I always start these interviews by asking people when their martial art journey began. Most people give me an answer that reflects when they were first introduced to a particular style of fighting either through a school or an instructor and what led them to seek it out. I’ve noticed similarities between people’s stories and Anthony is no exception. Anthony, like many others, sought out martial arts because he had been bullied and needed a healthy outlet to channel his anger. Yet, as I listened more to Anthony’s story, I started to notice that the events in his life reflected the philosophy of Jeet Kune Do (JKD). While some people choose their hobbies in life, I believe others feel called to a particular art or vehicle of self-expression. JKD called Anthony.
JKD is about taking existing things and combining them in new ways. It’s about seeing, moving, and experiencing the world from a new perspective. It’s about evolution and expansion. Creativity comes naturally to Anthony, who was already using the JKD philosophy in his many business endeavors. Thinking outside the box like generating new ideas for new products was part of Anthony’s daily life.
Despite being featured in the New York Times or granted awards for his entrepreneurship, Anthony felt that achieving traditional business milestones were unfulfilling. At this point in Anthony’s journey martial arts plus a supportive community helped him get through difficult times. He realized that the marital journey was unlike his experience in building businesses with finite goals. In martial arts is there is no ceiling. Success is the quality of the journey, who you affect on your way, and what you learn about yourself in the process.
Anthony had been training privately under Sifu Phil Cruz for many years up until then. Both had become close friends through their mutual love of learning and sharing the arts. Opening a JKD martial art school in Brooklyn, NY alongside Sifu Phil allowed Anthony to apply his entrepreneurial spirit to his number one passion. Instead of measuring his success based upon financial attainment or public accolades, Anthony feels that teaching martial arts, helping people achieve their fitness goals, and giving back to the local community are far superior rewards.
“A Knight in Red,” Anthony’s online call sign, is an appropriate nickname for a martial art fanatic covered in red tattoos. Red is the color of energy, enthusiasm, power, strength, and determination. If you’ve ever met Anthony, you know that he never has these characteristics in short supply. As an instructor, Anthony strives to teach students structure infused with passion. He’s learned that through the structure of the drills and the discipline of consistent training, he became more grounded and centered. He aims to offer this framework to students.
Whether or not Sifu Phil and Anthony realize, the colors of UMA symbolize both of their unique journeys through life and the arts. I knew that I had read about the colors of black, red, and white somewhere, so I searched for the quote. Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote, “Black, red, and white… symbolize the ancient colors connoting birth, life, and death. These colors also represent old ideas of descent, death, and rebirth — the black for dissolving of one’s old values, the red for the sacrifice of one’s previously held illusions, and the white as the new light, the new knowing that comes from having experienced the first two.” The birth of UMA was only possible when they decided to let go of certain things and take a risk on their dreams.
UMA is Sifu Phil and Anthony’s co-creative masterpiece. Both instructors emphasize their commitment to making UMA a place where everyone is welcome. Anthony said he wants people to know that here at UMA, they can learn a practical skill set that will improve their health and self-esteem, but ultimately they will discover that the art teaches them how to adapt and flow through life. Students will build life-long friendships in the process.
While only Anthony’s journey is the scope of this newsletter (you’ll read about Sifu Phil in another issue), UMA is the product of both men wanting to create something that would add more fulfillment to their lives and benefit others. They strive to offer an environment that focuses on becoming a well-rounded martial artist governed by a modern-day samurai code. Whether you come to UMA because martial arts is your hobby or calling, Anthony will convince you that you’re meant to be here.