The Tenth Degree with Rich Kohler

What's your typical morning routine? How do you get your day started off right?

Every morning, as soon as I get up, I start my day with a good dose of discipline by forcing myself to do something I don’t particularly want to. After a glass of water and a cup of coffee, I knock out 50 burpees, changing the variation each day. I have not missed a single day since I started this personal challenge. As of today, I’m on 163 days straight. It’s not about the exercise for me as it is the discipline to do it EVERY day. After I knock those out, I cook a good nutritious homemade breakfast, 7 days a week. Then i’m ready to start my day.

What did you want to be when you grew up? How did you get your work life started?

As a child, I always thought I would be doing something art-related. I loved to draw and was always a little shy, so I guess it was a great plan for an introvert type. Before I owned my own martial arts school, I would paint murals at other martial arts schools just to make a few bucks. I painted a mural on the side of an Italian restaurant once and got a free dinner whenever I wanted. It’s still there, after 26 years.

Why the martial arts? Did you train when you were younger?

Being a shy insecure kid and then dealing with my family splitting up when I was around 16, I gravitated towards the “tough guy” crowd and began getting into a lot of scraps. Shortly after, I walked into Master Silva’s school in Vernon CT back in the 80’s wanting to learn how to defend myself better.

How did your school come about? Where is it located and what do you teach?

After becoming obsessed with training, I became Master Eliud Sanchez’s (He had taken over the school from Master Silva) 1st full-time instructor. After about 3 years of teaching and realizing how good it felt to help empower people with martial arts, like it did for me, I decided to open my own school in Glastonbury CT. I had tried the tournament scene, but preferred focusing mostly on the self defense aspect of training. I began my training in Parker American Kenpo and then began to integrate Wing Chun Kung Fu, Muay Thai, Krav Maga and other reality-based self defense systems. Our current curriculum encompasses principles, concepts and techniques from all of these systems.

It’s a difficult time to be a business owner this year. What have you been doing to keep your school going?

In a scary, unpredictable time for many people, I felt it was important to be a leader for our community. We always ran a professional and innovative school and I thought it was especially important to show our students and community the importance of overcoming adversity. Our marketing really highlights this, as well as offering peace of mind of learning to take responsibility for protecting yourself and family in a time when many people are concerned about their safety.

Tell us a little about Journey of the Steal-Proof Master. What is that project all about?

Shortly after my son was born, I almost lost him to a custodial abduction. It literally scared the hell out of me and I felt obligated to help prevent other parents from feeling what I felt that day. Being a creative type and a huge Tony Robbins fan, I created a program that introduced powerful child safety information and some great NLP techniques with a vehicle that children would be interested in, Fantasy adventure with wizards and apprentices and challenged them to become “Steal-Proof Masters.” After realizing how powerful the program was, I hired a production company and produced the award-winning movie that 10’s of thousands of children all over the world now learn from.

I see you’ve been doing a program for women called Lady Rebels. How did that come about? And what’s the focus and goal of that program?

I think we all have people close to us that are dealing with domestic violence, in one form or another. Three years ago I decided to create a Women’s Empowerment workshop (My Fit Defense’s Hands Off! Women’s Empowerment Workshops) that I could offer to present at business’s and organizations. I wanted to offer something that had less of an intimidating approach like most self defense workshops that keeps many women from participating in. I added a very creative approach with narrated soundtracks, and my own self defense fitness routine. The workshop took off and I ended up doing over three dozen workshops in just a couple years. I teamed up with the biggest support organizations in my state for charity events. During our mandated shutdown, I wrote a book ( teaching many of the empowerment concepts I had learned from teaching the hundreds of women in my workshops. Recently, I decided to create an online women’s physical empowerment coaching program (Elite Lady Rebels) that really helps develop confidence, leadership skills and personal security for women. Believe me, it’s going to be awesome, unlike anything currently out there.

Thanks for being one of our awesome Black Belt Excellence schools! What is it about the program that you like? Are you using it in any interesting ways?

I have been a Black Belt Excellence School for many years. Master Silva has been a mentor to me for over 30 years and when he suggests something, I know it’s good. I knew if his kids were offering something to the martial arts industry it would have to be top quality and of course it is. I love being able to offer the “above and beyond” resources to our members. I like the creativity and the message that the program sends. It really has helped to bring the martial arts industry and how it is perceived by the public to a much higher educational level.

What is currently inspiring you and in what way? (book, movie, song, charity, anything really…)

I really just follow what I believe to be my purpose. And that is helping people to build more confidence in themselves to live a life they truly desire and deserve. I know what it’s like to let lack of confidence hold you back. I lived it as a kid. I am always thinking of creative, “edutaining” ways to help empower more people. That’s definitely what drives me!

How do you end a typical day? What do you do to unwind?

Well, I’m always working on creating something. And when I’m not doing that, i’m researching books or getting in some new self defense training. By the end of the day, which is pretty late, I can download my brain into my planner for the next day and indulge in some brainless television escape. :)