Veteran shares his long journey

Veteran martial arts teacher Tom Lustig strikes a tai chi pose.|Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d407146
Veteran martial arts teacher Tom Lustig strikes a tai chi pose.|Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d407146

Mr Lustig (80) grew up in Chile during the 1940s when his French-Hungarian father, a diplomat, was posted to South America during World War II.

‘They had bullies back then, just like they do today in Australia,’ he said.

‘I thought I should learn how to defend myself.’

Unfortunately, Mr Lustig’s options were limited because kung fu wasn’t a common sport in South America.

It wasn’t until he met some Buddhist students while he was studying at university that he was finally able to try his hand at the ancient Chinese martial art.

‘The monks were teaching students the basics of kung fu ” self defence, meditation and relaxation ” in exchange for a few coins.’

Mr Lustig went to Santiago to study for six years at one of the few kung fu academies available in South America, making his way up the ranks to black belt.

‘After about four years, I was able to break bricks with a single strike of my hand or elbow,’ he said.

‘We were taught about concentration and how to use chi (energy) ” it takes more mental strength than physical.’

After he graduated from the academy, Mr Lustig opened the first kung fu school in Valdivia, southern Chile.

The introduction of the relatively unknown martial art attracted media attention and soon Mr Lustig had students lining up at the door.

‘It was popular and the students were really satisfied with what they were able to achieve ” both physically and mentally.

Despite the success of the school, Mr Lustig decided to move back to Santiago when his son Alex was born.

The family then moved to New Zealand to begin a new life and food business, which distracted Mr Lustig from his passion.

They eventually moved to Perth for the warmer climate, but it wasn’t until Mr Lustig retired that he decided to take up martial arts again.

‘I decided to try Nei Gong tai chi, which works with different kinds of chi to heal the body and improve circulation and energy, when I was having all sorts of health problems.

‘My muscles weren’t flexible like they used to be. Kung fu is very fast, tai chi slows all the movements down.’

Having found his feet again with martial arts and experienced the health benefits, Mr Lustig decided to go back into teaching.

In 2011, he started tai chi classes through the Kalamunda Community Learning Centre, which have proved to be popular.

Students attend classes up to three times a week to learn from the veteran martial arts teacher who, despite his seniority, remains committed to the graceful form of exercise.

‘Martial arts have improved my life in so many ways,’ he said.

‘I want to share my experience with other people.

‘I’ll be doing it for another 10 years.’