Peter Easterlind’s passion for combat sports started when he was 7 years old and saw Bruce Lee playing Kato on The Green Hornet television series. Now 62, Easterlind and his son Jake train boxers and Jeet Kune Do fighters from across the North Shore at the Coastal Gung Fu and Boxing Club.
On the first floor of the 285 Washington St. boxing gym, dozens, if not hundreds of boxing gloves line the walls of a relatively small but effective training room. Along the window sill, three movement-detecting cameras used for online training sessions sit pointed at the punching bags.
“If I go over here, it [the camera footage] will follow me,” Easterlind said. “We sometimes will have people from the Philippines or Canada log on to train with us.”
While the boxing club has about 100 members, on any given day, Easterlind said roughly 15 boxers or martial arts fighters can be seen training at his gym. Upstairs, two wooden Wing Chun dummies stand beside a diamond-shaped boxing ring where Easterlind said Golden Gloves champions have trained.
Easterlind earned his first black belts in Judo and an Okinawan form of Karate at the age of 15 before he went on to earn his third-degree black belt in Judo and numerous black belts in Kempo. While he grew his martial arts repertoire, Easterlind trained as an amateur boxer. He said in mixed martial arts sparring matches, he would typically win just by boxing.
“I got a bunch of black belts and kept going back to boxing. Whenever I’d spar with anybody, I would just box and I would school them — they just couldn’t handle it,” Easterlind said.
In the late 1990s, Easterlind began teaching himself Jeet Kune Do, a martial art developed by Bruce Lee. He studied under Steve Golden, one of Lee’s students at the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute in Los Angeles. By 2006, he had become a certified instructor, and he now teaches as one of the last second-generation Jeet Kune Do instructors in the country.
Even as a certified USA Boxing coach and a martial arts teacher, Easterlind had to work cooking and food delivery jobs to make ends meet. In 2013, Jake was about to finish high school, and Easterlind took a shot at turning his hobby into a career.
“I thought, ‘Alright, it’s time to start putting time back into this and figure out how we’re going to turn it into a business or at least a good hobby that I can use as a side gig,’” Easterlind said.
In 2014, Jake, who attended North Shore Community College for a year and decided it wasn’t for him, asked his father for a job. Easterlind said Jake started helping out around the gym, but engaged more and more with clients as Easterlind grew his membership. Now Jake, who Easterlind described as his business partner, is a USA Boxing certified coach and a NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) trainer.
Easterlind said that whether he’s training members one-on-one or in a group setting, he takes a sense of pride when he sees them evolve from curious students or exercise-motivated gym goers to competitive fighters.
“It’s like an extended family,” Easterlind said. “This weekend we have two 16-year-olds in fights, and it’s their first fights, so we’re excited for them and they’re excited. They’re good, they’re going up against much bigger gyms and I think that’s a benefit to us because we don’t focus on this huge environment, we focus on a handful of people at a time.”