Live Happy and Confident from the Inside Out


Dear Parents,

Don’t miss the last tournaments of the school year! Our Samurai Tournament is scheduled for Sat, April 19th from 4-6pm and our Power Ninja Tournament is scheduled for Sat, April 26th from 4-5:15pm. Our Life Ki-do tournaments give your child an opportunity to be challenged to deepen their ability to find their center, care for others, and do their best while being in a tournament environment.  Register now before they sell out!  Click here

SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVING IS EASY – What Changes at Life Ki-do in the Summer?
Our class schedule remains unchanged throughout the summer months. 


Don’t miss our special summer-only ninja training, back this year due to popular demand!! Each week during the months of June, July, and August, we will focus on one of these super-fun ninja activities:

  • Ninja Throwing Star Obstacle Course
  • Kung Fu Swords
  • Boxing & Kickboxing

The special ninja training will be held in ALL regular classes and doesn’t require purchase of any additional gear or equipment. Lots of cool, indoor not-to-be-missed fun!

UNLIMITED SUMMER TRAINING PACKAGE – Come as often as you like!
New and current students are invited to take extra classes over the summer by enrolling in our Unlimited Summer Training Package. For only $155/month, Family Tiger 45 minute class students, Power Ninja, Samurai or Teen/Adult students can attend as many classes as they would like each week and exponentially improve their martial arts skills over the summer. Little Dragons or Family Tiger 30 minute class students can train unlimited for only $120/month. You just come when you please; no scheduling or calling ahead.
Please contact Jeff to sign up –  or 512/327-2900

SUMMER VACATION PLANS? – Let us help you!
Whether your family is staying in Austin or out of town for the summer, we have membership options that address everyone’s needs. We encourage you to keep your child as connected as possible to maximize the benefits from their life skills and martial arts training.

1. SUMMER FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE – Our Summer Flexible Schedule is designed to flow with your summer plans during June, July and August. Your child can switch days and do make-up classes without you having to call ahead or schedule the change. Come when it works for you! We have classes 6 days/week – just please make sure to stay within your child’s same class level. If you aren’t sure which classes work, just ask!  Unlike the Unlimited Program, this is not something you need to sign up for.  Please only attend the number of classes per week you are currently enrolled for.

2. FREEZING – With this option, you pay $25/month (for 30 min classes) or $30/month (for 45 min classes) for June, July and/or August to hold your child’s spot in your class – this ensures your child will have a spot in the class and avoid our regular fall waiting lists.  To do a summer freeze, please fill out the freeze form by clicking here

FACEBOOK EXCLUSIVE GROUPS – New private groups exclusively for Life Ki-do Students!
We have our regular Facebook page where anyone can “like” us, but in order to provide the parents and students who come here pictures and videos from class, inspirational and educational information as well as communication from Life Ki-do Instructors, we have created 2 new Facebook Groups.  One is open to all current students and parents of current students.  The other is exclusively for students and parents of students who are in our Leadership group.  To be invited to join these, aside from having already set up your own Facebook page, please email Jeff at and request an invite be sent to you.  Make sure to send that request from the email account tied to your Facebook page.





There will be no classes from Monday, March 10th through Saturday, March 15 for Spring Break. We will resume classes on Monday, March 17. Feel free to contact Jeff to schedule a make-up class for the class your child will miss during the break or book your make-up class online here: (requires you to login in to see our class schedule).

SUMMER FUN PREVIEW – A taste of what’s to come this summer!
During the month of March, we will be previewing the Summer Fun curriculum we’ll be teaching in June, July and August. Students will have the opportunity to practice super fun activities like Kickboxing, Obstacle Course with Ninja stars, and Kung Fu Swords. This month we will also be teaching concepts and exercises from our Stronger than Bullying program.

HAVE A NEW CREDIT CARD? – Need to update your payment method?
We have seen over one hundred affected by the recent issues with Target, so if you are among them and have not yet updated your credit card with us, while you can always call or give it to us in person, you also have the option to upload a new payment method conveniently and securely online.  Just go here:

LOST AND FOUND – Missing your stuff?
We have 3 wicker crates near our front door filled with lost items from classes in the past 4-6 weeks.  Please check here on your next visit if your child is missing any clothing or gear.  We will empty out these bins on Friday March 7th, so please remember to check if you are missing anything.

MARCH PARENTS NIGHT OUT – Power Ninja students and siblings or friends!
Our Parent’s Nights Out continue to be a huge success and sell out every time.  Our March night is for Power Ninja age students (5-7; kinder and first grade) and friends with slightly older siblings OK.  Here at the dojo from 5:30-8pm on Saturday, March 22nd.  Sign up while spots are still available!

Our next Life Ki-do Focus Tournaments will be held on Sat, April 19 from 4-6pm for the Samurai  classes and Power Ninjas on Sat, April 26 from 4-5:15. You don’t want to miss these fun events!  Register now!

We have a tight class schedule, limited parking and our staff need proper time to prepare for classes, so we would like to enlist everyone’s cooperation in not arriving more than 5 minutes prior to your class’ start time.

Life Ki-do is offering lots of fun karate camps for current/former students and friends of all levels, ages 5-19!  Get all the details and register here:

GETTING YOUR EMAILS?  – Make sure to update Life Ki-do when you change your email addresses
We don’t sell email addresses or use them for any purpose other than communicating directly with you about your child and things happening at Life Ki-do; class/schedule changes, belt testing and other important information.  I have, however, noticed a number of folks seem to not be getting our emails.  If you aren’t seeing at least 2-3 per month from us, in addition to our monthly newsletter, then something is wrong.  Please email Jeff at to make sure we have your current email address on file, and if a spouse/significant other/child has a 2nd email address we can add, we can do that too.  Those emails (which are different from ones we might send you individually and different than our monthly newsletters) come from the email address .  It would be a great idea to add that email address to your address books to ensure they don’t go to your spam folder.

OUR LATEST BLOG POST! – A truly touching & insightful post by Sensei Doug
To read “See Through Your Heart Instead of Your Eyes and Connect to the Core of Humanity,” visit

P.S. Our Referral Program: Referrals from happy Life Ki-do families are the #1 way we reach new students. For any new students you bring us outside of your immediate family, we will automatically give them $25 off their registration fee, and we will also give you $25 Life Ki-do credit (can be used towards tuition, merchandise or gear, camp or any other program we have).  We appreciate you supporting all that we do.



See Through Your Heart Instead of Your Eyes and Connect to the Core of Humanity

We all become happier, better friends to ourselves and everyone when we learn to look through the understanding of our heart instead of just our eyes.

by Sensei Doug Diamond/Youth Program Director

Our heart is a tool

Yesterday in class we were about to practice nunchaku, so I was reminding the kids that the nunchucks are not toys, and also not weapons, (at least not in the way that we use them) rather they are tools for making ourselves stronger, happier, and more skilled.  I asked the class if they knew of any other useful tools that can help us with our various goals in life.  Some people talked about physical tools like a hammer and a drill for building and fixing things.  Other children talked about some of the inner life tools that we practice in Life Ki-do like the focus of your brain, body, and breathing, and your River Effort.

During the brief group discussion one very young, and usually very quiet boy raised his hand timidly, but when I called on him he shied away from expressing his thoughts in front of the class.  We moved on and I honestly forgot about that moment until maybe 5 minutes after I’d dismissed the class and everyone else had left the mats.  I noticed that same young boy was standing there next to me, completely still, staring at me in silent anticipation.  I could tell he was unsure when I approached him to ask what he was waiting for, and then he said very clearly and quietly:

“I thought of another tool we can use…”  Followed by a long pause with sustained eye contact, like he was looking for something in me.  Then he said simply, ”your heart.”

When I heard him say that I was taken aback by the stillness in his eyes as they looked into mine without the slightest wavering.  I asked him what kind of job he thought his heart was useful for?  He couldn’t really explain, so I questioned a bit further.   “Are you using that tool right now?” I asked- and for the first time I saw absolute recognition in him.  I could see that he knew I finally understood him.  Then he added (to my open amazement):

“You can use your heart to see with, like your eyes.”

The quality of connection and communication that I experienced with this wise young student is indicative of the goal and benefit of training in Life Ki-do.  We all become happier, better friends to ourselves and everyone when we learn to look through the understanding of our heart instead of just our eyes.  The eyes are miraculously astute at identifying, categorizing, and organizing; and as a byproduct, our eyes give us a sense of separation from the object of our perception.  Our heart, on the other hand, knows how to see deeper.  Our heart can see past the many differences on the surface which seem to distinguish us from each other, making us feel separate and isolated.  Our hearts- all of our hearts- have the innate capacity to connect to the common core of what we are as humans.   The heart has the true inner vision to see the same goodness in all of us, and that is what brings us together.  Where the eyes seek to divide, the heart seeks to unite and come together.  The eyes know how to analyze, the heart knows how to love.

 I will not soon forget the lesson I received yesterday from one of our young Life Ki-do masters.  Because of his courageous expression I am recommitted to checking in with my deepest inner tool before I put my trust in what my eyes tell me is true.

February Newsletter

Dear Parents,

WINTER TOURNAMENTS! – Power Ninja & Samurai Tournaments happening soon!
Life Ki-do Tournaments are a wonderful complement to regular classes and give students an opportunity to practice their focus and martial arts skills as well as to develop their confidence. The Focus Tournaments nurture the art of doing one’s personal best rather than emphasizing competition. The Power Ninja Tournament is Saturday February 8th from 4-5pm.  The Samurai Tournament will be Saturday, February 15th from 4-6pm.  Register now before they sell out at .   We will have a spring round of tournaments coming up in April.  The Samurai tournament is almost completely full but we have lots of space for Power Ninjas!

PARENTS NIGHT OUT – February 22nd!
Due to the overwhelming success of our Parent’s Night Out in January for Power Ninja age kids, we will be repeating this in February (hopefully monthly if the demand holds out) for all Samurai level kids ages 7-11.  Open to current students, siblings and friends.  Saturday, February 22nd from 5:30-8pm.  Get more info and/or register here:

Every year we find it strange to be talking about summer plans in February, but here we are again. Life Ki-do is offering lots of fun karate camps for current/former students and friends of all levels, ages 5-19!  Get all the details and register here:

BIRTHDAY PARTIES WITH SENSEI DOUG – A Life Ki-do karate birthday party with Sensei Doug is always a huge success!
If you didn’t already know, Sensei Doug does birthday parties!  Parties are either on Saturdays afternoons or on Sundays. Typically they are here at the dojo but if you want to coordinate an off-site event, just ask him!  More information, pricing and contact information for Sensei Doug is here.

MISSING A CLASS? – Feel free to contact us to schedule a make up class.
If you aren’t able to attend your normal class day/time you don’t need to let us know as we take attendance in every class.  We do, however, encourage  you to make up any missed classes within 30 days of missing.  You can schedule make up classes online here – (which requires you to log in to your Life Ki-do account).  Alternately you are welcome to call or email Jeff to schedule a make-up class (ideally 24+ hours before the make-up).

Need to update your method of payment securely online?  Want to book a trial class for you or a friend?  Need to update registration information?  Those links and more are available on our website.  Go here to see more:

If you are relatively new to us, you may not be fully aware of the martial arts style we teach. Our award-winning martial arts system is a unique blend developed by our founder Sensei Jonathan. He designs our weekly Life Ki-do curriculum based on the Russian Art of Systema, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Karate, mindfulness based Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and self-defense training. Of course, every class uses the medium of martial arts to teach valuable life skills as well. Over the past 20 years our martial arts program has become renowned for its unique quality of being both nurturing and empowering as well being safe and lots of fun!

LOSE A GIFT CARD AT LIFE KI-DO?  Answer a few questions to claim your cash!
About 7-10 days ago we found a gift card at the dojo after a class had ended and everyone left.  Thus far no one has asked about it, so if you can tell me the type of card and the approximate balance on it and where you last used it; it’s yours!  I was able to log into the card company to see those things but it did not tell me the user’s name unfortunately.  Please email Jeff with those answers by 2/7/14.

January Newsletter

Dear Parents,

CLASS START UP – The Dojo is back in action
As you know, we’ve been on holiday through the end of the Christmas and New Year’s season. We have returned to our normal class schedule starting today.  Fuzzy on our class schedule?  See it here!

FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE OVER – Please call or email to schedule make ups or to switch days
We have been running our “flexible schedule”, as we do all summer, since right before Thanksgiving.   This allowed you to do make ups or switch days without having to call ahead or schedule. Now that we are out of the holiday season, please make sure to let us know in advance anytime you are coming on a day other than your normal scheduled day(s). You can use this link to schedule makeups (same age/class level please).  Alternately you can schedule with Jeff at or 512/327-2900.

HUFFPOST ARTICLE – 2 Steps to a Fresh Start this New Year for Parents & Kids
The beginning of a brand new year can be a wonderful time of reflection — to look back and to look forward, to let go of regrets and to be open to new opportunities. This coming year is still a blank page but whether you have a specific New Year’s resolution or you are just ready for a fresh start, you need a game plan. Read more…

MLK HOLIDAY – We are open!
We will be open and holding classes on Monday, January 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

We have a tight class schedule, limited parking and our staff need proper time to prepare for classes, so we would like to remind everyone to not arrive more than 5 minutes prior to your classes start time.

VIVA LA REVOLUTION – Jeff gets his 15 minutes
Academy Director Jeff Campbell took off a rare Friday in October to be an extra on the NBC TV show Revolution. His episode, #10 (“The Three Amigos”), airs Wednesday, January 8th. While he could end up on the cutting room floor, if you don’t blink, you might actually catch a glimpse of him. If you are familiar with the show, which films in and around Austin, Jeff plays a “Patriot” commander attending a cocktail party at the White House (probably the only time he’ll get to claim that!).

FACEBOOK EXCLUSIVE GROUPS – Reminder- private groups exclusively for Life Ki-do Students!
We have our regular Facebook page where anyone can “like” us, but in order to provide the parents and students who come here pictures and videos from class, inspirational and educational information as well as communication from Life Ki-do Instructors, we have created 2 new Facebook Groups. One is open to all current students and parents of current students. The other is exclusively for students and parents of students who are members of our Leadership Team. All of our instructors are now on board and will be posting curriculum, photos and videos from class and other “windows” into what we and your children do at Life Ki-do!   To be invited to join these, aside from having already set up your own Facebook page, please email Jeff at and request an invite be sent to you. Make sure to send that request from the email account tied to your Facebook page.

The Secret To Instilling Self-Worth In Our Kids

What is validation?  How do we both feel value in ourselves and instill a sense of value (ie: self-worth/esteem) in our children, students, employees, etc?

by Jeff Campbell/Academy Director

Sensei Jonathan and his wife Lana address the ideas of validation and the failures of the “American Happiness Formula” (Look Good + Perform Well + Get Approval = Happiness) in their outstanding book Life Ki-do Parenting; Tools to Raise Happy, Confident Kids from the Inside Out.  Since they have already spoken so eloquently, I don’t want to repeat that, and I certainly encourage you to read the book.  But I do, however, want to speak about my own feelings and observations both in the dojo, at home as a parent, and in the world at large.

Everywhere we go, we see examples of society encouraging validation through some sort of external approval system.  We’re literally bombarded from a young age with a reward/punishment system where we feel good when we meet someone else’s expectations and feel poorly about ourselves when we fall short of someone else’s opinion of how or what we should be doing (based on their criteria).  In my daughter’s school, for instance, they have a daily color-coded system to acknowledge good or poor behavior.  Thus my girls are constantly bragging when they get on pink or orange (the best) and feeling bad when they only get to green or a lower color, and feeling competitive about beating each other or other students.  Even beyond that, they have a “rock star of the week” profile hanging in the hallway where 1 student out of each class is singled out each week as the best.  In truth, I suspect they rotate through all children for the rock star so that no child feels left out, but it is still a means by which the kids are not only encouraged to feel good about themselves due to some external recognition, but pushed to feel superior to those who didn’t make the cut that week.  Thus those not chosen feel varying levels of disappointment when, in fact, they may have been trying just as hard, or harder, than the student chosen.  Have this happen daily from kindergarten through 12th grade, and you have the exact scenario literally programmed into our children’s heads that describe the “American Happiness Formula”.

Now here in the dojo, it’s not that we don’t encourage children to feel good about themselves or their accomplishments; we do very much so.  But we want them to seek that approval from themselves and to take pride in their own feelings of accomplishment based on how they feel about their effort; not by how they did compared to someone else, not because an instructor said so, or by some rating system.  True, we do have belt color levels as most martial arts schools do, and that is a rating by which students could compare themselves to one another.  However, we encourage students to view the belt as a symbol of their own merits and the effort and focus they put in every week in working towards that belt level, and not as a means of comparing themselves to someone else.

Taken further, how many teens, both boys and girls, see, through movies, TV and media, examples of how they are supposed to look or dress or style their hair or manage their weight?  How many fall short of this societal mark and then feel bad about themselves?  Is it any wonder we see incident rates of teen depression, anxiety, anorexia or even suicide as teen’s feelings of self worth plummet in the struggle to feel like they measure up to their peers or society’s message of who and what they should be?  What if we could simply encourage them to do their very best, knowing that one child’s “very best” might be very different from anothers?    What if we simply encouraged them to feel good no matter where they fall compared to others and rather than scold, ridicule or belittle failure, we simply encouraged the lessons to be learned from that failure and recognized the growth potential in learning from our failures?

I began to think about this topic and formulate my ideas for a blog about it, after overhearing Sensei Jonathan discuss the downside of saying “good job” to children when he was being interviewed for a TV show.  As he explained, this was teaching children to place value on themselves by someone else’s standards; external validation.  I began to realize I had been saying that phrase to my 5 and 6 year old daughters their entire life.  I had been programming them to feel good about themselves when I said it, and programming them to feel bad when I didn’t.  I realized this gave no emphasis on how they felt about their own effort; it was 100% tied up in the value placed on my opinion.  Thus, based on Sensei Jonathan’s wisdom, I began to really focus on my words to my children, and when I would catch myself offering them validation, I did my best to turn it around to where they describe to me how they felt about their own effort.   Instead of saying “good job” every time they do something well (or just follow directions), I ask them how doing something well made them feel about themselves or I ask them to describe what they did and how they felt about accomplishing it.  It’s not a perfect science, and having been programmed myself to say “good job” on a regular basis, it will take time to break myself of the habit.  But I will strive to put my best “river effort” towards that goal.

Now, don’t take any of this to mean that I never compliment my kids.  I do, and I hope they never doubt my love, faith and belief in them as people.  I just don’t want the entirety of their own feelings of self worth to be wrapped up in my remembering to compliment them, or failing to do so.  They are strong, beautiful, loving, intelligent young women, and I want them to realize that for themselves and never doubt it amidst a sea of bombardment trying to force them to seek validation outside themselves.

They should look to me for support, love and acceptance, but look within for validation, self-worth and self-esteem.

December Newsletter

Dear Parents,

There will be no classes from Thursday, Dec 19th through Wednesday, January 1st. We re-open for normal class schedule on Thursday, January 2nd.  We hope your family has a wonderful holiday season and that your home is filled with joy and gratitude. Feel free to make up any missed classes before or after the holiday within 30 days from the date of the missed class(es). With our holiday Flexible Schedule now in effect, you do not need to call ahead or schedule make up classes. The Flexible Schedule ends January 2nd so after that time, please call or email ahead to schedule a make-up.

Our Friday Samurai and Samurai Intermediate classes are generally the smallest of the whole week, so starting Friday, January 3rd, we are opening our Friday 3:30 class to a mix of regular Samurai and Samurai Intermediate students.  Then we are opening our Friday 4:30 class to a mix of both Samurai Intermediate and Samurai Advanced students. If you are already registered in one of these 2 classes, you don’t need to do anything.  If you would like to move to one of these 2 classes, please contact Jeff at or 512/327-2900.

REMINDER – NOVEMBER/DECEMBER TESTING – December 12th- December 18th
Due to the holidays, we will be combining the November and December tests in the middle of December. The last day of the 7 day testing period is also the last day we are open before Christmas so if your child is eligible to test and you are unable to attend on one of the testing days, we recommend waiting for the January test.  IF your child is eligible to test, you will get an email on or about 12/4.

We have received quite a number of complaints from neighboring businesses that Life Ki-do parents are using their designated spots for parking and/or for drop off and pick-up. Many of our downstairs neighbors have 2-3 designated parking spaces reserved for their customers. As you can imagine, we have literally hundreds of students parking here for 30-45+ minutes 6 days a week and that can definitely strain the parking lot below. Please help us keep our neighbors happy by not parking in any parking space designated for a specific business; EVEN if you are just dropping off or picking up. While the number of spaces directly in front of our building is small, factoring in the spaces facing Bee Caves, the lot behind our building and the other outlying areas, there should be enough spaces to keep everyone happy. Keeping a positive relationship with our neighbors and landlord is very important and we thank you in advance for doing your part!

WHEN DOES MY CHILD TEST? – the Life Ki-do Belt Mystery Explained
A very common question here at the dojo is “when does my child get their next belt?” The table below shows the minimum amount of time required to advance to the next belt level. Please keep in mind that attendance, focus and effort during these time periods are all taken into consideration. Remember too that each color belt has 3 levels (solid, solid plus white stripe & solid plus black stripe). Thus the duration listed below applies to all 3 levels per color.  All belt levels are used in all classes with the exception of White with 1 or 2 Yellow Stripe belts.  Those are exclusively for our Family Tiger or Little Dragons. All other classes go right from White belt to Yellow belt when they test.  Feel free to take a look at the belt order displayed behind the front desk.

White, Yellow, Gold, Purple 3 months
Purple White Stripe – Orange Black  Stripe 3 months
Blue – Blue Black Stripe 4 months
Green – Green Black Stripe 6 months
Red – Red Black Stripe 6 months
Brown – Brown Black Stripe 8 months
1st Degree Midnight Blue 8 months
2nd Degree Midnight Blue or higher/Black 1 year

HELP FEED THE LESS FORTUNATE – Food drive going until 12/18!
As we do every year, we have a drop box for food donations for the Capital Area Food Bank.  Items that work best include: unopened canned, jarred or boxed items NOT past their expiration date.  High demand items are jarred peanut butter, canned veggies and beans, healthy boxed cereals and jarred pasta sauce.  You can donate as often as you like (we will deliver to the food bank as often as the box fills) through Wednesday, December 18th.   For more information or to help them directly, please go to .





Stop Struggling With Challenges And Accept Them As The Perfect Challenge Instead

How sensitive and aware are we of our moment to moment affect on those around us? How much of the time are we only hearing our inner dialogue and not truly listening?

by Sensei Doug Diamond/Youth Program Director

In addition to teaching classes at the dojo, I have the opportunity to work with elementary students at Parkside Community School as their P.E. teacher. I use Life Ki-do tools and philosophy in the classes, even though it’s not a true martial arts class. On a recent morning there the students requested some challenging work, and I opted to introduce them to a safe striking drill from Systema which requires partners to place their fists carefully on their partner and push.

This is confronting work. How sensitive and aware are we of our moment to moment affect on those around us? How much of the time are we only hearing our inner dialogue and not truly listening? These are questions that become very important to be successful as a team in the drill. The answers also go to the heart of our sense of who we are within any social context.

I selected partners for the group, trying to match the students based mostly on size and age. After asking the 2 biggest third grade boys in class to work with each other, I heard one of them say under his breath, “we don’t even like each other.” As a teacher I was filled with conflicted feelings. On one hand, this is the last thing you ever want to hear a student say about a fellow member of their class. On the other hand, this level of honesty presented an incredible opportunity to process this natural social challenge.

In Life Ki-do, we always look for the opportunity to use a challenge in any area of our life to grow stronger. This approach to challenges has had a profound impact on my own faith in life. Instead of feeling controlled by the external conditions I find myself in, more and more I can see the opportunity for my own growth in each new challenge life presents. More and more we can stop struggling with the challenge at hand like something imposed on us against our will, because we begin to discover the courage to accept it as the perfect challenge for us instead.

After hearing the surprising comment I asked the two boys for confirmation. “It’s true,” confessed the other boy. “Even when we try to get along we end up mad at each other.” I congratulated them for their calm, direct honesty with me and each other. Neither of these guys wanted to put the other one down. I sensed a rare opportunity :)

“Now that we have the truth out in the open,” I responded, “you guys have a powerful choice to make. You can leave this relationship the way it is, and I will not ask you to work together because that could become dangerous. Or, you could make a very difficult and risky choice and try to make this friendship better for both of you, right now.” Both boys were quiet for a moment, then the boy who first admitted to the challenge said, “I’ll try if he does.” To which his partner replied, “okay.”

And that was the moment things shifted, big-time. They had reached a common ground where they could accept the challenge together and cooperate towards making it better. The density in the air between them literally changed with those words. “I’ll try if you will,” was the perfect reply. It expressed both this boy’s true courage to work on it, as well as his real need to know he could count on his friend to help. Because friendship is partnership, and partnership requires teamwork- with the emphasis on work. Our kids need this work to grow strong as people and social beings. We can embrace the inevitable challenges of friendship as partner work, and use it to strengthen our sensitivity and clear communication. It is only through these challenges that we learn the big life lessons that lead to humility, understanding, tolerance, and compassion.

The boys started the striking drill together, slowly, and I left them to monitor the rest of the class. I did not check back with them for the duration of their work- maybe 15 minutes total. At the end of class I asked the group for feedback on their experience with the martial arts work, and their teamwork.

One of the boys who had said he didn’t like his partner raised his hand immediately. I called on him: “I would like to give my partner a complement,” he started. His partner’s eyes got wide as the boy continued. “Every time my partner put a fist on me, he checked on me to see if I was okay. Sometimes he’d ask me, and sometimes he’d just look at me and see if I was okay.”

I saw the other boy’s eyes light up when he heard this. I probed a little more for my own understanding, and also to help illustrate the power of what he’d done to the boy listening to this feedback about his choices and actions.
“How did it make you feel?” I asked the boy who was talking.
“I felt cared for, and safe,” was his simple answer.
The listening boy was now beaming with a knowing smile. He knew by what he heard from his partner, and felt in his own heart, that they’d risen above the challenge together, as a team.

“That sounds like a big improvement in your friendship,” I noted. “Do you think this might help you get along better with each other from now on?” Both of them nodded with a look of true confidence on their faces. They were confident because they’d both had a real, tangible experience of bringing their deepest care and inner strength to a challenging moment of friendship- and making it better, together.

We can all improve our moment to moment interactions with more conscious, honest communication when we accept the natural challenge of working with others, and move in the direction of mutual understanding, one baby-step at a time…

With Courage
With Care
The Life Ki-do Way

How A Bully Vowed To Never Fight Again

Essential to our long term happiness,  how to use River Effort to  awaken our innate, universal drive to care for ourselves and each other.

by Sensei Doug Diamond/Youth Program Director

I have a son in kindergarten, and last week I had the opportunity to sit and speak with his class for 20 minutes. Our discussion centered around River Effort which is a term we use at Life Ki-do meaning a self-identified and self-maintained state of feeling good about who you are and what you are doing by focusing on the quality of what you are putting into this moment, rather than trying to get the sense of how we are doing and who we are from others. What I learned from these 5 and 6 year olds reaffirmed to me the transformative and empowering experience of feeling our own highest effort.

At the end of our interactive discussion about River Effort, we used a few simple Qigong breathing and movement exercises to see if we could create an experience of River Effort that the kids could all feel and identify. I was moved by the deep focus and commitment to this experiment that I saw invested by each and every child. It seemed to be their nature to move their bodies with a lucid, luminous awareness of themselves and everything around them. My son’s teacher also participated fully in our work and was visibly changed from it.

After attempting to feel our breath move into various parts of our body, we all held hands and tried to share the feeling of inhaling and exhaling with the people next to us, and finally with the whole circle. It took a few breaths, but on one group inhale in which I simply asked the group to attempt to inflate the entire circle of people, the group of kids and adults spontaneously and fluidly rose to their feet in unison, every hand and every mind helping another with strength and grace.

It was a beautiful surprise for me to witness, and the look of excitement and understanding on the young faces is one that I can still see clearly. “I get it, I can feel it!” was one of the exclamations that I heard from the group at that moment. I was inspired to ask for more feedback from these wise young people, and I heard so many descriptions of true inner strength and well being that I cannot list them all. “I felt calm,” “I felt happy,” “I felt strong and comfortable,” were a few.

One boy’s comment stuck with me in particular, since on a previous lunch visit with their class this boy had courageously admitted to me that he had just punched a child on the playground because he was so mad that he couldn’t control himself. When I asked how they were feeling after helping each other with River Effort, the same boy rose his hand and said (with the profound simplicity only a child can summon), “I feel like I never want to fight again.” Unprompted and unsolicited! Why did he say that he felt like he never wanted to fight again? I believe it was very simply because this sweet young boy, who at this point in his life is having a real challenge with his self control, for a brief moment experienced the strength inside to be who he really knows he is.

What we call River Effort is an integrated experience of ourselves that empowers our highest capacities for focus, ability, and perseverance. Maybe even more essential to our long term happiness, the young boy in my son’s class reminded me that River Effort also awakens our innate, universal drive to care for ourselves and each other.

With courage.

With care.

The Life Ki-do Way.

Good Day with Scarlett Greyson – 10/25/13 Clip

Good Day’s Scarlett Greyson sits down with Sensei Jonathan to discuss one step you can take to become a better parent. Read more: