A prominent member of the Santa Cruz martial arts community and Kaijin MMA passed away late last Friday night. In strange, confusing, and still not understood circumstances, Pauly Silva was shot to death outside a downtown restaurant/bar. The reasons behind this horrible act are not really known—mistaken identity, random happenstance, or some other utterly stupid reason. But, in the long run, the why really does not matter so much as the simple fact that a great man is no longer with us. No longer here to make us laugh, make us bruise and hit the mat, make us understand a little more of martial art and technique.
Pauly joined Kaijin in 2011 as an accomplished and experienced fighter, teacher, and martial artist looking for a place to train. He had a long history with the fighting arts starting as a child with his father who was one of the preceding generation of martial arts teachers and practitioners in Santa Cruz. Kaijin, and the other current martial arts academies in Santa Cruz, stand on the shoulders of these earlier teachers and schools—Avila, Dunphy, Mosely, Silva, Sanford, Trent, Eaton, Song, among others—as these names laid the foundation for the incredibly fertile, and talented, ground that is the Santa Cruz martial arts community.
Pauly grew up surrounded by this community, and an early practice of his father’s arts of kenpo and kali gave way to his own exploration into Muay Thai, judo, and Japanese full contact karate. It was in full contact karate and its various forms—Kyokushin, Enshin, Seido, and Daidojuku– that Pauly found his true home.
Living on the East Coast and in San Francisco, Pauly trained, learned, traveled and fought. Back in Santa Cruz, he married, had two daughters, began a career in plumbing, promoted Kudo (a kind of karate and MMA with gi and plexiglass helmets) tournaments, and taught his style of karate, Jissenteki, at various places around the county. I would send fighters to him for extra training (fighters fight!), and when the vagaries of the local real estate market left him looking for a martial arts home, he found it in Kaijin—a mixed martial arts school where styles and names are far less important than knowledge, character, ability, and a willingness to learn and give. Aaron, Kaijin’s boxing coach, also trained a lot with Pauly and I think it is safe to say that Pauly is at least partially responsible for Aaron’s fists of stone.
For the past two years, Pauly was a regular at Kaijin’s kickboxing class, training himself and others, helping to teach class. He won a Muay Thai belt while on the mats at Kaijin and medaled in full contact tournaments, all the while training and cornering other fighters. With a scheduled pro MMA fight this June, Pauly was in the no-gi classes, perfecting his ground game with the Kaijin experts.
Very big and strong, Pauly was quick and smooth. Sparring him was like having a chainsaw tossed in your direction. He could hurt you, hit you, throw you, but he had respect and care. He understood that martial arts are about more than just putting someone on the ground and acted accordingly. He treated match and tournament opponents with respect and affection, no matter who was the victor, and accorded those he met outside of the martial arts the same.
This is where the measure of Pauly Silva could be readily taken. As with so many of us, Pauly’s life could have been much different without martial arts. The man of 32 years killed just a few days ago was very different than the boy of 12 years ago who did time for fighting. Pauly was loud and boisterous, laughing and joking, but he was quiet when it came to himself. There was no airs, no bragging, but rather respect and a genuine desire to learn. Unlike many in the martial arts, in true martial art tradition his view of himself was not his trophies and belts (although he was very proud of them) but the people and masters he had trained with and schools where he had sweated and worked.
In a world where one can be suddenly gunned down from behind, shot in the back, perhaps the mark of a martial arts master is not fighting ability, which Pauly had, but character, which he had more. Not badassness, which Pauly had, but the inspiration he gave others. Not how well you can execute a punch, kick, or technique, which he did very well, but how well you can teach it to someone else, which he did even better.
Kaijin and I will miss Pauly very much. We have lost a valuable resource, a fighter, a teacher, and a friend. The next time you knot your belt, lace up your gloves, or step onto the mats, please give Pauly a quick thought. A quick thought is all that is needed as what he really would want is for you to train hard and regularly. Train with passion and dedication. With your whole heart. Just like he did.
–Sam Radetsky (please forgive the length)