I’m Stas. I’m Russian from Moscow and have been in Shanghai on and off since 2008. I originally came here to study Chinese and stayed because Shanghai treated me well. I call myself a “crazy artist” and this includes being a martial artist. I was a dancer back in Russia, but always wanted to be a ninja, like girls want to be a princess. I would collect knives at home and throw them into the trees and it was all inspired by martial arts movies. I was a weird girl, I guess, but my love grew into me trying out different kinds of martial arts.
The first martial art I did in China was Muay Thai
and through that I found Kali
. It was always my dream to learn how to manipulate knives. I wanted to learn to defend myself — but also it just seemed so fun. So that’s how I started and once you’re in this, let’s say exotic
scene, there are not a lot of women, so I started to get invited to different projects, like commercials with little stunts. Like kicking someone to being able to punch someone in the face — you know, the nice stuff. That’s how it started going in that direction and I’ve done modeling before so I felt comfortable in front of a camera.
I’ve done some small acting roles. The last one I did was an online movie with the horrific name, My Boyfriend Is the Best
. I basically played the villain attacking the main character who’s “the best guy ever”. It was a fun shoot but I almost broke my ribs on set; we didn’t really prepare stunt choreography because everyone involved was a martial artist. For one of the moves the guy was supposed to throw me on the floor and he just did, but the floor was cement without anything else, so I heard my body crack. This happens quite a lot in my line of work — a lot of injuries.
I live in Xuhui, the “Laowai Bubble”, where it’s convenient to get around and there are a lot of places I can catch meals that remind me of home. I usually don’t go further than three blocks from my apartment. I have to admit and I’m the kind of person who abuses a restaurant until I hate it. I go to the same places over and over. In my neighborhood there is TRIBE
, they have organic snacks that are prepared in a unique way, at least for my taste, so it’s my new favorite. I eat there about three times a week. On The Bund, I love Unico
, for drinks and food, Hakkasan
and in general anywhere for Dim Sum — I can eat an impressive amount of dumplings. Oh, I also love Spread the Bagel
. I go there almost every day. But usually if I go out, it’s for quiet drinks with friends, somewhere like Project Wine
This April, I will be joining a Pekiti Tirsia Kali Convention in the Philippines where I will be stick-sparring and tested with a double-live blade knife tapping, so right now I’m preparing for that. It’s a very different technique, we use all sorts of weapons: blades, swords, sticks, it’s very good for self defense because it teaches you anything can be a weapon, your iPhone, a pen, whatever. That’s what I’ve been doing religiously for quite some time now, but I also try to condition my body with other activities. I take dance classes at Fusion
and I also really love yoga so I go to Pure Yoga
quite a bit. It’s important in martial arts to keep yourself flexible. My routine is really nice when I’m not shooting because when I am, it’s like: 'Okay, can you be in Beijing by 8am tomorrow?'
You go, you punch someone in the face, and you come back [laughs], it’s unpredictable.
Martial Arts can be intimidating at first when you see all these big guys and their intention is to try to attack you — it doesn’t feel right and you start to doubt yourself and think: What am I doing here?
But now I feel comfortable, I spar now, but my first sparring was terrifying — we used plastic knives for the first part. You have a metal mask, and a pair of gloves, and I was training with law enforcement in China. I was the only woman there and I got paired with this big guy who was supposed to try to stab me in the face, but I disarmed him three times, so I started to gain confidence. Now I’m one of the assistant instructors in the same training program where I started.
I’m starting self defense seminars at Golden Gloves
along with my partner Diego Dati, because I want to transfer these skills to people of all skill levels and sizes. The point is to be able to shock an attacker and get away, so it’s not like we are growing super heroes, but I want to bring my female friends into the art because generally fighting is considered a sport for men and there’s a perception that you have to be big and bulky to be good. It’s not true; you can use your speed, flexibility, and your environmental awareness to your benefit regardless of your size or weight. We had our first seminar at Golden Gloves last weekend, it went well, we had both men and women and we’re hoping to make it more regular by December.
I’m going to a survival camp in the jungle to train with some live blades in the Philippines after the conference. It’ll be a group of 10 we’ll be set free in the jungle to fight.
Not each other, to survive, or I guess whoever else we might find…
The self defense class is called, 'Self-Empowerment Based on Kali' and is set to run at Golden Gloves every Sunday from the first week of December, though specific times have not yet been set. You can keep track of the schedule here
Photos provided by Stasia Kucherenko. Cover Photo by Pavel Shubskiy, Egghead Studio