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.

Recent Accomplishments

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.

    The Unbreakable® Umbrella — A peculiar mix of genteel elegance and chilling weaponry...

 

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27 Responses to “About Thomas Kurz”

  1. 1 Phillip Kocher

    Dear Tom Kurz,

    I’ve read your books (Science of Sports Training, and Stretching Scientifically) and I love them. Unfortunately, I’m confused on one thing.

    I’ve learned that workouts in a microcycle realize a single task (IE improve kicking technique, power, or speed) and a microcycle has a specific progression (technical, speed, strength, endurance, aerobic). This being the case, how do I organize my program to improve my overall performance in a martial arts focus where punching and core fitness are also a factor? Ultimately, I’m trying to determine the details of my workouts and microcycles, and how each would acomplish the varied goals without overtraining or loosing progress in one area because of focusing on another. Maybe a sample plan would clarify things for me.

    Do I divide the different sections by microcycles (upperbody in one, kicking in another, etc?) Or do I work all section in each work out?

    Since I have a fulltime job and a family, I’m not sure multiple workouts per day would be feasible. Also, I have not professional physical education training so maybe that is where the gap in my knowledge comes from.

    I hope I have conveyed nature of my dilemma successfully.

    Thank you for taking the time to help me out and I look forward to your response.

    Phillip Kocher

  2. 2 Peter

    Dear Tom,

    I started reading your book (Stretching scientifically, IV.). I like it, because tells the “whole truth”, advantages and dangers of stretching. Actually, I bought it in order to start practicing so-called contortion.
    Here are two links, which show, what contortion is about to be.


    I would like to practice it, because I am very inflexible, I sit all day and eat …
    Last week I started doing simple half-hour stretch, at least once a day (like in primary school), and I feel better (I breathe more easy, etc.).

    Could you recommend me a plan of exercises, which I could do perhaps in the morning & evening?
    I have your book, so you can just say: page x and y, and so on.
    Although there are many thingh recommended on Youtube, I want to be safe doing it, so I am looking for a professional advice.

    Thank you in advance!

    Peter

  3. I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

  4. Dear Tom, I think it is awesome how you link to Tricks Tutorials forum below your own forum.

    As you can see if you click it though, the great Jon “Jujimufu” Call has transferred the power over to a new forum on a related site: http://www.tricksession.com/forums/

    If there’s time it might be good to change the link there to save browsers confusion and in case the disambiguating redirect is absent in the future.

  5. Thanks for the update. I have changed the link.

  6. 6 Ernie O'Malley

    Hallo Tom,

    couldn’t find any contact info, so I write through the comment section.
    Just watched this lecutre on Stretching by Doug Richards.
    http://www.tvo.org/TVO/WebObjects/TVO.woa?videoid?24639991001

    What do you think about it? Would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this or you maybe feel to share it on the blog.

    Yours,

    Ernie

  7. 7 Len Kuhn

    I am a strength and conditioning coach at USMC Camp Lejeune, just finished a seminare with Robb Rogers from NSCA and we were discussing Verkhoshansky and Robb suggested I contact you, how can I get your books?

  8. Hello Mr. Kuhn,

    You can get my books by clicking on their titles (see “about thomas kurz” above), or by visiting http://www.stadion.com.

    Best regards,

    Thomas Kurz

  9. Hi Thomas I am very happy to subscribe to your articles but I would be very grateful if I could email you or someone at Stadion publishing because I need a little advice on training and I know you Thomas will know what I am doing wrong and I would really appreciate your suggestions. I have the book secrets of stretching and I’ve never read anything like it. Is there an email address Where I can contact someone as I don’t understand how to leave comments and blogs. Hope to hear from someone soon.

    Regards.

    George.

  10. Hi George,

    Use the address given at http://www.stadion.com/question.html

  11. Hi Thomas,

    I just wanted to express my gratitude to you for sharing your knowledge and skills. I just ordered Stretching Scientifically and plan on purchasing your videos and other books as well. I wish I had found you sooner.

    I truly appreciate your no-nonsense approach. I have been practicing TKD for over 20 years and have never been terribly flexible. I now know that this is because of my instructors lack of knowledge. It seems the problem is they teach the way they were taught and have no idea why. They just parrot what they went through.

    My current class starts off with no warm up and jumps right into static stretching. This is followed by a series of predictable, non-challenging line drill kicking, forms, and then ending typically in sparring. The class ends and then another ensues in five minutes with most students staying for both. The next class follows the same pattern.

    I also find it incredibly irritating that, once one earns a black belt, they use it as an excuse to no longer train and meander around the dojang “assisting” other students.

    Anyway, I’m delighted to know now that my shortcomings are not “inherent”, or because of my age. I have already been starting workouts with dynamic stretches and it has made all the difference in the world.

    I look forward to going through your contributions and thank you for sharing.

    Best Wishes,

    Deacon

  12. 12 Artur

    Dzien Dobry.

    Jestem bardzo wdzieczny za wiedze jaka Pan udostepnia. Inspiruje mnie kazdy jej aspekt do pracy nad soba jak i nad moimi uczniami.

    Bardzo dziekuje.

  13. 13 max peretti

    Dear Mr. Kurz
    I ask your opinion:
    Which of these exercise is correct to increase the height of the knee when chambering for side kick and roundhouse kick:
    active tension
    Active tension with elastic band
    Deadlift
    Squat
    Swing with kettlebell
    Best regards
    Max

  14. Dear Tom,

    Do you sell your books in electronic format?

    Thank you.

    Kind Regards,
    Ashley Tanna

  15. Not yet.

  16. 16 giorgio

    Dear Mr Kurz

    about Tadeusz Starzinsky :

    in his book Le Triple Jump, Editions Vigot, 1987, France, Mr Starzynski said “La plyometrie est connue depuis longtemps et pratiquee dans l’ entrainement des triple sauteurs polonais depuis 1952 ( Le triple saut, pag. 120 ).
    So, according Starzynski, polish coaches developed depth jumps training well before the Russians ( ie Verkhoshansky ).
    What about this statement?
    Pardon my bad english, i’m italian.

  17. 17 Scott Brakefield

    Mr Kurz, do you do private consultations via phone? I would very much like to speak with you, but I also understand your time is valuable.

    Thanks

  18. No, I don’t. If you don’t get the info you need by reading articles and viewing videos posted at stadion.com and at tomkurz.com, then my experience tells me talking on the phone won’t help. That has to do with the nature of physical abilities and skills.

  19. 19 Aziz

    Dear Mr. Kurz,
    Thank you very much for the valuable information. I am following your sites, blogs since 2007-2008 and i get a huge improvement on my flexibiltiy.
    http://bit.ly/1MbyFkF
    (Picture taken in 2011).
    I would like to thank you and tell that i am ready to prepare any video or any media stuff for you. I am not expecting any fee. I am advanced user for After Effects, Premiere, Photoshop. I can send a reel if requested.

    Pozdrawiam z Stambulu.
    Best Regards.

  20. Dear Thomas Kurz, I have found your knowledge on stretching invaluable to develop myself. I have been recovering from a bad injury called plantar fasciitis, due to weak arches, this would never have happened had I known and applied your stretching and strengthening techniques. However, I am curious as to your advice on how to develop strong strong arches of the foot, both the inner main one, the outer one, and the front one transversal. I am also going to purchase your unbreakable umbrella once I have saved enough money for it. I have been practicing tai chi and yoga and one of the tai chi forms is a kung fu umbrella form. Your unbreakable umbrealla sounds like a nice lifelong companion.
    Thank you so much,
    Gustavo Andrade,
    Tijuana Mexico.

  21. Mr. Andrade,

    I have strengthened my foot arches with the usual exercises, such as marble pickup and towel crunch (see
    http://uglyfinish.com/2012/05/09/foot-strengthening-exercises-to-support-your-natural-arch/), plus deliberately raising the arches while doing deadlifts and squats. If these exercises will not work for you–for example, because of your past injuries–then I suggest you see dr. Andrew Specht (http://awsdc.com/Video.html) in Encinitas, CA, which not very far from Tijuana.

    Good luck,

    Thomas Kurz

  22. 22 Mikael Hedegaard

    Dear Mr. Kurz,
    I have been following your method for achieving the sidesplit as described in “Stretching Scientifically”, and after about a month I got really close(My groin was about one fist from touching the floor). However, shortly after this I started experiencing soreness in my hips, and I had a difficult time even just going into the low horsestance without feeling discomfort in my hips. I couldn’t find anything about this issue in your book, although you talk about the hip bones jamming if you don’t tilt your pelvis, but that didn’t seem to be the problem. It felt more like a problem in the hip abductors. I haven’t done any isometric stretches for the sidesplit for about 2 months now due to a minor knee injury(unrelated), and I have focused on strengthening my hip abductors by doing weighted leg raises and weighted leg holds. I feel the issue arose from weak hip abductors. What are your thoughts on this? Am I going about this the right way?
    Thanks in advance!
    Mikael Hedegaard

  23. 23 Kyle

    Mr. Kurz, I have your book “Stretching Scientifically,” however I have been having difficulty in getting into the horse stance with my thighs parallel. I can manage a normal width horse stance with the thighs parallel and my pelvis arched forward, however, I end up having to lean forward a lot in the process. I struggle a great deal in being able to keep my chest upright while arching the pelvis and keeping the thighs parallel.

    Then when I try to widen the split, it feels like my hips are jamming, even with the pelvis arched. My body will compensate by forcing my hips above parallel level.

    I know you say some people just do not have the hip flexibility needed, however I have tested myself with the Test for Flexibility potential and as far as I can tell from it, my hip flexibility is fine. I do not believe I have coxa vara at I all as I do not walk with a limp or anything. Am I doing something wrong?

    Thanks.

  24. 24 Charley

    Dear Mr Kurz
    I would have saved myself numerous injuries and lots of pointless training sessions had I found your books and website earlier. But, better late than never. A sincere thanks you for all you do. One thing you emphasize when recovering from injuries or just peogressing your workout is “do lots of reps, then add weight/resistance”. But, as one adds weight, reps get lower typically (as resistance increases ‘substantially’). That progression means the exercise changes from being endurance-oriented to strength-oriented. But should one drop the endurance-oriented version of the exercises? My question is intended to help me organise progression of my workouts and is relevant to moving from useful body-weight exercises (squats, side-lying leg raises, and many others relevant to martial arts) to the same exercises with resistance. To put the question another way: of all the useful body weight exercises one might begin with in a training regime, are there some that should become low-rep/high resistance exercises (side-lying leg raises, say) and others that should be done in their high rep/low resistance variety as well as low/rep-high/resistance variety.
    Yours
    Charley

  25. 25 Craig Vogel

    Hi Thomas

    I am just looking for confirmation that if I can do a full squat from a three step horse stance but can’t get to parallel in a 5 step stance that I should very gradually increase the width and not progress unless I am well below parallel?

    I have both stretching scientifically and flexibility express if there is any relevant material I should re-read.

    Thanks

    Craig

  26. Well, you can proceed in two ways:

    1. Gradually increase the width at which you can do the full squat.

    2. Increase resistance at the width you can do the full squat.

    You may combine these two ways.

  27. 27 Craig Vogel

    Thanks for the response. Just to be clear I should only do a width of stance which I can go below parallel? In other words don’t do the 5 step width but never get to parallel during a particular session?

    Thanks again


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