Kick Away Stress at North Sky Kung Fu | chelseanow.com

Kick Away Stress at North Sky Kung Fu

North Sky Kung Fu students show their new sashes and certificates after a recent test. Kicks, strikes, and self-defense techniques were required. Photo courtesy NSKF.

North Sky Kung Fu students show their new sashes and certificates after a recent test. Kicks, strikes, and self-defense techniques were required. Photo courtesy NSKF.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | Depending on your social calendar, family dynamic or political leanings, the tail end of 2016 could be the most stressful period of an already challenging year, with the holidays and post-presidential election period converging.

But there are alternatives to inebriation or malaise, such as martial art classes at North Sky Kung Fu.

“It feels very uncentering, what’s going on out there,” co-owner Julie Schwartzman told Chelsea Now shortly after the election. “Kung fu gives you your power back. People are relieved when they come here. We give them permission to play and have fun.”

The studio, located on the second floor at 137 W. 28th St. (btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.), offers 18 classes a week for both children and adults, and includes kung fu training and tai chi.

“People come here just drained,” Schwartzman said. “We focus on our art. When you’re here, everything peels away.”

Co-owner Dario Acosta agreed, saying that kung fu “brings your minds back to your body — no matter what happens out there.”

Kids practice Kung Lek Kuen (Power Fist Form) with Sifu Dario. Photo courtesy NSKF.

Kids practice Kung Lek Kuen (Power Fist Form) with Sifu Dario. Photo courtesy NSKF.

In the early 1990s, Acosta and Schwartzman met through their sifu — master or teacher — Grandmaster Leung Shum. Acosta started training with Shum in 1990; Schwartzman in 1993.

Grandmaster Shum practiced a northern Chinese martial arts system known as Eagle Claw kung fu, or “Ying Jow Pai” in Cantonese.

“He brought this style from Hong Kong to the US in the 1980s,” explained Schwartzman, who has the equivalent of a black belt.

She said she was spurred to train due to her interest in Chinese philosophy, having begun to read about Taoism when she was 15.

Students from the Saturday Chi Kung class. Photo courtesy NSKF.

Students from the Saturday Chi Kung class. Photo courtesy NSKF.

Acosta, who is a certified master, started studying martial arts when he was 12, and said there is a deeper side to kung fu.

“It takes many years for it to sink in,” he said. “Kung fu is a defensive art. It’s derived a lot from nature.”

Acosta explained that kung fu is considered foundational, calling it the “grandfather of all martial arts.”

Schwartzman said, “It’s considered an ancient style that’s been preserved. It’s come down to us very rich and intact.”

North Sky teaches Eagle Claw, and the studio has tiger hooks, daggers and fans on hand for training. Acosta demonstrated for Chelsea Now how to position one’s hand — separated from the thumb, the four fingers are tightly together and curled, almost egg shaped.

“Your fingertips represent the claws of eagles,” he said.

Acosta stressed it is always a defensive technique, and the martial arts “teach us how to control ourselves.”

Working on floor kicks with intermediate students. Photo courtesy NSKF.

Working on floor kicks with intermediate students. Photo courtesy NSKF.

“It’s to develop control, build and understand your qi,” added Schwartzman, referring to the Chinese concept of one’s life force or energy. “It’s the opposite [being] focused on a device all day,” she added.

After Shum retired, they “decided to start teaching and share our point of view on martial arts,” Schwartzman explained. Acosta said they wanted to transfer what they learned to other generations.

Chelsea, Schwartzman noted, was a center for martial arts schools until rents increased. She and Acosta chose the neighborhood because of its central location and availability of space.

“The industrial vibe here is appealing to martial arts,” she said.

About three years ago, they were teaching two nights a week at a studio on W. 28th St.

“We looked and we looked, and we found this place,” Schwartzman said. “The bones of it were okay.”

They opened North Sky on W. 28th St. in March 2014.

Sifu Julie works with a student on blocking and self-defense. Photo courtesy NSKF.

Sifu Julie works with a student on blocking and self-defense. Photo courtesy NSKF.

“People in the neighborhood are getting to know us,” Schwartzman said. “They’re coming little-by-little.”

Neither is new to owning a business — Schwartzman started a graphic design business in 1990, and Acosta’s family runs barbershops in the city with four different locations in the Bronx and Queens. Still, she said, “We had no idea how much work it would take — we’re doing everything.”

Business has been “trending upwards slowly,” Schwartzman said, as they add one student at a time.

“We’re getting so many kids from Penn South,” she said. “The parents say, ‘I love coming here — such a great vibe.’ We work hard to make this a pleasant place.”

Schwartzman said they are handing out brochures, talking to parents, and still working on what classes to offer. She said she wants to reach out to seniors and others in the neighborhood, as well as perhaps offering a self-defense class for tourists staying at the many hotels in the area.

“We’re finding our own ways to do things,” she said.

Young martial artists race through an obstacle course, one of their favorite challenges. Photo courtesy NSKF.

Young martial artists race through an obstacle course, one of their favorite challenges. Photo courtesy NSKF.

Classes cost $20, and there is also a monthly membership option where you can take as many classes as you want. Private individual sessions are available as well.

“It is interesting to try to start a kung fu school in 2016,” said Schwartzman. “We’re trying to make a community for martial artists.”

A native New Yorker, Schwartzman said she is happy to be in Chelsea, and on W. 28th St. in particular, which she says is still kind of funky.

“We’re part of the pocket of old New York,” she said.

For more info, visit northskykungfu.com or call 917-657-6104.

North Sky co-owner and native New Yorker Julie Schwartzman says she’s happy with the “still kind of funky” W. 28th St. location. Photo courtesy NSKF.

North Sky co-owner and native New Yorker Julie Schwartzman says she’s happy with the “still kind of funky” W. 28th St. location. Photo courtesy NSKF.