by Sensei Jonathan Hewitt – Founder of Life Ki-do
The Joy and Dance of Kickboxing:
Let me explain.
The other night in our Teen/Adult class after more than 25 years of martial arts training and over 20 years of teaching full time, I experienced a deep joy and dance while we were doing some of our kickboxing curriculum (footwork, evasions, punches, kicks, shadow sparring and light sparring).
I grew up extremely competitive and in a very competitive community. All I knew was win or lose. I had to beat the other guy to prove myself and feel validated. This conditioning had colored so much of what I had done in my life and even though I won the trophies and other accolades, I was lacking joy and fulfillment.
Then over 20 years ago, I began a very dedicated meditation practice and began seeing life from a very different perspective, much more about connecting than competing. As my inner joy and fulfillment increased, I began to lose my interest in martial arts and saw it as the antithesis of connection. Fortunately I didn’t give it up and about 8 years ago I was introduced to Systema, which is very much about breath, fluidity and connection. Systema has helped transform my martial arts experience and my life in general but I still didn’t see how I could be fluid and connected when sparring or doing wrestling/BJJ. This was the first time I truly experienced joy and connection as if I was a dancer celebrating love, connection and life.
Thank you to our amazing students and fellow instructors for helping me to always be a white belt and know that there is no end to the amount of growth I can experience.
More insight, wisdom, and self-awareness from another of our graduating seniors – Zach Rahmes.
“I feel very much at peace when I am at the dojo. Martial arts aren’t the most important thing we learn through the Life Ki-do program. I have learned mutual trust and respect – the most valuable things I can give to someone, and the most valuable thing that I possess. To me, the connections that I form with other people are what give my life its meaning and purpose. This is why I love my dojo so dearly. More than any other place on earth, it fulfills me.”
Congratulations Zach! Your dedication to being present and being your personal best every moment of training is truly an inspiration. We know your presence and genuine connection with others will bring you fulfillment wherever you go.
“I don’t care if you can smash a brick with your bare hands…the single most important teaching is being able to breathe and be aware of it”
Marshall Walston has trained with us for 12 years! Congratulations Marshall on your high school graduation! We will miss you.
The following is from Marshall’s Black Belt Test essay:
I said years ago that the one that has helped me the most through this world is Ninja Breathing. 12 years ago this idea was brought to my mind, to find my center. I still believe to this day that the single most important teaching of this place I call a second home, is being able to breathe and be aware of it; to take that breathing and live authentically with it. Life is a game that we play, and we are playing against ourselves. The one who lives it feeling fulfilled at the end of day wins.
I’ll see you star side.”
If you weren’t able to attend our Black Belt test last Saturday, it was truly an amazing and inspiring event, with hundreds of our families joining together to support and celebrate some amazing young students. We not only honored and tested our 2 Black Belt students, Marshall Walston and Zach Majors, but also several other students who all tested for some of our highest belts.
Here is a fantastic video of the event shot by Gil Garcia, a parent of one of our students!
We also encourage you to check out an amazing essay by one of our two Black Belt students, Zach Majors! Read that here!
On Saturday, May 3rd, one of our students, Zachary Majors, earned his Black Belt. Zach is now 18 and started with Life Ki-do at age 10.
As part of his test, Zach was asked to submit an essay on what he has learned at Life Ki-do. The following is Zach’s amazing essay which floored all of us at Life Ki-do. Truly wisdom worth sharing. Enjoy.
“Throughout my eight years of training in Life Ki-do, I have come to be stronger not only athletically, but also mentally and emotionally as well. When I first started at this school as a young child, I wasn’t totally sure what I was getting myself into. At the time, my perception was that every one of my peers would be stronger and more skilled than me, and that as a result I wouldn’t fit in and would find myself totally overwhelmed. In fact, my very first memory at the dojo was of myself wrestling a boy who was much bigger than me, and likely a year or so older. When we first began the drill together, I was admittedly very nervous. I did not believe in myself, and felt as though I had no chance to do well against him and would likely end up hurt as a result. As we first began to wrestle, my partner quickly pinned me, and as he was holding me down said words that I still remember to this day: “this is so easy”. As I heard these words, an intriguing feeling rose up within me. Instead of feeling angry or bitter, I found myself experiencing a strange sense of encouragement, almost as if someone was telling me that I was capable of doing so much more, and that I didn’t need to give up so easily. Exactly how the rest of that match went is something that I don’t remember very clearly, but that is almost irrelevant. What that match did reveal to me, however, is that I was – and still am – capable of much more than I often give myself credit for. The fact that I was able to even able to ponder the possibility that I was not trying my best under adverse circumstances at such a young age proves this point to me very clearly.
With all of that being said, I would now like to talk about how the most important aspect of Life Ki-do, personal development, has affected me physically, mentally, and emotionally. In terms of the physical aspects of my training, I can say with certainty that Life Ki-do has not only made me much more physically fit than I would be under different circumstances, but has also given me a tremendous number of valuable skills that will help me throughout the rest of my life. By learning to flow and work with partners in a way that is beneficial to everyone involved, for example, has greatly increased my ability to connect with people on a deeper level. Indeed, I would say that the different facets of Life Ki-do development should not be analyzed separately, but rather as pieces that come together to form a beautiful human being. As I had mentioned earlier with the physical benefits of my training, the connectedness that results from a physical flow will inevitably lead to the emotional benefit of connectedness. Similarly, having these feelings of connectedness will also lead to a heightened sense of empathy, which in turn will result in a greater level of maturity and wisdom within the person experiencing these feelings. This is exactly the type of path which I had went through, and is one that I continue to journey on each and every day. With each flow, movement, and breath, I can feel myself becoming stronger in all of the facets of my being.
Along with learning to connect with other people on a deeper level, Life Ki-do has also allowed me to develop a closer relationship with myself. For many years, I was a somewhat closed-off individual, and felt as though I was incapable of communicating effectively with others. Although it may be natural to assume that this would stem from a difficulty in connecting with others, I think that the problem actually lay in connecting with myself. If a person cannot believe in themselves or their own abilities, or feel like they are capable of properly expressing themselves, then healthy communication with other people is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Through my Life Ki-do training, I feel like I have grown exponentially healthier in this respect, and although I still have a lot to work on, it is getting better and better each day.
In terms of how my training has helped me to overcome adversity outside of the dojo, I think the most compelling example that I could give would be the period in which I reentered public school after over five years of being out of the system. To make matters even more difficult, I had to reenter during my Junior year of high school, which as many people would back me up on, is one of the hardest years of your education, as you have to begin preparing for college and take a number of stressful and highly important tests such as the SAT/ACT, etc. Despite the immense challenge that I was faced with during this period of my life, however, I found the strength to push on, which I firmly believe was a direct result of the mental discipline and self-understanding that I have developed over the many years that I have at trained in Life Ki-do. By being true to myself and calming myself down in stressful situations with my breathing, as well as adhering to the principle of living in the moment, I was able to adjust extremely well to my new environment, both academically and socially. Through this period, I was able to make new friends, get good grades, and even score a 5 (highest score possible) on one of my AP exams. After I have been through all that I have in my Junior (and now Senior) year in high school, I know that I can truly take on and accomplish anything that I set my mind to.
As I continue to live and grow as a human being, I can feel each day a change occurring within me. This change is something that is difficult, if not impossible, to describe, but it is, in essence, a feeling that I am getting closer and closer to who I truly want to be. The amount of growth that I have experienced in the past eight years at Life Ki-do is something which I don’t think the average person would be able to achieve in a lifetime. Now that I am entering adulthood, I feel prepared to tackle any challenges that life wishes to throw at me. No matter how hard something may be to achieve or adapt to in the beginning, I know that, ultimately, I will be able to succeed at anything I choose to do. To me, the most important lesson anyone could ever learn from Life Ki-do is that we are all capable of becoming anything we want to be, and that as long as we are willing to accept and love other people and ourselves, as well as live in the moment and give each situation and experience our full attention and effort, there is nothing that can stop us from fulfilling our dreams and becoming beautiful human beings.”