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Senpai | Clayton Pukitis

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My Story

As a small child, I was obsessed with martial arts. I would see a movie or show with some cool move in it, and then would stand in front of the mirror for hours trying to look just like they did.


In elementary school, I was the smallest kid in the whole school and was constantly picked on and bullied. As a result, I got into lots of fights and lashed out at anyone nearby. After one particularly bad incident, one of the teachers had enough wisdom to recommend to my mom that I start training martial arts. The next day she enrolled me in Taekwondo and the results were immediate. I no longer needed to lash out or get into fights because I knew that no matter how angry I was, or how much I wanted to hit something, I had an outlet. Even though I only trained there for a couple of short months, that lesson stayed with me. 


While I didn’t start officially training martial arts again until high school, I always made friends with other kids who did train and would practice with them and learn whatever I could. In my freshman year of high school, I was introduced to Dux Ryu Nin-Jitsu. I fell in love with martial arts all over again. I trained almost every day for as long as I possibly could. 


After graduating from high school, I joined the Marine Corps and was stationed in Okinawa. While there I trained some Kendo and Shorinryu Karate, but without the full contact that I had experienced in Nin-jitsu, it just felt like the training was lacking. While in the Marines I injured my back and was unable to do much of anything physical for nearly six years. However, I wanted to continue martial arts so I started studying anatomy in hopes of finding a way of fixing my back injury and getting back into training. I started progressing a little bit at a time and spent endless hours meditating on the movements of the body and how to increase speed and generate power with as little effort as possible (it was hard just for me to walk for 15 minutes at a time). 


In October 2011 I moved to Ellensburg, WA and started classes at CWU. Shortly after I contacted Braden Bennight (then president of the CWU Karate Club) and came to observe a Saturday training. I walked in expecting just work out and hopeful that maybe some form of regular training would help my back. I paired up with, then Sensei, now Shihan, Ian Quitadamo, and he proceeded to wipe the floor with me. I had found a full-contact dojo again, and I was definitely coming back. Looking back on that day, it is now clear that Shihan Quitadamo was barely hitting me, but at the time I was so out of practice and ill-conditioned that it felt like I was being hit with a baseball bat… and I loved it! Every time I took a hit, every time I hit back, something in my body, buried under injuries and stagnation, relaxed, and started moving again. 


I now consider Kyokushin to not just be a hobby or interest, but a part of my life. I plan to continue growing and become stronger, not just in body but in mind and spirit, and through it to be able to overcome any challenge life may throw my way. OSU! 

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