Martial arts school owner Costa Prasoulas shares how philosophy influences his life of acting and martial arts.
- Costa’s ancient ancestral history of martial arts
- The philosophy that Costa upholds in his martial arts academy
- How Costa’s career in martial arts movies began
- Observing martial arts fight scenes from a different perspective
- The self defense approach to Covid-19
- And more
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I think of philosophy and its beautiful relation to martial arts is the fact not that it gives you answers, but it creates questions. It creates an open channel of thinking. In relation to martial arts, there's not one answer. There's many ways from a technical avenue, from a stylistic perspective and many answers, there's not one thing, right? That's why there's so many variations and so many possibilities.
GEORGE: Good day, this is George and welcome to another Martial Arts Media™ business podcast. So today I'm joined with a special guest all the way from Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales. We were going to, actually like a lot of things, do this interview a couple of months back, but at the time of recording this, as we all know, the world changed and so things got delayed. So welcome to the call Costa Prasoulas. How are you today Costa?
COSTA: Yeah good thank you George, I'm very well thank you. It’s nice to be with you.
GEORGE: Cool. Costa has an interesting background and who better to tell us – look, if somebody has a Wikipedia page, it deserves mentioning, right? So who better to tell us a bit of an intro and then Costa can take over, but… Costa Prasoulas is an Australian actor and martial artist trained in Muay Thai, Hapkido, Taekwondo, Pankration and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, having won the Australian Open Martial Arts Championship in 1992, Intercontinental Kickboxing Champion and won a silver medal at the 2009 World Games. His acting credits include Cop's Enemy and Z-End.
How cool is that? My work was done for me and a really good intro.
COSTA: It's quite interesting, you know, I didn't even know that I had a Wikipedia page until about last year when my daughter came up and she is like, “Dad, guess what?” I said “What?” She goes “Oh, we were looking at you at school with some friends of mine. My daughter is in year 12 mind you. And she goes, “You’re on Wikipedia!” I said, “Really?” I had no idea. And so it only came to my attention that I was actually on Wikipedia like maybe over the last sort of what, 18 months. So it's quite interesting. But it's cool that you said that, I didn't even know myself.
GEORGE: That actually makes it a lot better, you know. If it was instigated from the marketing standpoint and, you know, it's still good that you can get it. But the fact that it was up there without you knowing…
COSTA: Yeah, I had no idea. I had absolutely no idea, no idea.
GEORGE: That can lead to the next question, like: how did it come to that? I mean, you've obviously done some cool things within the martial arts space and then movies. So give us a bit of a background, how this all got started for you and where you came from?
COSTA: Sure. Primarily, from a very young age, I was about five and a half or six years of age when I started really sort of getting involved with martial arts. And the primary reason was my father. My father was actually, he dabbled in amateur Greco-Roman wrestling in Greece. When my parents sort of settled then in Australia, in Sydney and I was, you know, my dad was always sort of in the combative arts anyways, so I had that primarily from a cultural background, that Hellenic combative ideal of you know, mind, body and spirit. My ancient ancestors you know. And so that was kind of like, I never really sort of, I kind of grew up with that sort of mentality. To me that was normal because of the way that my life as a young kid sort of was involved in that.
So I kind of like progressed with some other martial arts as well. With Hapkido, Taekwondo, I moved on to Muay Thai, I spent quite a number of years competing in kickboxing, sort of Muay Thai and stuff like that. I spent a lot of time in Europe, because we have quite a bit of family in Greece, so I kind of lived over in Europe for quite a few years. I competed quite a bit in Europe, spent a bit of time in Holland, sort of Muay Thai kickboxing style is more dutch or European K1 style, which was quite sort of not very popular back then, especially in the 90s. It was sort of very new to the sort of Australia South Pacific region. I spent a bit of time in Thailand, travelled to South Korea, traveled quite a bit. Over the course of those years, I was involved in quite a few sort of choreography and martial arts sort of scenes. You know, doing bits and pieces for commercials and stuff like that.
Then finally I had one of my friends, and she's sort of like to me, well, why don't you get an agent and do this professionally? And it kind of sort of led to that, there was a production that was happening maybe about 10 years ago, 11 years ago and I was kind of involved behind the scenes for choreography. I think it was half an Australian-Indonesian production and we’ve got a lot of Asian cinema mates. You know, there's always combat and there's lava death and revenge, there's always something happening, so it's pretty cool, you know, it's our style, right?
And there was this fight scene that I needed to create between the main actor and three villains. And these guys were all fantastic actors, but their martial arts skills left a lot to be desired. And they were wonderful actors, great guys, but they needed a lot of training. And I primarily turned to the director, I said, “Listen,” I said, “I need to work with these guys,” because when you do stuff like this on screen as opposed to competitive or real sort of situational combat, it's very different. It's very, very, very, very different. You know, you extend your kicks, you need to do your thrust. And you always take use of your environment.
So if we're say for example doing a scene, I don’t know, I’m just going to pick say in a coffee shop or something, right? We're utilizing tables, chairs, stuff that could be used as weapons and you take all this into consideration. Then you know, the number one priority is safety. And usually with action things, I think that it's hardcore action movies especially martial artists don't get enough credit as much as they deserve, simply because it's not just dialogue where if you make a mistake, or there's a slip-up or some kind of retake needs to happen, it can be done.
Whereas with fight scenes, especially when you're dealing with weapons, the tables and chairs and you’re looking all of a sudden like Jackie Chan, what these guys do, they’ll spend easily eight to nine hours to pull up a two to three minutes scene. It's just massive, because you're doing a number of different takes and angles and there's mistakes and then you’ve got injuries and you’ve got… So there's a lot at play, there's a lot more to handle.
Anyway, I said to him, you know, we need to do this, we need to spend X amount of time. So we kind of sort of started to progress down that avenue. And then he was sort of running out of time, so it was going over budget, it was going over time so there's all these little factors to take into consideration. And he goes, “You know what mate?” He goes, “Stuff it, you do it.” Because it's an Asian movie, right? So you've got to remember that the Europeans are usually the bad guys, you know, in a lot of the Asian movies. So you’ve got to understand the historical context of why that happens. So he goes, “You'd be perfect for it, so no problem.” So it kind of like took off from there, and it was a major movie, especially in… That movie was quite big in Indonesia.
It kind of like stems from there, it's been an interesting sort of… I really enjoyed it, especially because I don't really compete much now. Now I'm focusing on my Academy and my acting, I love my family as well, so I try to juggle my time quite effectively at work. It's pretty cool, it's pretty cool. I've been getting a lot more drama serious roles, I kind of like being stigmatized, kind of like a mafia boss, you know, that kind of role. So the last couple of years my roles have been primarily more of a, like a godfather, you know, like a stand over guy, like that “Don't mess with me” kind of dude, you know, which is pretty cool, you know, it’s nice.
GEORGE: Yeah, I saw a few clips and you match that persona pretty good. Yeah, you’ve got the martial arts experience, you were with a bunch of actors, they’re actors, but they don’t know what they’re doing – how does that process work to actually get actors on par with a scene and how much of it is orchestrated and improvised? Is it 100% orchestrated and is that why the length of the time, or…?
COSTA: Mmm, that’s a good question. So you'll find that with straight out actors, it takes a long time to train them. So if they’re doing usually a big budget production, where you get big Hollywood actors, or you know, mainstream high end actors, they’ll spend the time to train them and they’ll, for example look at the film that we all love, like John Wick and yeah you can go look and see that Keanu Reeves was already trained, he had been training in martial arts for years.
But in this particular one, they wanted to change it, so they brought in Jean Jacques Machado, they brought in a lot of guys with another element and he was just training relentlessly for like 3 to 6 months. And this guy has been consistently active and they were able to pull off this scene. So there was a combination of choreography and sort of go with the flow, let's improvise. So with guys like him, you can.
If you take someone, let's say for example, that’s had no sort of athletic training and really hasn't been evolving in forms of martial arts or combat, it's really difficult. So that's why you'll find, depending on the region, depending on what they're doing is they'll use people that will have a background in it. Or you know, a lot of the extras, all the supporting actors, will be very highly trained martial artists to make the flow seem effective.
You know, when you think of Liam Neeson in “Taken”, where he’ll do… the camera angles are very close, so you know where you see he’s not doing much, and he’s very sort of like a one hit, one finish and done. That’s how they get around working with guys like that. So they don't have to overly train them, because they’re more drama based actors, they’re not fight actors.
Whereas, if we go back a bit, where you’ve got guys like Keanu Reeves and Van Damme, you know all these guys. Like Jason Statham, he’s a classic example, you know, these guys are all trained. It's much easier for them to flow, so they can work well. So if you and I both trained and you were in a supporting scene, we would improvise a lot and we would work off each other, so that would reduce that flow. And that's why you'll see scenes, have you ever seen the movie called “The Raid”?
COSTA: Ok. watch “The Raid.” So… it's pretty cool. They did like a 15 minute high impact fight scene where they were just going with the flow. And this probably took them, whereas with a normal actor it would take him 3 days to shoot a 10 minute scene, they did it in a span of like 12 hours, just like that. And some people are highly skilled, but they're terrible on camera. Like they’ve just got no reaction, because you've got to fake it. If you punch me here and I don't react to that, well it doesn't look very realistic on film, does it? You're trying to sell it.
GEORGE: That's interesting. I've always tried to look at movies just from the devil's advocate point of view of, hang on, was that really your hand and how was the angle and how did the punch land? Was it from you, was it from someone else, and was it a double? Yeah.
COSTA: Accidents do happen though. They do happen, a lot of people get injured, you know? There's many people who have had broken foot or broken ribs or mishaps and stuff like that. And it just depends on sometimes you just get caught up in the moment, or you could be on uneven terrain and you’re working off ladders or tables or chairs, accidents do happen. People do get hurt – it’s not intentional, but it can happen, especially when you’re dealing with weaponry in another sort of environment and stuff. And there's also, there's many things, there's also the continuity factor.
So for example, when you’re looking at a base movie, let’s say for example we're doing a scene, we’re doing a dialogue scene, we’re sitting, let's take the coffee shop like we did before – this is where you'll notice things like, they're having a conversation but we’re doing a number of retakes, so we’re there for an extensive amount of time, where you’re drinking say for example, I don't know, sparkling mineral water. But your glass is half full, you're wearing your Breitling watch on your left hand and your hair is styled this way and your shirt has got one button untucked. And then you'll see the same thing later on, but the glass is empty, your shirt looks a little bit differently. That's because they're doing a number of retakes, all this stuff comes into effect too.
So if you've caught a punch on your right side and you're kind of like tripled with bleeding, the makeup comes in and the director of photography to create continuity purposes, because it's very difficult. If you have to do for example a sidekick to the knee, and we’ve got a kick, you’re doing this, you might end up shooting like 50-60, a 100 sidekicks over and over and over again. Say, you start to sweat, all this stuff comes into it. It's quite…it's a lot harder than what people think, it's not that simple. That's why I said to you in the beginning, I said, there's a much higher appreciation for those action sequences and what some of the big actors and the stunt guys actually go through to produce the final product, it's actually quite an intense process.
GEORGE: I think I'll be looking at 2-3 minute fight scenes with a new level of eyes.
COSTA: Yeah yeah, you tend to appreciate it a lot more, a lot more.
GEORGE: So you've got Zeus Academy?
COSTA: Yes I do.
GEORGE: And so with your background of acting, have any of your students followed that same path? Or have you directed them in that way when you spot some talent?
COSTA: Not necessarily. I have offered my students when there has been opening for extras roles, or you know, like background roles and they need people, I will offer it and some of them have been involved in a few short films, like for the Toronto film festival, Sydney film festival, you know the Cannes film festival, they're doing a lot of short films, productions and stuff like that. Nothing major, like not big budget productions or sort of mid budget productions.
I think it's not something that I push them to do, it's something that if any of them are interested in that avenue, at some point I'll probably look into it, but I have offered when there has been opportunities arisen and some have taken part, but I don't really push them down that avenue. As a professor, a martial instructor of the academy, people have different goals. Primarily all of our students that come don't come for that reason. It wouldn't be for martial arts choreography or for that, you know, it will always be something. If something changes in the future, especially some of the guys that have been with me for 10-15 years and they enjoy this and they want to pursue this, definitely.
But I think it's a very oversaturated industry, to be honest with you. It's very little, like the way that the industry works now is very different to what it used to be. So most of the time now, you know, people will make a lot of short films, they’ll make a lot of black pilot productions with the goal to eventually get it on Netflix, or Stan, something like that and get picked up. And if that’s a success, you get a percentile cut and you’re progressed to a seasonal production, whereas… and most of this is free work, you know, it's a very, very oversaturated industry. Especially, here in Australia it's very difficult, especially with action movies, very few productions get done here, they’re more in the hardy tardy kind of thing, they’re not into that kind of hardcore Asian, that John Wick sort of Transporter style movies. You’ve got a lot more Europeans and Americans and Asians that do that style, you know?
GEORGE: Fantastic. So behind you there's a nice display of different trophies and so forth. Give us a bit of background on what's going on there.
COSTA: Yeah. I just mixed up all of my intercontinental kickboxing title belt, a couple of trophies like some, a gold medal from the Sydney BJJ comp, I've just… it's bits and pieces. It's nice, this is some of the stuff that I have. I'm at home now, so I’m not in the office, this is a small one, my home stuff, there's a lot of stuff in the gym. I don't primarily like to make the Zeus Academy about me, I like to have the impression that it is about the academy, you know?
COSTA: That way it gives me a little bit more freedom to do my acting and do some other stuff that I do. So the way that I work with Zeus Academy, we’ve kind of got 5 branches. So we've got our standard martial arts training and different classes, where we offer Muay Thai, high level Muay Thai. High-level Brazilian jiu jitsu, Pankration, mixed martial arts, Hapkido and we have our kids’ taekwondo/kickboxing programs. So we have those styles that we teach there. So then my second avenue is, I do quite a bit of work, I used to and I still do occasionally, but not as much as I did before, due to all the circumstances that have happened throughout the world and stuff. I do quite a bit of work with corrective services and security, sort of protection, sort of area. I do a lot of the training of the guards personally myself.
I also do my film work and we run quite a few anti-bullying programs for schools and we also have remedial massage, personal training, weight control and you know personal sort of little things that we work on with individualistic sort of people, depending on, you know, their personal issues that they're dealing with. And we've also got our manager in Zeus, she's pretty much our psychologist and does a few other things as well.
So I kind of run it with those five sort of little sub branches, but all under one academy. So there's many things that I kind of like to do with Zeus Academy in that respect, so it’s kind of like a little bit different from your average martial arts Academy. And it's not that I kind of like planned to take it to any of these specific avenues. I truly believe like if you work hard and you have faith and you believe in what you do, you're very passionate about what you’re doing and you know, you keep at it things fall into place, you know.
And that's kind of like, it’s kind of happened, with the competitive scene, I love competition. I'm not, I don't push it. We have a few very, very high-level competitors. Not a huge amount, but I do find that they take a lot more of my time and a lot of time that I would like to spend. And it’s great, I understand it because I did it myself, I used to compete quite a bit over here and in Europe as well and Asia. But it's not something that I'm a big fan of going down that avenue. I will support it as much as I possibly can, but to go into that sort of fight lifestyle it's just a whole lot of time consuming with very little return, to be honest with you.
GEORGE: Yeah, totally. So I'm curious just on your, on your academy, you mentioned your you know you've got five sort of different pillars.
GEORGE: So different audiences. So when it comes to marketing, is it, do you focus on one primary target audience and then there's a bit of cross-promotion in between, or you sort of just have people coming in from all angles across all five pillars?
COSTA: So from a marketing perspective, I just market the academy, primarily I always market the Academy for its philosophy. The philosophy of the Academy, because I do a lot of, I actually studied philosophy quite extensively ever since I was young. So I studied a lot of Socrates, Aristotle and stuff like that. I think of philosophy and its beautiful relation to martial arts in the fact not that it gives you answers, but it creates questions. It creates an open channel of thinking. In relation to martial arts, there's not one answer. There's many ways from a technical avenue, from a stylistic perspective and many answers, there's not one thing, right? That's why there's so many variations and so many possibilities. And I think that's what philosophy does.
So when I market Zeus Academy, it's more about the philosophy of the academy. We try to make the fist work as a whole in terms of, you know, mind, body and spirit. If one of the fingers are injured or damaged or is not functioning properly, then the whole unit is not going to be able to form at its maximum capacity of power. So we try emphasizing that balance. I think people are in there, we look at sort of those various aspects of it, but in other terms of marketing, we work a lot with referrals. So we work a lot with referrals. And I also get a lot of clients through my acting. So there's a lot where I’ll be on set and they go “Wow man that's great! What do you do?” It's like, ok, yeah.
So I actually had a guy join us, he actually signed up last night. It was a fellow actor. “I've always wanted to do Muay Thai, I’ve always wanted to do BJJ, I always watch the UFC,” and it's like, that's great. You know, I didn't… I hate the UFC, yeah I'm not a big fan of the UFC. But I get that through my own individual thing.
So from terms of marketing from all the five different aspects, it'll be more by referral, sort of personal thing. But when we're doing general marketing, we just sort of market the academy. I keep it very simple, like it's very rare that I’ll, you know, “Come now and get this free,” I'm not a big believer in things like that. I'm a big believer in “Less is more.” Like one of my marketing strategies that I sort of do on social media will always be related to something that I do to the philosophy of life. And I think as the leader of the Academy, I think you’ve got to lead by example.
When I think back to my ancestors, Alexander the Great, Leonidas, or Constantine the Great, which is where my name comes from, Constantine, they were always in the front line. They were the first one on the battlefield. They weren't sitting behind, directing, they were saying “This is what we're going to do and this is how we should do it.” So I’ve always kind of had that philosophy with myself and with my students, you know? So I try to do the same. I try to lead, it's just been one of those things that I kind of do. And it's kind of worked for me and I'm also a big believer in, you know, knowledge is power, but I think yes and no. I think knowledge without action is okay, but you need to take action. So that kind of like means that’s philosophy too, well let's take action. If I can do it and I'm almost 50, you can do it too, you know?
GEORGE: I love that! I was going to ask you about, I was looking at your social media posts and the essence of the philosophy coming through that – it kind of reminds me that the day I started training martial arts and I don't know if you know my story, but I mean my martial arts lifespan is really short, I started when I was 36. But one thing, when you were mentioning the connection of mind, body and spirit, you know, that's what was the selling point for me.
It was all the personal development work and everything that I've done over the years and really trying to master myself and find myself, you know, finding martial arts was kind of the vehicle of the physical, you know. That was the body part which really connected for me. So if you look at the philosophy of Zeus Academy, what is that one core philosophy that sort of stems over all five different styles and avenues that you have?
COSTA: I would say one word. If I could sum up my Academy in one word, it would be family. Because family gives you a sense of security. It gives you a sense of protection, it gives you a sense of strength. It gives you a sense of knowing that there's going to be someone there, or anything there beside you to be there at your best points, but also at your worst points. Because we all fight different battles and strength is not just a physical thing. It's like you just said before, it's all those three attributes, right? I think our family, not so much when I say the word family, I'm talking about encompassing all of those avenues and those attributes and those qualities that we all possess.
And it's one of those things and I think really you know what I'm talking about. But it's really hard to explain this to people that don't train. They don't want to get involved, especially when you real hardcore, tough like in close, like heavy, like kind of like grappling systems or really, really, really up close and personal hard style Muay Thai and stuff like that, you really develop a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood and family. And that's what I mean by the term family, you know, you get that vibe and you get that sense of belongingness, again you know that you're part of something that is within you as well as external. I don't know how else to explain it, but that's what I meant.
GEORGE: It's 100% clear, what you’re saying is 100% clear. I love that perspective that you share, because I don't hear a lot of people talk that deep, you know, about this. For me it’s an ongoing learning cycle. I mean just everything, the mind and martial arts. The mind, the body and spirit as you mentioned.
COSTA: 100%. And I think we always start… I mean it doesn’t matter what you do, I don't think what age… it doesn't really matter what your mind frame is when you begin with. I think once you spend an extensive amount of time, we all link to that, right? And it doesn't matter what you're doing. Whether you're working on losing weight, you get that mental, emotional and internal satisfaction and understanding that you start to apply to your everyday life.
You know, whether you're a hardcore competitor, you know you start dealing with nerves and soft control and composure and feeling pressure. And no matter how many times I step into that ring, my heart is pounding! And I’ve got to channel that energy to my advantage and the more I do it, the more I'm able to channel that fear to a more positive approach. It doesn’t mean it goes away, it’s there and that’s where it’s always going to be.
And I don't care who you are, I don’t care how many fights you've had: every time you step in that ring your heart pumps and you feel that, right? But you just start to channel that energy to a more positive effect. It's like saying don't be happy, don't cry, don't laugh, and don’t feel fear. It's not going to happen, it's not going to happen at any point in time. It's just how you channel that, right? And I think the more you stay involved when you train you really start to learn these qualities about yourself a lot more.
And eventually, you might start young and you see in many aspects and I've seen this throughout a number of decades of their training. So now I'm a bit closer, this would be like my 40th year probably, like training from young life. And so when you're young you know, your parents are trying to develop that strength, confidence, that eye contact, all those qualities right. And then you sort of get to your teens, when you start to be a little bit more mentally aware how your physical presence, your mates. And you may start to compete, even if you don't like, you know, you may be trained with people that do compete.
So it gives you that sharpness. And then you go through that whole sort of phase and if you learn to battle through those, you know, those points where, you know, you're going to get hit. You're going to get knocked down. You're going to get beaten up, you're going to get some shocking injuries. I don't even want to start with my injuries, I'll be here for like ten minutes. Blown out knees, knee reconstructions, fascitis in the elbow, disc fusion, you know. Dislocated ribs, dislocated rib cartilage, you name it. It's like, it's just consistently it hasn’t stopped. So you know, we don't play long balls for a living, do we?
But it teaches you to fight through life. And I think it was actually Sylvester Stallone that said the best thing in the Rocky movie, no one hits harder than life. So when you learn to overcome and channel these things, and the only way you’ll learn to overcome and channel through them, is by using what you said before, that is mental, any internal physical strength and attributes.
Because the external physical presence doesn't matter at this point. And you learn to overcome and become a fighter in life. And as you progress, irrespective of age, I think when you get to sort of our age and over, you’re kind of like, you are more appreciative of this. And it's a constant learning thing, isn’t it? Like, “Oh master Costa, master Costa!” Yeah for sure, it's a title man but it doesn't really mean anything, you know. I mean at the end of the day, we're constantly learning. Constantly, constantly. There's always something to it. I think the day that we think that we know it all is this day we stop growing.
That's my philosophy as a whole thing through the Academy, from the top. And I try to sort of slowly, you know, nurture our instructors that have, you know, that work at our Academy, that teach for me. All my instructors have been with me for a minimum of six to seven years, if not more, that have been featured in our Academy. And the idea is, I want it like that, because I want this philosophy to talk to it. I don't want it to be because it's me; I want it to be because it’s the Academy.
As you keep getting older and older, you know, we’ve got some, you know, students that are in their sixties. Yeah, one guy's almost seventy. So it's really nice to see these people, you know, and they're pushing and challenging themselves and they're doing stuff that they never thought was possible. So I never think it's too late to start, but I think we, all at some point after a level of training, at some point in time, especially within these systems, especially in the system that I teach at the Academy, we really appreciate this mind and body evolving and the connection to life.
When you see that, I think you also create a lot of longevity in your students. And it also gives them a sense of attachment. So for example, we'll go through little things. I was talking to one of my students yesterday and he asked me a question about Muay Thai. And, you know, how it's more of a sport and stuff like that. Actually, I said this when we were at the convention together, when I did the Muay Thai as well. And you know, a lot of people don't know that Muay Thai is actually a very traditional martial art and it comes from pre-Thailand, before Thailand was actually called Thailand. It was Siam, right?
So it was the Siamese people, their military forces were trained to defend the people of this land. And there were a lot of weapons involved in, there was archery and there was ground techniques and it was stone throwing techniques. And there was all of this stuff that was used in those times back then, you know. And in order to preserve this beautiful art, they were training it and they made it into more of a ring sport, which is what we have today.
But there's a lot of traditions, you know. The way that we bow, the Mongkon and what that symbolizes. And I don’t know if a lot of people know the Mongkon actually comes from the ancient times, which was embedded into the warriors back then. But before they would go on the battlefield, then it was either blessed by a holy man or a priest. And there's always some, you know, amulet or stone or something in Mong Kong and it would never be touched by the warrior.
So even to this day, when you see a Muay Thai fighter get out of the ring, and you will see the ropes, come around, you come to your instructor, your corner man, they will whisper a prayer or you know a blessing of some sort and then he will remove the Mong Kong, the warrior doesn't touch it. So it was to keep the evil spirits away, to keep the warrior and the fighter safe on the battlefield, or in the arena.
And you know, we talked about this thing and I hear people like training like seven, eight, nine years in Muay Thai, and they’re like, “Wow man! it's like, it's good stuff!” And this is where the mental stuff comes in and you start to appreciate. And not only that: mentally, you make a connection to way back in history and thinking, “Wow man, I'm doing something that was done centuries ago,” you know? And I'm carrying this tradition on.” And you feel that sense of connection. And I think if you're able to touch people like this, you create a very, very, very, long journey. A sense of, you know, lasting students. Yeah, I guess.
So this is the core approach I kind of like to use with all my systems. And I think it's important because I think that the past has a lot to teach us and a lot of stuff that we can take. You know. I'll learn something from you and you might have learned it from someone else. You know, it kind of like carries on. It's not always something new, it's something that was always there, but we just adapt. And that's the secret, I think the adaptation of taking these things and adapting to how we see fit in our current circumstances. I think that's an important point, you know?
GEORGE: Yeah, exactly why I do these interviews, it's just, I learn so much. It’s a very selfish thing, you know, like I mean yeah, people saying “Yes, it's marketing,” and stuff, but the podcast interview is for me, it's selfish in the way that I like to learn. And that's why I can just talk and listen – well, I listen more than I talk, fortunately, in the podcast. It's just exploring and you’ve got such a wealth of knowledge to share, just those things you just shared about Muay Thai. You know, it makes me think of, you know, I’ve never stepped, you know, in a ring like that, but I just love watching that ritual of fighters walking around the ring and blessing, walking along the rope and there’s just something magical to it.
COSTA: When you hear stuff like this and even if you… you get a much nicer appreciation. And I think if people had this appreciation stylistically as well, we all would understand that we're kind of like trying to get through the same journey through different paths. But in the end, we’re trying to meet the same kind of goal, you know? In that heightened level of spirit and awareness and achievement and you know, progression, success, learning and all of those things, you know.
GEORGE: I wanted to ask you just before we wrap things up but here we mentioned the things in the world have changed and so forth in a… I mean, I don't like to talk about it that much, but in the context of what we spoke about, I mean, let's be real right: people faced challenges in different lights, you know? Some people saw this as an opportunity, some people were really struggling with it, you know. I think it was a… to me, I look at it as a real test on humanity just in general, you know. How do we cope with diversity and you know, how do we adapt when things don't go the way we had them or are used to living, for example.
With all this perspective that you have and the philosophy that you shared, how did you approach all this? And what are the things, when all this started to develop, what are the things that sort of really resonated with you from all the years of study that you've done of philosophy that you really put to practice to pull you through?
COSTA: It's a really good question. It was an interesting time. I viewed this as a form of self-defense. I mean, it wasn't a direct or physical – well, it was and it wasn't, but you know in a way it was a self-defense sort of like situation, or kind of like scenario that the world had faced. Like, we needed to protect ourselves in a different way of course, but nonetheless the overall sort of theoretical way is, “Okay, we need to protect ourselves. What do I need to do?”
You know, we all have good days, we all have bad days. We try to have more good days than bad days and I think once you accept, I think the key point here is accepting the fact that you're going to have bad days. You're going to fail, you're going to trip, you're going to stumble, and you’re going to be pissed off. You're not going to be your best. You accept the fact, but you know the next day is a new day and you know, it's a good thing to step up your game and get a little bit better and make amends and change things.
And you know, then we kind of like minimize the bad days as opposed to the good days. They’re going to be there and we need to accept that they're going to be there, but if it’s a 50/50 ratio, we try to make that you know, a 60/40 and then a 70/30 and 80/20. And you know hopefully we get to a 90/10 ratio and that's where we want to be, right? But it's going to be there. It's going to be there. It's like one of those things that we said before, you can’t eliminate, and you can't get rid of fear. It's going to be there. It’s how you channel it and how you react to it.
So this is how I kind of viewed the whole situation. What did I do? I probably did a ton of things that I probably never would have done, you know? I started writing a book about what, six years ago. It's about internal strength, unleashing the warrior within kind of thing. So it's got to do with a lot of the stuff that we've been discussing. So it’s got to do with some training, it’s got to do with some physical stuff, it’s got to do with some mental stuff, it's got to do with historical moments in history and the way that things had adapted, had changed to that particular individual who’s taking part and what the mind frame might have been like. Some of the stuff that's happened to me and I've encountered, I got a chance to actually work on my book, which was great.
COSTA: We really got our online platform working. Just something that I had the intention of doing, but never really got around to it. Got an app, online training done. Yeah, I hooked up a major partnership deal between Zeus Academy and Nike.
GEORGE: Oh yeah?
COSTA: Yeah. So I don't even think a lot of this stuff would have been done if that wasn't the case. Did I plan for, you know, to do these things? Not entirely, but I think the best way that I can explain it and this is why I use the term self-defense was, if I'm in a self-defense situation, I look at my options. So the first thing that I would look at where we’re sitting now, yeah, I would look at what I have in my environment, right? I've got this chair right next to me, so it can be used as a defensive and an offensive tool. This is how I think, right? With my tools.
So this is the kind of way I thought about it. I'll write a book, the online training, will do this, I’ve got to look at maybe attaching the Academy to something unique, prestigious and world class that people can associate with, and I have this ability to do because of my acting, you know? It's not something that’s simple and it's not something that I can solve, “I'm going to attach myself to it.” It kind of like fell into it, opportunities arose and I just took it.
What I do think though, I think that depending on people's circumstances, you know, some people have got it a lot harder than others, depending on where you are and what you have access to. I think that people that have been in the game for a lot longer, whatever game they're in, whatever industry they’re in, I think the ones that have been in there a lot longer are always far better, because they're able to ride the storm a little bit easier.
So with us, you know, teaching for how many years, over 20 years, I've had Zeus Academy for about 20 years, I've been teaching since 93. I could ride that with that wave a little bit longer. And also we had a lot more students that were loyal. I was kind of blessed from that perspective. I think it's tough for different people facing different situations. I mean, there was a guy who's only been open for a year or two and couldn’t sustain it, so he had to close. I think that's a key role as well.
I also think that people don't get into survival mode. So this is why I look at this as self-defense. So the first thing that happened was like, I was in survival mode. So my clear objective is to survive. I don't want to win, I don't want to gain, I don't want to get anything – I want to survive first.
Once I survive and I've gotten myself to a point where there's no threat to me now, I can then look at progressing. So I think from a philosophical mindset I portray that this is important. And I think people panic. Either they go too defensive, or they go too offensive. You’ve got to ride your time, you've got to be patient. I think it's a classic example of… Like, if you have someone in side control. And they’re big and they’re strong and they’re battling you, it’s time to attack. The time to defend, you're on top, right? You’ve got to gas them,you got to ride them out, you’ve got to wait for the right moment until you attack the man, you go to attack the mount or you go for submission, or whatever the case may be, that's just from a technical perspective.
So when I take that approach and that's how I kind of handled that situation. That's how I think of it. Did I think of it intentionally? No, that's just the way I think, that’s just sort of my mentality, how I do things, you know? And on a positive note, it gave me a lot more time with my kids that I probably didn't get a chance to spend, you know what I mean? And I can't put a value on that.
I just truly hope that, just in terms of a humanity kind of thing, people become a little bit more compassionate and understanding with each other. And you know what, at the end of the day George, sometimes you need shit like this to happen that people can just come out of it and say, “Hang on: there are far more important things to life than just running around like a madman, becoming a slave to the system.” Because a lot of us, and I'm sure you’re guilty of it, and I'm guilty of it and we're all guilty of it at some point in time, right? So it kind of makes you take a step back and, you know, analyze it. So that's how I work, I sort of thought about it and built a sort of approach.
GEORGE: Fantastic. Hey Costa, thanks so much, this was awesome. If people want to get in touch with you and know more about you, what should they do? Where should they go?
COSTA: Very simple. Our website is zeusacademy.com.au, but .com works as well. And email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Instagram is, I'm quite active on Instagram, a lot more than Facebook. Instagram is my name, Costa Prasoulas and Facebook is the same as well. I'm usually quite active on my social media, I try to answer and talk to as many people as I can. I usually get through all of my emails and stuff like that, so if someone wants to get in contact, I'll be more than happy to, you know, touch base and say hello and answer questions people have and stuff like that. It’s great. I look forward to catching up with you too my man, soon!
GEORGE: Yes! When we can cross borders.
COSTA: Yeah, definitely, definitely, definitely, yeah.
GEORGE: Fantastic. Costa, thank you so much, thanks for doing this. Great speaking to you and I'll speak to you soon.
COSTA: Thank you for having me, it's been a pleasure.
GEORGE: Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with other top and smart martial arts school owners, and have a chat about marketing, lead generation, what's working now, or just have a gentle rant about things that are happening in the industry, then I want to invite you to join our Facebook group.
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So it's called the Martial Arts Media™ Business Community and an easy way to access it is, if you just go to the domain named martialartsmedia.group, so martialaartsmedia.group, g-r-o-u-p, there's no .com or anything, martialartsmedia.group. That will take you straight there. Request to join and I will accept your invitation.
Thanks – I'll speak to you on the next episode – cheers!
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