prestigious experts of martial arts, the Great Master Pham Xuan Tong. Qwan Ki Do combines a large variety of movements, including hand techniques, blocks and grappling, sweeps, self-defense, throwing techniques, arm locks, falling and breaking techniques, street fighting and psychocorporal gymnastics (Tham The, similar to Tai Chi). Qwan Ki Do is practiced in over 30 countries by tens of thousands of practitioners.
Paul Ciurar was introduced to the art in his homeland as a young man of 15. He recalls, “Qwan Ki Do is very popular in Romania. Life there was very difficult and I could have easily gone the way of being a thug in a gang. Instead, Qwan Ki Do became like a religion for me. We used to spend 8 to 10 hours at a time training and on weekends, my friends and I would travel 250 miles by train to compete in Bucharest. I was training under Master Pham Xuan Tong and within four years, I had my Black Belt. I was then able to become president of our local club and lead it for seven years; we eventually had over 1,800 students.”
Paul realizes that “Human nature is violent, and your early influences—family, culture, religion—determine your aggressiveness. Qwan Ki Do helps focus anger and rage in a constructive way. When you learn to fight, you don’t want to fight anymore. The movements we learn are very natural and help you find yourself.” Paul’s path to the Turks & Caicos started when he met his (now) wife Adina at a fitness conference in Romania. She was friends with Anca Vasile, who had opened a healthy bakery in Providenciales. One thing led to another and Adina and Paul moved to the Islands in 2008. Adina became manager of the Graceway Sports Centre in 2011, with Paul at her side maintaining the equipment and teaching classes. Together, through much hard work and dedication, the pair have built the site’s reputation as a wholesome, clean, well-run facility, increasing membership over ten-fold!

Instructor Paul Ciurar teaches children self-respect, diligence, leadership and peace-keeping skills.

How can I learn?
Qwan Ki Do classes are currently offered on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons. The class environment is cooperative and spirited, with instruction not only dynamic, but detailed and patient, emphasizing a pragmatic approach to studying the martial arts curriculum. Training includes toning, physical fitness, stretching and meditation, and is designed to be a complete workout for body and mind. Paul explains, “Everyone needs a place to disconnect from the struggles of the world. I ask students to leave their problems at the door. When class is over, you’ll feel more aware, confident, coordinated and able to concentrate.”
Paul is especially excited about the children’s program, because, he says, “Qwan Ki Do opens the door to a lifetime of benefits, such as leadership skills, a winning attitude and the inner strength to overcome adverse peer pressure. Physically, kids build strength, improve flexibility, develop sharp reflexes, build cardiovascular fitness, develop coordination, gain self-confidence and build self-esteem. They develop the ‘Yes I can’ attitude that will be of benefit for many years to come.”
Children’s classes progress in stages. The Little Tigers class is for students ages 6 to 9 and focuses on development of motor skills, concentration, poise and coordination while learning fundamental martial arts skills. The Young Dragons class is designed for older children between 10 to 13 years old. Training is more challenging and diverse. More focus is placed on developing agility, strength and endurance, but with careful attention to building a sound martial arts foundation. In each case, programs are individualized based on each student’s unique natural abilities, size and strength.
Classes typically run from September to June. (You can try your first class for free!) Uniforms include white belts with red straps for children and blue straps for adults. Exams are held every three to four months, encouraging students to stay motivated by striving for a series of blue caps (sub-levels), each requiring a different set of skills. From there, over time, the various colored belts are awarded. Testimonials from parents state that kids who were previously out of control have improved focus at school and discipline at home after participating in Qwan Ki Do classes. Paul notes that the children want to be in class, and respect him and the knowledge he is teaching them. “I tell them, ‘There are no limits to what you can do in life. But nobody owes you anything. You have to earn your way.’”

A passion for fitness
I admire the obvious passion that both Paul and Adina have for physical fitness, the sports centre and the children who come there. It shines in everything they do. Classes are offered at a reasonable price, and Paul admits to being lenient if funds are tight. He says, “I see us all as a family when we’re working together to learn Qwan Ki Do. We develop friendships and have get-togethers for the kids during the year, a chance to socialize and have fun.”
This fall, the Ciurars hope to secure a van to pick up children who may not have a ride to get to the Sports Centre after school. The Am-Duong Club is now recognized internationally, with the possibility of future competitions. Paul says, “The kids here are very skilled and learn fast. They would be very competitive. Unfortunately, a lot of them move out of the country before they get the chance to be in a tournament.”
Besides continually amassing certifications to keep on top of the latest knowledge in fitness and martial arts, Paul teaches self-defense classes/workshops for local security companies, corporations and anyone who is interested. He employs techniques learned on the job at one of Eastern Europe’s largest security companies, once training military special forces in Romania. Paul is also a ISSA certified personal trainer, and in 2015 earned his certifications in TRX group and functional training and NASM Youth Fitness Coaching.

For more information, visit www.gracewaysports.com or call Paul at 649 442 0099.

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