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'The Kumite' proves to be another successful training event

There was a USC Trojans presence this past Sunday at Prime Time Polynesian's "The Kumite" event that certainly was noticeable. Not only was USC offensive line coach Bob Connelly among the more than dozen college assistants in attendance at the training showcase at Pomona (California) Diamond Ranch, but also on hand providing help were current Trojans players Zach Banner, Damien Mama, JuJu Smith, Soma Vainuku and Viane Talamaivao.

Of course, that shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, Talamaivao's father, Chris, as well as his uncle, Pene, are two of the founders of PTP, an organization that runs a series of clinics and camps that run from January through July, with the highlight of the schedule being "The Kumite." Always a highly competitive affair featuring drills, training lessons and spirited one-on-one battles, its alumni include not only players such as Mama and Talamaivao who went on to USC, but also Oregon's Cameron Hunt, UCLA's Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Notre Dame's Tyler Luatua, just to name a few.

PTP has seen attendance at its training sessions and camps grow significantly in recent years. Beginning with only a handful of kids that would train at a park in the offseason, this year's "The Kumite" drew 250 participants.

"This is our fourth year, and every year has progressed into what you see today," Chris Talamaivao said. "It's the kids, that's the big difference. We coach them up, but we've been blessed to have such talent. We started off with Damien, Viane, SC guys, some of the UCLA boys, and I think some of the younger guys saw that and just gravitated toward PTP. And honestly, it's been a blessing for us to see these kids mature and come up."

Always known as one of the best camps in Southern California to get an up-close look at some talented linemen and linebackers, this year's version of "The Kumite" saw the skill positions incorporated for the first time, with the 11-on-11 period at the end of the day standing out as a camp highlight.

"This is the first year that we've had the skill players," Talamaivao said. "It's awesome because you usually don't see 11-on-11 at camps. We try to think outside the box, and we try to do some things to have fun with kids."

Included in that fun is a post-camp dance-off that always gets the participants hooting and hollering, as well as a period where some of the college coaches and players in attendance provide words of advice for the campers, and it's that family atmosphere that really makes PTP's events unique.

"With our Polynesian upbringing, family is big," Talamaivao said. "That's our foundation. So, we kind of instill that in everything that we do with our camps and our training. At the end we always hug it up. We've ingrained that into our training."

Viane Talamaivao is very familiar with that sense of family, and it's a big reason why he not only comes back to help out at "The Kumite," but at every PTP event he can.

"It's a family affair," said the Trojans' sophomore guard. "I'm out here every week on Saturdays. It's a way for me to show appreciation to the people who have shown love to me, and people who have helped me get to where I am today. This is a way for me to give back to the youth, to the guys who are coming up, to the future of football. My family runs this, and we see the same familiar faces every week. The bond we form becomes more than just training partners or something like that. It's all love when I come back."

It's because of that bond that many former participants, including those who are now teammates with Talamaivao at USC, are more than happy to return and provide any assistance they can.

"We're all out here just to support our fellow brother Viane and his family's event, while also giving back to the community, and that's really the biggest point of this," Mama said. "It's been really fun for all of us. It's just a great event with great people."

With support like that, there's reason to believe that Prime Time Polynesian and "The Kumite" will continue to grow.

"It's really special to see what it's developed into," Viane Talamaivao said, "and it's even more exciting to think about the future."