Building confidence the martial way

For Jim Cunius, it’s always been a matter of confidence, work ethics and maybe a little bit of competitive spirit. That holds true for at least some of his students at Cunius Martial Arts in Olde Ridge Village.

Cunius opened the studio in May. With more than 25 years of martial experience, the banker by trade teaches Tang Soo Do — a Korean style of karate — and women’s kickboxing.

His interest in martial arts dates back to 1987 when he was 14 years old and had recently moved to the US from the Philippines. Martial arts movies were big on his list, but then he found a school that he liked and began taking formal classes.

“I liked the competition side of it, and also the art itself…I found that martial arts really helped me with confidence, school work and work ethics,” he said.

Studying any martial art, be it the two he teaches or any other of the numerous styles, Cunius said, is beneficial because everyone should have an understanding of the basics of punching and kicking, not to be a fighter, but for a sense of self confidence, self control and overall fitness. He also works cardio into his curriculum.

The focus of his martial teaching is awareness.

“Kicking and punching aren’t hard to do… but you have to be aware of what’s happening out there,” he said.

Cunius said that fighting is always the last resort. Being aware can help keep a person from getting into a bad situation in the first place. True martial training teaches the priority of avoiding trouble first, talking second and running away third. The only time to fight is if those three don’t work.

“If you can walk away, that’s the best self defense I can tell you. Nobody gets hurt. You don’t have to do anything else. Fighting is the last resort for me. To walk away, talk yourself out of trouble, that’s the best. Not just for women, but for kids and adults.”

His bottom line is to be confident and comfortable out in the world and learning martial arts will help build that attitude.

Students agree.

For Kristin Totoro, of Aston, studying with Cunius serves as a confidence builder and as a way to keep in shape.

“It’s different, more than just running and working out. It’s a completely different workout that really kicks you in the butt… The boxing is a mental thing. It’s control,” she said.

And some of the teaching stays with her when she’s not in the studio, but out and about in the world.

She said she’s more aware of her abilities in a “what if” type of situation, and that translates into confidence.

Totoro added that she enjoys class enough to explore competition and get into sparring.

Priscilla Basile, of Concord Township, has been with Cunius for a month, but studied kickboxing when she was in her teens. She came back to the study for better health and for self-defense. She also studies karate with Cunius.

“I’m not going to go out looking to fight, but [classes] do give a little bit of comfort knowing that I might be able to protect myself a little bit better if a situation came to me,” Basile said.

Kim Perri, also from Concord, said practicing a martial art makes her feel stronger and more in shape.

“I have so much more energy,” she said. “And it definitely raises your confidence.”

Classes are held 6-9 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and on Saturday by appointment. The karate curriculum accommodates students from 5 years of age to adult.

For more information, phone 610-299-7200, visit or send an e-mail to

Top photo: Jim Cunius reviews proper kicking technique with Kristin Totoro.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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