Teaching Self-Defense, Self-Worth Kung Fu Instructor Values Discipline's Spiritual Elements

Article excerpt

Byline: Christy Gutowski Daily Herald Staff Writer

George Patrinos is a contender.

The 10-year-old Roselle boy may not be old enough to drive a car or even see over the dashboard. Nevertheless, he won a first-place trophy at the Seventh Annual Great Lakes Kung Fu Championship in Cleveland.

In fact, the pint-sized fourth-grader and his classmates at the Bak Shaolin Ji Eagle Claw school in Wood Dale left the national competition last month with 18 trophies.

You might think George and his classmates attend some sort of elite martial arts school.

Not quite. They take lessons two nights a week in Wood Dale's Georgetown Clubhouse.

The fledgling school is operated by hairstylist Pete Himargios, who in 1990 began teaching kung fu in his spare time to family and friends.

Himargios, 37, once was a student of the grand master Fu Leung. Nearly three decades ago, Leung was one of the first instructors to bring "eagle claw" kung fu to the United States.

Today, Himargios is the only eagle claw instructor in Illinois officially recognized by various kung fu associations.

He, along with instructors, Robert Parks of Wood Dale and Bob Tyler of Carol Stream, passes along his skills to a class that includes students of all ages, sexes and races.

"I don't send anyone away," said Himargios, who lives in Roselle. "If people are willing to work, I'm willing to train them."

The various movements in kung fu, or "wu-shu" as the Chinese call it, are largely imitations of the fighting styles and characteristics of animals. The Chinese years ago looked to animals in hopes of finding the key to better health and a longer life.

Eagle claw was developed more than a thousand years ago in the mountainous regions of northern China. The style employs large, fast movements with jumping kicks, precise turns, balance and prearranged techniques.

Because the mountains weren't suitable for holding a firm stance, the styles that developed often were based more upon agility of movement and were characterized by much rolling, kicking and jumping.

"Today we see this as a sport but, for them, it was a way of living, to protect your family and belongings," Himargios said. …