Kirk Koskella recently said: “ I want to see and make films that reinforce the fact that if you tell the truth, if you have the courage and you take the risk, whatever follows will be worthwhile. Even if our progeny are not able to understand our sacrifice. The fact is, fidelity to a personal code of honor makes the world a better place. It’s time to return to productions that reinforce positive values like courage and sacrifice.”
Kirk Koskella has been working in the film industry since the age of 14. For Koskella the martial arts and the film industry are so intertwined that it is near impossible to separate them. As Kirk’s story unfolds you will begin to understand.
Kirk Koskella & martial arts
“Learning the martial arts was a result of my sister being kidnapped. I was the eldest child, I was home when they took her – I watched them take her. The next few years were really hard for my mom and dad. So I had three younger brothers and another sister to help raise from the time I was 13.
I spent every nickel that I had in my bank account without telling mom and dad taking Martial Arts lessons. I wanted to be able to protect the kids because I thought that’s what I needed to do. I couldn’t look somebody in the face, couldn’t look in their eyes. When somebody looked at me I had to look away or look down because I didn’t have the self-esteem that I needed to be able to deal with somebody.
Kirk Koskella gets into the entertainment industry
So I said “wait a minute this is not right I have got to do something about it” I saw the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family and all these things that had these kids on TV and I said “I bet they made a lot of money”. I was thinking that if I could make a lot of money then I can pay for the attorney to get my sister back and I could help with the family with the bills and everything”.
I just decided that was what I would do. I had no idea how hard it was to get into the business, nobody told me a thing. So I forced myself to take a speech class in school because they didn’t have an acting class. I forced myself to get into a music class so that I’d have to sing and a year later I was singing at the Golden Nugget in Reno Nevada. It was only for a couple of days, but it was something. I was singing in front of people and I could now look them in the face. I was a year younger than Donny Osmond and though he was far better at my job. I was a kind of a novelty for a few days.
We moved to Tucson shortly thereafter and I went straight to an agent’s office (Fosi’s Modeling and Talent Agency). I walked in and I said “I’m here” and she said “who the heck are you”? When I said “I’m Kirk, I’m Kirk Koskella and I’m here to be an actor” she just laughed at me and she said okay fill out these pieces of paper. I had no idea what I was doing, but it didn’t matter. She liked my moxi and signed me up for possible “extra” work.
Kirk Koskella (the “One Take Kid”)
Four o’clock the next Monday morning she called up and said be on the set in an hour. I was 14 1/2 years old, I lied and said I was 18 to get out on the set. For most of my sophomore year in high school, I didn’t go to high school because I was on one set or another. I was on the set of “Petrocelli” (with Barry Newman and Susan Howard) and for 13 episodes, The Outlaw Josey Wales with Clint Eastwood, A Star is Born (Barbara Streisand and Kris Christopherson), and a number of shows moving from an extra, to bit player, and some stunt work. I was doing anything that I could do to be on camera. And, asking a lot of questions about everyone else’s job on the shoot.
When I wasn’t on camera I was taking Martial arts classes. My dad was pissed because I needed to take a professional acting class and I had to borrow $300 for the class from my younger brother. This was back in the 70′s and $300 was a lot of money. Dad couldn’t figure out what happened to the $700 that was in my savings account from selling off my livestock before leaving Nevada. And, I wasn’t talking.
A short time later a letter came for Mr Koskella. Dad opened it thinking it was for him. It was my Black Belt certificate. So at that point the jig was up, but since I was already working while at high school, he couldn’t get too mad. In fact, I worked so much, I could call up and say “hi this is Kirk I’m working on a movie again” and I went and worked. The school didn’t even call mom and dad back to check. Of course that meant I had a lot of catching up to do my senior year. I had to challenge some classes but I ended up with 9 A’s, 2 B’s and a C to graduate. Not to mention the Fine Arts classes my sophomore through senior years living in the dorms at the University of Arizona.
School, although important to me, seemed too boring but working in the movie business was great. Being able to do martial arts kept me fit to do all sorts of things on film. I kept thinking that the more I know how to do then the more I will be able to fit into what whatever they might want. Whether it is Martial arts or singing, or guitar or anything else that I could do, especially riding horses. And if there’s a film that requires hard riding, you’d better measure up. They’ll tell you that if you don’t know how to ride you’re going to get hurt – I learned both a fast draw and riding from the best Western stuntmen around (Kimo Owens, Slim Hawk, Tiny Wells).
Performing as directed earned me a nick name as the “One Take Kid.” At one point, I worked 14 films in 13 months with the last three solid roles — from Tucson.”
“Anything the mind can conceive, the body can achieve.”
Kirk Koskella was 14 when he first met Grandmaster Bong Soo Han on the set of the Trail of Billy Jack.
Koskella’s featured extra role gave him the opportunity to form a lifelong friendship with the movie icon. Grand Master Bon Soo Han provided Kirk with the hope of merging his martial arts training with film. Lending credence to Kirk’s motto since his first meeting with Grandmaster Bong Soo Han; “Anything the mind can conceive, the body can conceive”.
Throughout the years in training and in martial arts whether it be Taekwondo, Hapkido, Ki Bon Moo Gi (19 different kinds of weapons, including Yu Shin Gum Do) Kirk has subscribed to an extension of that philosophy, “If you can do one thing, you can do anything.” (Jung Shin Il Do Ha Sa Bul Sung) is the foundation of Song Moo Kwan training.
Having a martial arts studio was merely a personal support system that he could use for training in and he began to realize that he could accomplish in these other areas as well. Either in front of the camera as an actor or behind the camera or as a member of the crew, it didn’t matter if he had a large role or a small role.
Kirk Koskella always had a martial arts studio
“Throughout my association with the movie industry the only other thing I really loved doing was teaching. I always had a martial arts studio, I always trained other people in martial arts and I always assisted where I could whether it was stunt work, martial arts choreography, or simply keeping myself in tune to be able to handle situations that came up on different films.
I started teaching martial arts in 1975 in Tucson, but opened up my first serious martial arts studio in Los Angeles in 1981. I trained a lot of people who were in the movie business: Peter Reckell who played Bo in “Days of Our Life”, was a brilliant student, Danielle Brisbois, Archie Bunker’s granddaughter from “Archie Bunker’s Place,” and even most of the Jacobs children from Susan Struther’s show, “Gloria.” But that was then…
As Koskella moves forward with two of his martial arts screenplays, the one that taxes him most has become a tribute to Grandmaster Bong Soo Han’s memory. In fact Han assisted in critiques for the opening scenes. The film is called “Debt of Honor”. A film Kirk wrote for as a vehicle for Grand Master Han, prior to his passing in 2007. Grand Master Han was to have played an important central character known simply as “Han.” That’s why great care and consideration is being given to carefully scripting a project that will in some way best represent his friend and mentor.
Kirk Koskella’s sister Joo Ok Park (Joo Ok Elizabeth Koskella)
Kirk Koskella never found his sister. Kirk has not stopped looking for his sister. Maybe one day, another script will become another film. Kirk can only hope his sister sees it and knows how dearly his sister is missed. This author notes that Kirk’s sister is of Korean decent. Hence, Kirk’s love for Korea, its people, and the other side of his life that keeps Joo Ok Park (Joo Ok Elizabeth Koskella) constantly on his mind.