Martial arts instructor Gerry Blanck walks around his studio on Alma Real Drive quacking behind a group of 3- to 5-year-olds as the tikes do a duck walk exercise.
During his 29 years teaching martial arts in Pacific Palisades, the 7th degree black belt and former World Kickboxing Champion has trained a variety of people including celebrities and professional athletes. But for Blanck, it’s all about the kids.
“I love it. I’m still a kid at heart, so I think that’s why I’m able to do it,” said Blanck, 56. “I like working with kids over several years because you bond with them. I’ve trained so many kids from beginner to black belt, then they come back and they’re 6 feet tall and they’re doctors or lawyers and I remember them from when they were 3 years old.”
Blanck gets to know the kids he trains, from his Little Dragons, who are 3½ to 5 years old, to his Advanced Karate Kids, according to Jennifer Bloom, mother of student Carly Bloom, 5.
“When we see him outside of class, he knows all of the kids’ names,” Bloom said. “He takes the time to individually get to know each child and to make each child feel special.”
Carly has been taking Little Dragons classes at Gerry Blanck's Martial Arts Center for six months and loves it, Bloom said.
“She loves that she can punch and kick in a safe place,” Bloom said. “Plus Gerry just cracks her up.”
Blanck makes learning fun, but he also teaches even his youngest students to respect the studio and respect the uniform, said Catherine Von Goetz, who has three children taking classes from him.
“I think Gerry is authoritative, but in a gentle way, not in a scary way,” Von Goetz said. “He’s really good with the kids.”
Blanck also teaches adult karate and kickboxing and takes on the occasional high-profile client. He got actress Pamela Anderson ready for her fight scenes in the film Barb Wire and was rewarded with a part on TV's Baywatch playing her personal trainer.
“We filmed it right down here on the beach and there were about 5,000 people watching,” Blanck said. “It was the opening scene of the show, so that’s my claim to fame.”
When Brooke Burke needed to add some aggression to her Paso Doble Spanish dance routine on Dancing with the Stars, she and her partner came to Blanck.
“She got great scores for that dance. One of the judges even told her that she did better because of the karate training,” Blanck said.
Blanck also trained professional baseball player Jason Kendall and got to work with two-time Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks.
“He wanted to get in shape for Angels & Demons and wanted to do some cross training, so we did some boxing,” Blanck said. “He is such a cool guy. He’s like my favorite actor ever.”
But the most rewarding part of Blanck’s job is seeing the kids he trains learn and grow, he said.
“A lot of kids take martial arts to build up their confidence, so it’s really rewarding for me to see kids with confidence problems, or maybe they have special needs, or maybe they’re just shy, and I just get to see them blossom,” Blanck said.