Los Angeles art exhibit spotlights world-class karate teacher Linda Pugliese from Barstow


A world-class karate veteran has been training martial arts hopes in Barstow for more than three decades, but Linda Pugliese’s legend extends far beyond the High Desert.

Now, a series of “original larger-than-life drawings” in downtown Los Angeles still serves as his pen.

Pugliese has been a karate instructor in Barstow for about 32 years, much of that time spent in her current position with the city’s Parks and Recreation department. Her resume, as she recounted in an interview with the Daily Press, includes a brief stint in the Marine Corps, five competitive karate world championships, and a Hollywood shoot for an obscure 1990s action movie. .

The art exhibition that now portrays Pugliese is dubbed “Energy with Intention”. It opened to the public on August 21 at Vielmetter Los Angeles, a contemporary art gallery, and will remain as an exhibition for the public until Saturday, according to Vielmetter’s website.

The artist and activist behind the work, Andrea Bowers, centered it on “women who practice different forms of martial arts and self-defense,” the website says.

Having turned 59 this summer, Pugliese doesn’t appear to have any intention of slowing down his teaching job at Barstow or his competitive job around the world. She started practicing karate in 1976, at the age of 12, long before she knew the High Desert would one day become her home.

“I heal and come back”

Linda Pugliese has been teaching karate in Barstow for over 30 years.  This photo, taken around 1982, shows him training in his old dojo on a return visit to his hometown of Ohio.

Pugliese was born in Gratiot, Ohio, a village of just a few hundred people, and raised in the nearby town of Newark.

There, his very first karate instructor, Grandmaster George Annarino, instilled in him a love for karate and the personal qualities inherent in the profession: courage, confidence and discipline.

“He competed until he was 82,” she said. “So he’s my inspiration. As much as I have my wounds – I’ll tell you, I have pieces of metal in my body – whatever, I heal and come back and keep going. “

Pugliese says she continued to visit Annarino after he left for the High Desert to train and help teach in his dojo almost every year until about four years ago, when he passed away.

After joining the Marine Corps, she came to Barstow in 1982 to work at the nearby Marine Corps logistics base and has lived in the city ever since.

Pugliese said one of the main selling points in her joining the Marine Corps turned out to be a joke. A recruiter, calling on the black belt she had just obtained, told her that working at the base in Barstow would secure her a place on the military branch’s karate team. It turns out there was no team.

“They were like, ‘Oh, you can join the Marine Corps karate team,’ which didn’t exist after I found out it didn’t exist,” she said with a laugh.

Pugliese added that she always enjoyed her time with the Marines and that the military had since sponsored her for the cost of participating in a few tournaments.

In 1989, after giving birth to her third child, Pugliese says she returned to teaching karate at a site formerly known as the Desert Rose Performing Arts Center, located on Main Street in Barstow, next to Union Bank.

She lamented that the Desert Rose Center has not become a favorite haunt for High Desert residents of all kinds. He sought to provide not only martial arts training, but also places to practice theater, modeling and a range of other arts.

“The whole vision of what they wanted to bring here was phenomenal,” Pugliese said. “I mean, we’ve never had anything like it.”

At the Desert Rose Center, Pugliese became a protégé of Jerry Piddington, a pioneer of karate as a sport in the United States, whose fame in the late 20th century is demonstrated in the flashy cover of a 1971 edition of the magazine. “Karate Illustrated”.

In the 1990s, Linda Pugliese, a longtime karate teacher at Barstow, joined her then mentor, American karate legend Jerry Piddington, on a shoot of about a week in Hollywood for a film titled

She described an experience in the 1990s in which she joined Piddington on a shoot of about a week in Hollywood for a movie called “Night Realm”.

Pugliese says she has never seen the film herself and believes it was bought by a foreign company for overseas release, although she has copies of some raw takes.

Naturally, she struggled in her scene.

“I didn’t have any lines, it was just action which I guess was towards the end of the movie. So I don’t even know why, but I killed this guy – he was a bad guy, and it was kinda weird because I came out of nowhere, ”Pugliese said. “It was a really fun experience.”

“Without being afraid”

Barstow karate teacher Linda Pugliese is pictured in a "bigger than life" drawing at an art exhibition called

In the decades since arriving in Barstow, Pugliese has proven to be a top karate practitioner in competitions around the world.

According to his bio on USAdojo.com, a website that aggregates news and other information about the martial arts, Pugliese has won five National League Black Belt Championships, several medals at the 1992 Mexican Olympic Festival in Mexico City, and one place at the 1994 Women’s World Cup in Japan which was marred by injuries.

Bowers, who created the exhibition now embodying Puglia in a creative form of drawing, produces art that seeks to “address social issues ranging from the rights of women and workers to climate change and immigration,” according to one biography on the website of a New York gallery that hosted his previous work.

Bowers lives in Los Angeles and received her Masters of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts in 1992. Since then she has produced works exhibited in galleries or museums in Paris, Germany, Italy and the United States. , among others.

The exhibit featuring Barstow’s longtime karate teacher is a comeback for Bowers “about women practicing martial arts and self-defense techniques,” she told Vielmetter’s website. The physical qualities of the play have their roots in other axes of its activism.

“The works are drawn and painted on large, glued cardboards, a process that has evolved for years since I frequented Occupy Wall Street,” said Bowers, “when I fell in love with the sublime collection of cardboard signs during actions. . “

Pugliese said “fearlessness” is at the heart of the art exhibition, especially in the context of women facing specific trauma – such as an abusive relationship or general insecurities that can suppress their potential.

“Lack of self-confidence is a big problem to overcome,” Pugliese said, “and I think the more you practice martial arts the stronger you get mentally, physically and spiritually, and you know you can walk in. all confidence without being afraid. “

Charlie McGee covers the town of Barstow and its surrounding communities for the Daily Press. He is also a member of the Report for America corps of the GroundTruth Project, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit news organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of journalists in the United States and around the world. McGee can be reached at 760-955-5341 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bycharliemcgee.


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