Coach Spotlight: Mark Rusmantijo, Owner of Loopkicks Gym

Updated: Apr 18

Mark Rusmantijo is a second-degree blackbelt from San Jose, California. He is a former member of the world-famous Ernie Reyes World Action Team and has hosted the legendary Loopkicks Camp & Gathering from 2018 onward. He is currently the owner and head coach of the Loopkicks gym. In this article, you will learn more about Mark's journey through martial arts and tricking, as well as his advice for tricking athletes.

At what age did you start doing martial arts and How did you first get into tricking?

I started martial arts at age 14, which is considered late relative to most students. I trained at Ernie Reyes' West Coast Martial Arts, often considered the birthplace of tricking in the Bay Area. The West Coast demo team revolutionized martial arts demonstrations in the early 90s - and many of the original members of Team Loopkicks got their start at the same martial arts association. There, I got my 1st Degree Blackbelt at age 18.

My studio offered tricking & weapons classes, where I learned my basics and fundamentals. While training there, I didn’t even consider myself a “tricker” but rather a “martial artist”. It wasn’t until I started training with others outside of classes that I began identifying myself as a tricker.

Did tricking come easy to you? How was that experience?

Compared to a lot of the people I trained with, I would say that I learned at a slower rate. Tricks didn’t “just click” for me compared to a lot of my peers. Coming from a martial arts background, I trained a lot of vertical kicks but neglected to do a lot of backward flips for a long time due to fear. I actually struggled a lot - I could 540 wrap 900 before I could backflip properly.

But I just loved tricking too much. I didn’t care about my skill level or that it took me more reps than the guy next to me to land the same trick.

Looking back now, I see how this has shaped my tricking and coaching style. I have developed this weakness into a strength. It has forced me to be more methodical and technical in my approach, which in turn has made me the tricker and coach that I am today.

Did you have any influential coaches or people that inspired you to excel in tricking?

I discovered tricking in a manner that was actually chronological to how tricking developed. My first favorite trickers all came from sport karate - Steve Terada, Anis Cheurfa, Jeremy Marinas, and all the other legends of that era. As I started training with locals in the community, my source of inspiration shifted to the Bay Area trickers - Khang Vu, Keenan Carr, Alex Hunter, and other members of Team Loopkicks at the time.

Although I had martial arts instructors, the majority of my learning happened on my own or with other trickers at my level. Self-coaching and self-reliance are some of the most important skills I learned from tricking.

Current Favorite Trickers: Eduardo Ruvalcaba, Michael Guthrie, Tiki Wu, Haruki Sadasue

How did you first get involved with Loopkicks?

From Loopkicks Camp and Gathering to seasonal local events, Loopkicks has long been a staple of the Bay Area community. All of the best trickers in the area were either a part of the team or affiliated with them in some way. Training with the team and hanging out with them outside of sessions, I started to form friendships with many of the members.

At the time, “Team Loopkicks” wasn’t a strict roster of individuals, but more of a loose collection of trickers who hung out and worked together on projects and events. The door was always open to those who showed interest and initiative. If you wanted to be more of a driving force in the community and help out, the team welcomed you with open arms.

My first involvement with the team in an official capacity was as a driver for Loopkicks Camp and Gathering 2015. I helped pick up guests from the airport and drove out-of-town trickers around the area. This evolved into me helping plan seasonal events and other random roles from filming to venue setup. Whatever needed to be done, I was on top of it. In 2017, I co-hosted Loopkicks Camp and Gathering with Khang Vu and started coaching the tricking classes that we were running at a local parkour gym.

How did that transition to you becoming head coach and owner?

From 2016 - 2017, Loopkicks experienced a generational change. Some of the previous generation of Loopkicks had splintered off to form the Bay Area Hustle Team. From 2018 and onward, I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could dedicate time and energy to Loopkicks while many former members and leaders started to pursue other interests and life goals.

Honestly it felt like this monumental tricking brand had just fallen into my lap and I was going to take charge with it. In June 2019, we officially transitioned from renting floor space to opening the Loopkicks Gym. Going forward, my goal is to continue growing Loopkicks as a brand as well as spread tricking and foster growth within the local and global communities.

Why did you decide to become a tricking instructor, and what do you enjoy most about coaching?

My first coaching experience was actually not even something of my own initiative. I started by instructing at my martial arts studio because my head instructor asked me to. Eventually, I started running the tricking & weapons classes as well. Before running the Loopkicks tricking classes full time, I coached tricking programs at multiple facilities for over 6 years.

Tricking is my passion - all aspects of it: Training, coaching, running events, talking to the community, etc. are all parts of tricking and I love it all. All I want is for there to be more trickers and to grow the community. Coaching is one of the most direct ways I can achieve that goal of spreading and growing tricking. Coaching is a completely separate skill independent of my tricking skill. How I learned tricks might not apply to how my students learn their tricks, so I have to be creative with how I communicate and instruct. Seeing my students progress is one of the most satisfying things about my job.

What can a client expect from private lessons with you?

I try to have the most technical approach to coaching as possible. Mastery of mechanics is key to becoming a strong tricker. I try to drill down on the cause, not the effect. I consider myself a slow learner, and struggling through many tricks has forced me to study the mechanics and ways of thinking about tricks that I would otherwise have not learned if I was a “natural athlete”. I value safe progressions and drills overthrowing a move over and over until you land it.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to a new tricker who wants to level up their skills?

Study tricking. Tricking is such a vast and complex artform, borrowing seemingly unrelated movements from many different disciplines and mashing them together. This is the beauty of tricking. It’s not an exact science, and trickers are constantly pushing the boundaries and limits of the sport. You have a wealth of knowledge on the internet - use this to your advantage!

Watch a lot of samplers and tricking clips. But dig deeper than just the passive viewing and really study what’s going on. Why do your favorite trickers move the way they do? What do they have in common? Always ask questions and get in the habit of always studying.

Study your own tricks. Be critical of your body mechanics and contrast them with the trickers you look up to. Don’t just settle for “landing” a trick, always be pushing to see how you can improve your tricks. Landing new tricks are exciting and there’s no feeling like it, but don’t stop there. At the end of the day, tricking is an art form; if you can’t take pride in the aesthetics of your tricks, what’s the point?

Anything else you would like to add?

If you are interested in learning more about tricks or tricking terminology, check out the Loopkicks Tricktionary project that I’ve been working on for the past 3+ years. This site allows me to help teach others on a larger scale - and it’s free! Also, check out my @learntricking page on Instagram, I’ve used a lot of the things I’ve learned from tricking and coaching and made an accessible and bite-sized resource for trickers!

Takeaways For Trickers:

1. Love the sport.

When you genuinely love the sport, your initial difficulties and struggles don't become so burdensome. When you love the process, the results will come.

2. Your weaknesses can become strengths.

Mark's initial difficulties lead to his methodical approach to tricking and has helped him get a deeper understanding of the moves. This has also helped him explain moves to others when coaching.

3. Be a student of the game.

Rather than watching tricking passively, take a more studious approach. Watch your favorite trickers and understand what makes their tricks look the way they do. Study your own tricks as well and analyze what needs to be adjusted.

4. Get involved with the tricking community.

Mark’s involvement with Loopkicks started with him doing airport runs and driving guests around the area. Only a few years later, he was running the events which led to him becoming the owner and head coach of Loopkicks. You never know what will happen if you just get involved!

Want to take a 1-on-1 tricking lesson with Mark? Book a lesson with him here!

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