After seven years — and nearly two thousand classes — our martial arts dojo in Ballard is closing. Weekly martial arts programs for adults and teens end in November. I will continue to offer monthly self-defense for women workshops to the public and onsite training to companies through the Fighting Chance Seattle brand in 2019.
This decision was not made lightly. We are living in a paradigm shift. Important conversations around power, consent, gender, race, trauma, and shame are gaining momentum. I feel called to step up and contribute at a national level. There are books I want to write, workshops I want to lead, and stories I need to tell.
The fear I feel in moving forward is my indication that I’m on the right path. I can’t commit to this new journey without first closing the dojo. Keeping a physical location open requires more energy and resources than I am able to commit at this time.
Our dojo was a space where inclusivity and community were conscious, daily practices, not buzzwords. I developed a teaching style that invited students who felt disempowered and met them exactly where they were with love and patience. I cultivated an atmosphere of cooperation over competition and the realization of our strength through learning to believe in ourselves. I continued to seek out training to adapt my methods to the physical, emotional, and mental challenges facing each student.
Fighting Chance Seattle never had a stable, fixed curriculum. For seven years it was a work in progress. It’s been frustrating as all hell and I cannot believe that any of my students stuck with me through all of the changes and missteps. But the work we did was valuable. We can’t get to new places in old vehicles. I saw a deep need in the martial arts to move past shame, dogma, self-deception, and macho bullshit as teaching models, and I was willing to change anything I needed to change to run a dojo grounded in integrity, inclusivity, and effectiveness.
In doing this work I ran right into my own shadow: the aspects of myself I didn’t want to see. I was at my learning and growth edge for most of the last three years. It became clear that I could not ask of others to do what I was unwilling to do myself. I reckoned with my own shame, my own trauma, my own lack of boundaries, my own fragile, scared human ego. Pushed beyond my limits, I finally learned to surrender, to be still, to heal and to recover. The trite, immature “Never say die!” attitude of modern karate yielded to a deeper awareness of the complexity and rhythms of life and leadership.
I made so many mistakes. I lost friends and students I cared for deeply through my inability to honor and protect my heart and speak my needs in the moment. I hurt feelings. I communicated without skill. I let so many people down. I did my best and learned to accept that sometimes, my best was not good enough. In cultivating the courage to be still and accept my failure and disappointment I finally found the space and compassion to truly see, hear, love, and honor myself.
When I step outside of myself and quiet my insecurity around honoring my achievements, I see the last seven years with pride and gratitude. I created something out of nothing: I built a full-time business out of $500 borrowed from my best friend and an intense work ethic. I created new teaching methods. I taught life-saving skills to thousands. I hosted free events for the community. I fought in a cage. I was on Good Morning America. I co-created a community space where a wonderful mix of misfits, nerds, and indoor kids supported one another on their journey to empowerment through martial arts practice.
To all of my students, past and present, thank you for your trust and patience, and thank you for the opportunity to be your teacher, I learned from all of you. To all of my assistant instructors and teaching assistants, there would not be a Fighting Chance Seattle without all of you, thank you. This dojo was co-created daily by every student who carried our values in their heart and showed up every night to do the work. We did big, powerful things in this awkward hallway of a space and I’m so grateful to all of you for being a part of it.
I have received so much support and encouragement. Thank you to my business partners, my teachers and mentors, friends and supporters, fellow karate instructors, media folks, therapists… I could not name all of you who were a part of this journey, but please know that I appreciate you.
All formerly enrolled karate and kickboxing students are invited to join us for a ceremonial goodbye class on Tuesday, 11/27 (teens at 5:30 pm, adults at 6:30 pm).
Stay tuned for updates on the launch of my new projects by joining the mailing lists below:
Protect & Nurture – An Expansion of My Self-Defense Program and Teaching Philosophy
The Reckoning – Men’s Work Events and My Writing Around Masculine Identity and Conditioning
Four Uncles Karate – Seminars and Thought Leadership for Karate Instructors