Martial arts studio, award-winning Sensei guide Coastside students

By Stacy Trevenon [ ] | Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 10:35 am - The Half Moon Bay Review

Sunlight illuminates the martial-arts belts on display above the room-length mirror that makes the American and United Studios of Self Defense flags glow and reflects in the smiles of eight young students, sitting erect before stretching out to count off push-ups.

“One, sensei! Two, sensei!” they chorus as they press up and down.

Striding back and forth in front of the line is sensei Kevin Schmad, chief instructor and owner of the Half Moon Bay USSD studio. Last month, he was named USSD’s Best Instructor of the Year 2013. The award recognizes an instructor for going above and beyond in teaching and in community participation.

The USSD tradition dates back to China’s Shaolin Temple and was handed down, instructor to instructor, for two millennia, said Schmad. Headquartered in Orange County, USSD lists more than 100 studios.

For Schmad, a San Mateo resident who took over the local school in February and tripled enrollment in three months, the award may be “great,” but it’s not the main reason he’s here

“It’s great to see kids do kicks and punches, but the focus is on the principles of martial arts” such as humility, respect for family, teachers and one another, he said. “Be humble. Use martial arts to make yourself a better person.”He leads the students through warm-up stretches while asking them what they got for Christmas. As they shout out favorite gifts, he reminds them to be grateful to the parents who gave those gifts, to thank them by looking them in the eye and showing respect.

Then Schmad calls students by name to demonstrate kicks and punches, making fists and heels fly in a graceful yet daunting ballet. Students punctuate each move with a shout, closely watch and learn from one another, and retire back to the line, satisfied and smiling.“When we’re in class, it helps you get better and stronger,” said her brother Kai, 7.

“The most important thing is learning how to defend yourself, and discipline,” said Maya Bliss, 11. “Respect for your parents, friends and family. And not using the techniques on anyone outside of here unless you have to.”

Twists and turns punctuated Schmad’s own journey to Half Moon Bay. Raised in Fallbrook, Calif., (just north of San Diego), he pursued medicine at the College of the Siskiyous, graduating near the top of his class and becoming a paramedic and wildland firefighter.

Then he embraced his passion for mastering discipline, self-control, confidence and having fun through martial arts. He devoted two years each to studying aikido, tai chi, Brazilian jiu jitsu, Muay Thai and mixed martial arts, one year of Capoeira (a blend of martial arts and dance) and five years of intensive yoga. He earned his first-degree black belt in Orange County in 2002 and his second-degree black belt at the Shaolin Temple in China in 2004. Last year, he relocated to the Bay Area.

His students seem to have picked up some of his drive. “He pushes us to get better,” said Enrique Mornay, 10.

“The most important thing is to keep going” even through challenges, said Ely Cristol-Deman, 7.

A blend of disciplines is reflected in his Half Moon Bay studio, with fellow San Mateo resident and teacher Kate Pinedo. She teaches dance classes in Latin aerobics, modern dance, hip- hop and the Dominican Republic-style of dance known as “bachata.” She also choreographs dance for events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras or “Sweet 16” parties.

Her story starts with her mother, Maria Condit, a former prima ballerina, who started “Estampas de Mexico,” a Mexican folk dance company. Her daughter took it over in 1997 and renamed it “Katetak.”

Turning “a hobby into a lifelong career” in dance, Pinedo earned a degree in theater with an emphasis in dance from California State University, Hayward, made a name for herself in choreography in the Western states, and danced with the Hayward-based Dandelion Dance Theatre, which she said participated in a performance for President Obama in 2009. She now works with Schmad as a business partner.

Both instructors teach classes or private lessons. For information on Pinedo’s dance classes, call her at (760) 604-4904. For information on Schmad’s USSD studio, call 712-8891.

Kevin Schmad is Half Moon Bay's newest Chief Instructor and owner.

Schmad has been a part of United Studios of Self Defense for over ten years, and has enjoyed teaching for five years. He was born and raised in Fallbrook, California.

Schmad joined the medical field after graduating high school. He graduated from College of the Siskiyous in the top ranks and quickly began a career as a paramedic and wild land firefighter for three years.

Coming all the way from San Diego, he transitioned from the medical profession and embraced his passion for the arts, teaching people the principles of the Martial Arts to have a better knowledge of discipline, self control and confidence while having fun at the same time.

Schmad received his 2nd degree Black Belt at The Shaolin Temple in China in July of 2013. His versatile background in the martial arts include the following: two years of Aikido, two years of Tai Chi, two years of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, two years of Muay Thai, two years of professional MMA, one year of Capoeira, and five years of Intensive Yoga.

"Martial arts has helped me to not only become a better person, but become a better paramedic to save lives and my quality of life. I'm a lot happier doing what I love and sharing this experience with those who enjoy it too."

- Kevin Schmad

Charles Russo

Kate Pinedo and Kevin Schmad are business partners at Half Moon Bay’s branch of United Studios of Self Defense, a martial-arts studio in the Strawflower Village.

Stacy Trevenon / United Studios of Self Defense

United Studios of Self Defense: In the spacious, bright United Studios of Self Defense studio in the Strawflower Village, a young student demonstrates moves under the watchful eye of instructor Kevin Schmad and his peers.

Stacy Trevenon/ United Studios of Self Defense

Kevin Schmad, instructor of Half Moon Bay’s branch of the United Studios of Self Defense, leads a young class through a routine filled with punches, kicks and emphasis on self-defense, not aggression.