3636 Bee Caves Rd. #212
Austin, TX 78746
(512) 327-2900
1200 Lakeway Dr. #5
Lakeway, TX 78734
(512) 900-1323
3636 Bee Caves Rd. #212
Austin, TX 78746
(512) 327-2900
1200 Lakeway Dr. #5
Lakeway, TX 78734
(512) 900-1323
free trial class

What Life Ki-do Martial Arts Means to Me – Black Belt Essay

By Sensei Deven Penn

I find it hard to put into words what Life Ki-do has done for me as a teacher, as a martial artist, and as a human being.   In Life Ki-do we practice many things but within everything we do try to breathe, listen, be present, and come from a place of love. We learn to listen to others and to ourselves to a depth at which for me was previously unconscious.  In class we listen to our body and environment for information, our emotional brain for guidance, and our conscious brain for decision. We regulate our breath to respond accordingly, as opposed to react.  Always trying to be mindful of the environment and our self.  We bring this practice into our lives to live more fulfilled, joyful, and loving lives everyday.

Before I worked at Life Ki-do I was working as a teacher at Parkside, a Montessori school in town.  For the 4 years I was there, Sensei Doug used to come every Monday and teach our class Life Ki-do.  The things he would teach us were things I’ve always wanted to hear, and things I know to be true.  Be your own best friend, be kind, strong, compassionate, and always remember to breathe.  I started to work in summer camps on my summers off and became introduced to Sensei Jonathan and Sensei Gene. This world of a kind, healing, and spiritual martial arts practice became available.

When I first started to train I was suffering greatly from a broken bone in my back that caused some disc damage.  I was extremely hesitant being that I had very limited experience in martial arts and a fairly severe injury.  I had tried physical therapy, decompression therapy, injections, yoga, and many other treatments with little to no success.  Slowly, I found that with rolls and the animal movements we do in Life Ki-do my back was slowly able to strengthen and heal in a way I though was impossible.  This training still keeps my back healthy to this day.

This training has changed the way my body works, both internally and externally.  My physical body has grown to the strongest and most physically fit I have ever been in my life.  My flexibility, stamina, and conditioning are also at the highest level I have ever experienced.  Life Ki-do has also changed the way I deal with internal challenges.  Emotional stress, frustration, anger, and sadness are all things that we as human deal with, but in Life Ki-do we use these challenges to practice taking care of ourselves.  When we wrestle and spar with each other we experience all these feelings in a very tactile but safe way.  By engaging in these emotionally and physically stressful exercises we can see how our body and brain respond.  I find that this level of introspection is unique to Life Ki-do, and the way we practice with one another.  I never thought I could punch and kick someone with love and compassion, much less receive these things with an open heart, but in Life Ki-do we use these tools to heal and build each other up.

The students that practice with us inspire me everyday.  They bring a boundless joy and passion for life that you can’t help but revel in.  Their courage and kindness for one another is indomitable.  My teachers at Life Ki-do have helped me to find reverence in life and to meet every challenge with love in my heart.  Working with these wonderful people encourages me everyday to do my very best, to get a little better, and to have fun.  I don’t think I could ever truly express how this practice has changed me because it changes me everyday.

Are Life Ki-do and Karate the same?

By Sensei Jonathan Hewitt, founder of Life Ki-do Martial Arts, Parenting & Life Education

Karate Throw

I grew up doing different forms of karate and my perception of the teaching approach, character training, and martial arts movement was that they all were snappy, tight, structured and very disciplined. However, when I looked back at some of the history and meaning of Karate, I was a little surprised to see things such as “In Karate-Do Kyohan, Funakoshi quoted from the Heart: “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form itself” (shiki zokuze kū kū zokuze shiki).” Somehow I didn’t perceive or internalize this empty feeling when I was practicing karate in my youth.


But reading that quote reminded me that the goal of most martial arts training is a healthy body, mind and spirit. The idea isn’t to go around and wear a pose of “I’m tough and I can beat people up.” It’s actually quite the contrary. The goal of martial arts is to come to peace with our own inner challenges and find a way to move in the world with confidence, competence and care toward others. So, from that perspective Life Ki-do and Karate are the same.


Although I’ve found the goal and foundation of Life Ki-do Martial Arts and traditional Karate to be the same, there are also some fundamental differences.

  • Teaching Approach: Science has shown that people learn best in a safe and nurturing environment. Therefore, at Life Ki-do we have made a conscious effort to create a warm and safe environment for children, teens, and adults to learn so they can best internalize the training. In my experience of many Karate teachers, it seemed like the military approach of someone in command telling others what to do was the main teaching style. I’m not saying that may not be preferable for some people, but for me, I have found our approach more enjoyable and effective.
  • Character Training: In many of the Karate schools I went to throughout my life, the character training had a militant flavor to it. This is by no means meant to put down that approach. Our Life Ki-do team and I just prefer a more fluid approach that we feel is healthier for our bodies, minds and spirits and carries over in a very tangible way to finding flow and fulfillment in ones life.
  • Martial Arts: Karate classes usually consist of one-step self defense moves, forms, and sparring. The quality of movement is usually very snappy. Although we incorporate most of these components and drills into our Life Ki-do Martial Arts curriculum, we like to apply the fluid approach to all of our training, whether it’s self defense, forms, takedowns, wrestling or sparring.

So, yes, Life Ki-do and Karate are the same AND they are very different. For more info, check out our Life Ki-do approach or our FAQ page or feel free to email us anytime with specific questions at or call us at 512-327-2900.

Finding the River Within

By Sensei Jonathan Hewitt, founder of Life Ki-do Martial Arts, Parenting & Life Education

Go with the flow. A profound way to live but sometimes that’s easier said than done and what exactly does that mean anyway?! Growing up, I powered through life. My goal was to be the best, the fastest, and the most popular. I was in control and I was going to make it all happen. But wait? Was I really in control? And even when I won the gold medals and got the approval, why did I feel so empty inside?

I realized at a pretty young age that I needed to look inside rather than outside for peace, fulfillment and happiness, and I spent many years searching for answers studying martial arts, psychology, mindfulness and meditation. What I’ve come to is a place I call the River.

One of the reasons I liked this word is because I work with children and it’s an easy concept for kids to understand and relate to. But it also really describes perfectly a beautiful way to live – rivers are always flowing and always moving towards something greater. Inevitably there will be obstacles in its way but the River moves around those obstacles and never gets stuck. To me, the River is about putting your heart into life and giving it your all.

What it doesn’t mean is being perfect. I call the two opposites of River – Ice and Puddle. Being like Ice is trying too hard, feeling pressured and stressed. Being like a Puddle is not trying enough, feeling lazy, bored and disinterested. The thing is that we are ALL like Ice and Puddle sometimes. It’s part of being a human being. The important thing is to not get stuck in judging ourselves and instead keep returning to the River over and over. It’s a fluid state, remember? Not a fixed, end all state of perfection.

Finding the River has not only transformed my life but also transformed the way I teach martial arts. I grew up and also taught for many years, a rigid traditional type of martial arts. The techniques were based on a set of pre-set circumstances – he does this move so you follow with that move. But life never happens that way, right? So why not practice martial arts in a way that reflects how we want to live life – dealing with spontaneous situations in a fluid manner. We practice how to take an opposing force and use it to redirect the flow. In martial arts, this might be a physical force but in life it can be any circumstance or even (and most commonly!) our own inner emotions and thoughts.

The amazing thing is that when you are in the River, your experience with a partner becomes about connection, care and cooperation rather than about comparisons, competition and control. These are deep foundations for how to be in relationships with others in the world. Instead of seeing others as someone to fight with, or compete with, or compare yourself to, being in the River allows you to feel empathy and compassion for others. In our dojo, everyone supports each other to be their very best. Not being like Ice or Puddle allows you to be present and sensitive to your partner’s needs while also communicating honestly and clearly your own needs.

While there are many tools to stay in the River, the most effective by far is the breath and we practice it all the time. With the kids, we call it Ninja Breathing to imbue the breathing with a sense of empowerment. Harnessing the power of the breath allows us to be relaxed, focused, calm, and present. Ready to see challenges as opportunities to grow rather than as obstacles that are impossible to overcome. Ready to let it come, let it go, let it flow. Like a River.



How a Martial Artist Found Joy and Connection Through Sparring

by Sensei Jonathan Hewitt – Founder of Life Ki-do

The Joy and Dance of Kickboxing:

Say what?

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.

Martial arts aren’t the most important thing we learn through the Life Ki-do program

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:


“A lot of what people think Martial Arts is, is being able to smash a brick, or being able to beat someone up. That isn’t what Martial Arts is at all. Being a Martial Artist is being able to go through an odyssey of struggle, conflict, pain, and doubt. Being able to go through a hardship, and use Life skills to get through it.I don’t care if you can smash a brick with your bare hands at the end of your training, and if you end your training there, you didn’t finish, nor did you really start it. If all that you get out of it is learning how to breathe and be aware of the happenings that surround us all and realize how those happenings impact us, and notice it, you become a better Martial Artist than the one who can crush a brick.

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.”

Marshall 3 pics


Life Ki-do Black Belt Test Video – May 3rd, 2014

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!

Life Ki-do Black Belt Test May 3rd, 2014 from Life Ki-do Martial Arts on Vimeo.

Autobiography of an 18 Year Old Peacful Warrior – Life Lessons We Can All Learn From

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.”

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.

Good Day Austin/Fox News – Managing Stress with Sensei Jonathan Pt. 3

Good Day’s Scarlett Greyson sits down with Sensei Jonathan to discuss how to deal with stress.