What is Distant Klash?
Distant Klash (DK) is a small business that sells apparel and accessories for fighters of all ages. Inspired by Japanese comics, DK flips the martial arts world on its head by introducing a fresh new look.
Whether you’ve been training for 10 years or are stepping into the gym for the first time, DK is here to help you along your journey. DK is a brand made for fighters of all backgrounds:
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
- Muay Thai
- Martial Arts
- And many more!
The Founder and Illustrator That Started It All
Hi, I’m Kelly Kusumoto, the founder and artist behind Distant Klash. I started this company in 2016 with 2 main goals. First, I wanted to change the public’s perception of wrestling. And second, I wanted to give fighters a more modern look. I was frustrated that there was a lack of high quality merchandise for wrestlers, especially for female wrestlers.
As much as I loved the sport, I ended up not wearing a lot of wrestling shirts. Most of the time it was because the designs felt tacky or because the shirt was uncomfortable. As I finished my college education in Graphic Design I knew that I wanted to change that. How could I create stylish merchandise while showing the world what wrestling was actually like?
But first, how did I even get into wrestling? I get this question quite often!
How I Became the First State Wrestling Champion in My School’s History
(I’m in the first row, middle, with the black undershirt)
I didn’t grow up in a wrestling family. I didn’t even know the sport existed until I went to High School. I was actually a bit resistant to trying wrestling because all I knew about it at the time was that they wore spandex (quite naive, right?).
But one of my friends was on the wrestling team and insisted I join. He knew I was a lot more rambunctious than most. I was the kind of person that enjoyed using my friends as a practice dummy for techniques I learned in my martial arts class.
In the end, I decided to give it a try. The summer after freshman year I joined their conditioning practices. The wrestling team got a new coach that year, Coach Shawn Henebry, and he would be my coach for the next 3 years.
As out of shape as I was, I was actually very strong for a girl. And for the first time in my life, being a strong little Asian girl was not a bad thing. I was being praised for being rough and tough, something that had never happened before.
Like most people, I was not that good my first year of wrestling. It hadn’t quite clicked yet, and I was really out of shape. For context, I started out at 5’1'' weighing 160lbs. I lost 30lbs during my first season.
By the middle of my second season I was starting to feel a bit more confident. I understood more of the wrestling jargon and I was staying after practice to work on my technique. There was no official state tournament for women’s wrestling at the time. But there was an unofficial state tournament that anyone could go to.
Unfortunately I was unable to go because I had sprained both of my ankles (not at the same though). So I went to a tournament that was scheduled shortly after state. A lot of the people who had placed at state would be there. And to my surprise I almost beat the girl who had won state!
The next year would be my last. As a senior wrestler I knew I could win state, and as you may guess, it actually happened! It was a great feeling receiving everyone’s praise and congrats. Some might think that the next goal should be the Olympics, but for me I never saw myself as a professional athlete.
I wanted to be an artist. Drawing was something that I loved way before I knew about wrestling, and I still wanted to pursue it as a career.
How was the style of Distant Klash created?
It is definitely no secret that I love Japanese cartoons. It started with the introduction of Pokemon. From there I moved onto greener pastures with series such as Magic Knight Rayearth and Inuyasha. And to this day I continue to keep up with new shows and series!
I doodled my way through elementary school, middle school, and high school. When I got into wrestling I kept a notebook of step by step drawings on how to do each wrestling move. After I graduated college this notebook is where I drew a lot of my inspiration from. Being an artist was a huge part of my identity and I loved it!
I ended up studying Graphic Design at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Going to art school was one of the hardest things I have ever done outside of wrestling. It’s easy to think that art is an outlet and that it’s “a lot of fun”. But showing your work to the public and letting it be judged and criticized is a whole different ball game.
During my time there I polished my skills on Adobe Illustrator and developed a critical eye for beautiful lines and simplicity. I used this knowledge to create cute characters that were fun and full of energy.
And ultimately, this is the aesthetic that we now know as Distant Klash.
What I am doing now
Today Distant Klash continues to grow with new products and new designs. During the wrestling season I make it a point to go out and share my work directly to fellow wrestlers. It’s always a joyous moment for me to meet wrestlers who are still new to the sport. The look of wonder and joy they have is so pure.
You can also keep up with me online through social media. One of the other ways that I try to dispel old stereotypes of wrestling is by creating comics about the sport. You can read them in the comic section of my site or on my instagram @distantklash.
If you’ve made it this far thank you for taking the time to read my story! Writing this page has given me a lot of nostalgia. If you have wrestled or trained in any martial art, I hope that my story has resonated with you in some way.
Also, thank you in advance for keeping the fighting arts alive. I hope you will take the time to look around my site and buy anything that speaks to you. Alternatively, if you have any ideas or suggestions on new products or designs I’d love to hear them!
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you soon!