By Brett Hart
Martial Arts haven’t always been on American Kyuki-Do Federation (AKF) 2nd Dan Zachary Hansen’s radar. A former fiber optic communications professional, Mr. Hansen was introduced to Kyuki-Do seven years ago when his then 4-year old daughter, Olivia, won a free two-week trial at a 4K family fun night.
”She was having fun, and we weren’t in any other activities at the point, so we decided to enroll her. She excelled at it and enjoyed it,” Mr. Hansen said, ”I watched her for a year and said ‘That looks like way too much fun.”
Joining the fun
Around that time Master Greg Garves cornered Mr. Hansen and encouraged him to enroll as well.
”I kind of blew him off and gave him the, ‘Check back in two weeks.”’ Mr. Hansen said. ”He held me accountable… and here I am seven years later. … It’s never something I envisioned myself doing, but I am thankful for it, and it’s been something my entire family has been able to do together.”
In fact Mr. Hansen, his wife, Bev, and daughter, Olivia, all promoted to their first degree black belt together. Mr. Hansen is now the owner and chief instructor of two academies – in New Richmond and River Falls, Wisconsin.
Recently the AKF, which blends multiple disciplines of martial arts into one, held its second ever throwing and grappling-centered tournament in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and Mr. Hansen decided to participate in both the judo and jiu jitsu brackets, earning first place in jiu jitsu and second place in judo.
”You want to put yourself out there,” Mr. Hansen said. ”I’m an instructor and an owner. I’ve got to be willing to put myself out there if I’m going to ask my students to do the same. Plus, being 38, I’m not exactly young, but I’m not old. (It’s one way to be) a good role model for my little bit older students, parents and other adults. You don’t have to be this ripped 20 year old to go out there and compete and have fun. It’s about the camaraderie and just the experience and learning about yourself.”
As someone who’s participated in folk style wrestling since second grade, it may seem this style of competition would be a natural fit for him, but Mr. Hansen said judo and jiu jitsu is a ”whole other can of worms.”
He enjoyed the change of pace from the traditional Kyuki-Do Tournaments, which focus mainly on forms, sparring and weapons.
”The grappling tournament is definitely more of a physical challenge, compared to the more mental challenge of our other style tournaments,” he said. ”Yes there’s sparring, but when you start getting into judo, jiu jitsu – the grappling stuff, there’s definitely a whole other level of physical involved. There’s strength and conditioning, especially the cardio workout. It’s a whole other level.”
As for the judo portion, he recognizes that he’s got a lot of work to do on this throws, but was happy to last a long as he did against an opponent he’s lost to a couple of times before.
”He’s definitely a good judo player,” Mr. Hansen said. ”He’s definitely got skill and knowledge. I survived longer than I thought I would. It goes to show, don’t cut yourself short against somebody else or based strictly on size because cardio comes into play and technique too. It’s not always strength and size.”
Following his example, 15 of his students also took part in the tournament and enjoyed the experience.
”I had a young man who took last in both events, but as I was watching him, he was smiling and had a great time,” Mr. Hansen said. ”He was just there to have fun. Whether he won or lost, it didn’t affect his spirit. He had a great time, and he was excited that I was able to watch him compete. That meant a lot for him to say that, coming from a student.”
”(AKF federation events) paint a bigger picture of what Kyuki-Do is about outside of our academy and our local area and meet more of our extended Kyuki-Do family,” he added. ”I don’t use that word family lightly. It truly is an extended family. The camaraderie and the friendships that I’ve made are priceless, and they’re going to be here for a long time. It’s fun to walk into an event and know that your kids are in a safe environment, and they can just run about and know that someone’s going to be holding them accountable besides you. … To have that feeling and be in an environment like that is unbelievable and it’s almost unheard of. It’s one of my biggest reasons to promote the federation events.”
”For me its just the personal health benefits from being physical and training and just fun.”
While competition isn’t his primary focus, Mr. Hansen said, ”I’ve got that competitive bone in my body, so it’s a way for me to feed that competitiveness. I loved the tournaments and wrestling in high school, and this is a way to still kind of fulfill that childhood need.”
Learn more about American Kyuki-Do Federation Events and Athletes.