About Thomas Kurz
Before coming to the U.S.A., I studied physical education at AWF (University School of Physical Education) in Warsaw, one of the top East European institutions that prepare coaches, instructors, teachers of physical education, and rehabilitation specialists.
I chose to study teaching p.e. and sports because I knew some peak performers (not necessarily in competitive sports), had some peak performance experiences myself, and also was interested in the most effective ways of acquiring physical skills.
While still a student, I was appointed an assistant coach of the students’ judo team. As a part of the studies’ requirements, I competed (at the intramural level) in several sports, including swimming, gymnastics, and track and field events. This gave me an understanding of the practical application of the general principles of theory and methodology of sports and physical education.
How did I become involved in writing on martial arts training? Gradually. First, in 1985, I wrote Stretching Scientifically, the book on increasing flexibility quickly and safely. Because I practiced martial arts in Poland and wanted to continue to do that in U.S.A., I read martial arts magazines and observed workouts of various schools. I noticed a lack of knowledge of training in general but the most obvious and wide-spread was bad stretching. Martial arts magazines carried plenty of ads for stretching machines—contraptions that have no place in training of able-bodied people—but good books on stretching were nowhere to be found. So I thought that I could write such a book and disseminate an efficient and healthy method of stretching.
In retrospect, I think I should not have written this book but rather come up with a stretching machine. I could hawk any stretching contraption using my splits, and no one would know that I acquired my flexibility with my rational training method and not with any piece of expensive junk. I could sit with a silly grin, doing a split in the contraption, and sell it for much more money than a book. “Regrettably,” I had (and have) too much self-respect to do this kind of thing.
Anyway, the book sold well and in the following years I wrote new editions. But the feedback from readers showed that they needed and wanted more than just instruction on state-of-the-art stretching.
Many readers of Stretching Scientifically, who were martial artists, had problems with kicking that could not be solved by improving only their flexibility. The problems were very common—actually the majority of martial artists still have them. So I wrote answers to questions on technique of kicks, on the drills and on conditioning required for practicing kicks. Eventually, I asked my karate instructor, Mac Mierzejewski, to show on video the method of learning and practicing kicks that he taught to me. The method is based on using biomechanically sound form of movement that, when instilled with the right drills, delivers power and great height in kicks with no warm-up. Together we wrote the script of Power High Kicks with No Warm-Up! and then I assisted him with demonstration of techniques and drills.
My readers also wanted information on all other aspects of training for sports or martial arts. They needed a book that would holistically treat the training process and not just exercise physiology, or sports psychology, or didactics. So I decided to write Science of Sports Training, the book on what in Eastern Europe is called “metodyka” of sports training. Metodyka can be translated as a set of methods or methodology (understood as body of practices, procedures, and rules used in a given activity). Another term for the subject of this book is Theory and Practice of Sports Training. By whatever name, this is the central subject in university courses for sports coaches and instructors in Eastern Europe, and its lessons apply to all sports and to martial arts too.
Books on this subject that were available in the West when I left Poland were either sloppy translations of Russian books or original East German manuals. Both kinds of those books were too sketchy and did not give enough examples from commonly known sports. Further, because of authors’ assumptions as to readers’ backgrounds, those books were not readily understandable by people who had not been through the East European system themselves.
When they wrote, for example, about strength training (whatever kind: general, directed, or sport-specific) they assumed that the reader knew how strength training of, for example, wrestlers differs from that of other athletes. (The same goes for all other abilities.) So, in the case of wrestlers’ strength training they would not explain that their strength training is tightly integrated with muscular endurance, balance, and flexibility (to say the least), that most of their strength exercises are done on the mat and use their body weight’s resistance or their partners’ resistance, that if they use weights then they would rather use kettlebells than barbells, and so on. So someone to whose mind the words “strength training” bring an image of a weightlifting gym, full of barbells, dumbbells, and exercise machines, would have no idea what these authors meant.
I have responded to my readers’ need for a book on theory and practice of sports training that would be understandable to athletes and coaches without the East European training. I structured it similarly to the Eastern European manuals I knew but I provided the means of adjusting the training and nutrition to an athlete’s response and put in more practical know-how, the stuff that the other manuals assumed to be known. Those other manuals were written for coaches and students of physical education and sports science, so their readers knew the practical side of training, and had the required science foundation; they just needed a manual that would explain the workings of the system. Western readers needed more of the basic information and examples, so my book gave those to them.
Then it turned out that readers wanted me to expand on narrower aspects of training, for example, on sports training for children. As I knew personally one of the leading experts on this subject, Dr. Józef Drabik, I asked him to write the book and then I translated it and published it as Children and Sports Training: How Your Future Champions Should Exercise to Be Healthy, Fit, and Happy. This book is read by instructors who take health, well-being and athletic potential of the children they teach seriously.
I continue to write articles on various aspects of training for martial arts because I know some of martial artists’ “pain” and if I know solutions to their problems, I point them out. I write my articles for martial artists, because among them are many warrior types, people who are driven to excel, think critically and are self-starters. Helping such people achieve their goals gives me a little satisfaction.
Wrote scipt, demonstrated exercises, and supervised editing of the video Flexibility Express. This video (in DVD format) is available from Stadion Publishing since October 2012.
Santa gave Tom Kurz a brand-new toy… So, it is not Tom Kurz’s accomplishment—just a good thing that recently happened to him.
Supervised editing of the video Acrobatics for Everybody: Acrobatic Workout for the General Public plus P.E. Lesson: Handstand and translated its original Polish narration into English. This video (in DVD format) is available from Stadion Publishing since April 2008.
Supervised videotaping and editing of the video Acrobatic Tumbling: From Rolls to Handsprings and Somersaults and translated its original Polish narration into English. This video (in DVD format) is available from Stadion Publishing since December 2006.
Supervised editing of the video Clinic on Stretching and Kicking with Tom Kurz. This video (in DVD format) is available from Stadion Publishing since June 2006.
Wrote the fourth edition of Stretching Scientifically. Its improved layout and more photos enhance the most up-to-date science explained in practical terms for athletes, instructors, and coaches. This book is available from Stadion Publishing since March 2003.
Wrote the second edition of Science of Sports Training. This new edition has 150 more pages than the first edition and its content is completely revised and updated. This book is available from Stadion Publishing since January 2001.
Translated from Polish to English book by Tadeusz Starzynski and Henryk Sozanski, Ph.D., on developing explosive power and jumping ability. This book titled Explosive Power and Jumping Ability for All Sports: Atlas of Exercises is available from Stadion Publishing since April of 1999.
Thomas Kurz’s role was far more important than simply serving as a translator from Polish to English. Mr. Kurz took an active role. In many conversations with the authors, he clarified key concepts, pointed to recent research that bore on the issues, and adapted certain ideas to be more familiar to English-speaking athletes and coaches.