Owner – Birmingham Martial Arts
Meet Birmingham resident and martial arts expert Peter Malota. A native of Albania, Peter moved to Detroit in 1973 and later relocated to Hollywood, Calif., in 1979. While there, his passion for martial arts consumed his life. The student became the teacher and he began working in action films as a fight coordinator. In 1992, he returned to Michigan and has remained here ever since with his wife, Lisa.
Like many teenagers in the 1970s, Peter’s interest in martial arts was inspired by movies. “I saw a couple of Bruce Lee movies and became inspired,” he says. “He was my idol and influenced me so much. He made me believe that I could one day work in martial arts action films.”
While living in California, Peter met the Belgian martial arts superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme. Years later, their paths would cross again in Paris and Peter’s life would be forever changed.
Professionally speaking: I first met Jean-Claude Van Damme in 1982 at a film audition. In 1990, we met again in Paris where I had been invited to be a special guest instructor for the French Karate National Team. Van Damme was promoting his film Lionheart. He remembered me and offered me the position of martial arts fight coordinator for the film Double Impact. I also had a co-starring role in the film and it became a huge international hit. Over the course of 15 years, we did eight films together, and I co-starred in three of them. I’ve also had the privilege of working with other action superstars including Roger Moore, Clive Owen, Sean Penn, Pierce Brosnan, Liam Hemsworth, Ed Harris, Charlton Heston and Demi Moore.
Philosophy for teaching martial arts: At the Birmingham Martial Arts Studio, we specialize in teaching children. For them, it’s all about working on coordination, self-esteem and discipline. This helps build respect and confidence. In our classes, we encourage individual achievement and our programs are designed to bring out the best in every child. We want our young students to reach their fullest potential in everything they do.
We also work with a lot of adults. Martial arts training requires a lot of discipline. That’s a wonderful thing because it can help people deal with the stress in their lives.
Proud career accomplishment: Working on Double Impact was a big moment for me. It was my first big movie and was number one all over the world. Everything about it was big — a big star, big studio, big producer and more. It was very rewarding. But now, I’m equally satisfied running my martial arts studio and working with kids here in Birmingham.
Passion for: No surprise here. I like movies, specifically action movies. I like watching them, making them and working on them. I’ve been involved in a total of 26 films. I also like to travel and am lucky my job has allowed me to go to a lot of places.
Life in Birmingham: Birmingham is the perfect place for me. It’s very active. The city and lifestyle are ideal. I like the city feel and I also like that it’s a family-oriented place. I like teaching kids and there are definitely a lot of kids here in this area.
My perfect day: Martial arts are my life. I practice six days a week for at least two hours a day. If I can get in a round of golf, the day would be even more perfect.
What most people don’t know about me: I’m a private person, so there are a lot of things people don’t know. But if I had to describe myself, I’d say that I’m very goal-oriented. NS
— Interviewed by Matthew Totsky