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Life Skills through Martial Arts

Edward Monaghan helps individuals and families find focus.

Posted: February 22, 2008 10:48 a.m.
Updated: April 24, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Camron Leach, 12, practices tecniques at Ekata Martial Arts and Fitness.

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Staying focused, learning to respect others and becoming more effective are a few of the skills that youngsters struggle to understand as they grow up.

But Edward Monaghan believes these lessons can be learned at a faster rate through his unique method of martial arts and fitness - designed to improve the minds of kids.

By applying his experience in movement-based awareness training on children and adults and martial arts training, Monaghan hopes to help adolescents of all kinds with all sorts of learning backgrounds at Ekata, his newly opened martial arts center in Valencia.

The Techniques
Monaghan believes he has developed a special martial arts education based on research and experience. The lessons taught at Ekata are comprised of Monaghan's Movement-Based Awareness Training, elements of Jeet Kune Do, a style of martial arts, and Qigong, which focus on breath and movement practices.

In addition, the classes teach awareness training as a result of the various sensory exercises practiced at the studio and the components of eastern meditation.

One example of an auditory awareness exercise is clicking a series of sticks to "develop auditory acuity," as Monaghan explains.

With exercises like that, Monaghan said, "You're training the neurotransmission pathways to tighten up."

The more drills that are practiced, the more a person focuses on an external stimulus that comes into the body.

Another type of drill focuses on visual acuity, where a student will track a series of lit dots on a screen. Similar to the auditory skills, Monaghan said a person is increasing their focusing abilities.

As a result, Monaghan said a child will perform better in school.

"The child is learning to listen better," he said.

Learning Disabilities
Monaghan's techniques are also applicable to children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder.

Highlighting that the problem with children facing the two disorders is their lack of ability to remain focused. Monaghan believes that anything that will elongate children's attention span, like his special blend of martial arts, will train the youngsters to train their minds.

However, Monaghan said he teaches children to not necessarily overcome their obstacles with learning difficulties, but to understand how to adapt to their environment, given their situation.

He finds that it is better to "be able to recognize your own strengths and learn to make the best of what you've got."

By understanding how to use strengths, Monaghan said martial arts can become an alternative or another type of treatment for addressing any learning issues.

Knowing that students with the two attention disorders learn differently, Monaghan offers private lessons for youngsters that have learning difficulties.

A Family Affair
Monaghan's lessons are not just limited to kids, as he also offers classes for adults, and even entire families.

"There are so many adults that are over-stressed," he said.

Some adults looking to get in shape don't always feel comfortable in the gym. Or, as Monaghan is finding, some of his clients want to learn a style of exercise that has meaning.

"It's not about bashing around things," he said about martial arts. "It goes on a deeper level with the philosophy."

Monaghan said he is finding that many of his adult students are striving to find something beneficial through their exercise program that will alleviate stress.

In other instances, adults are being pulled to the classes through their children, who are already enrolled at Ekata.

Currently, Monaghan explained that he has about five or six entire families enrolled in his classes, something he did not anticipate.

The Instructor
Monaghan is no stranger to understanding martial arts. The head instructor of Ekata has 30 years of experience with the art and holds a black belt.

He has a background with overseeing similar types of centers, as he managed the corporate gym facility for Salick Health Care Inc. in the '90s. He also launched a boutique health club in Beverly Hills, named The Boulevard Health Club, before launching his own martial arts school, Combative Arts Academy.

Monaghan has also trained a handful of celebrities, including Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Rachel Hunter and John Malkovitch.

He is currently a professor at UCLA's school of theater, where he teaches courses in applied movement, physiology, eastern philosophy and combat for stage and film.

The Growing Research
The style of martial arts taught by Monaghan comes as part of a growing body of research that focuses on the positive effects of martial arts and its core teachings.

Monaghan initially got involved with understanding alternative methods to medications after his son was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. Not ready to have his child take prescription pills to alleviate the symptoms, he turned to acupuncture and soon noticed a change in his son's condition.

Although Monaghan is unable to fully pinpoint acupuncture as the reason for his son's improvement, as there are many variables that contribute to a disorder, he believes the alternative form of medicine played a major role.

As a result of his new-found understanding of martial arts, he found other areas of research that focus on the use of meditation for children with ADHD.

Monaghan is currently combining research from UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center and UC Irvine's Laboratory for Mind/Body Signaling and Energy Research to understand the effects of movement based awareness training as a way to aid the cognitive learning skills among children and adults diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficient Disorder.

Ekata Martial Arts and Fitness is located at 23333 Cinema Drive in Valencia. They can be reached at (661) 255-1114 or by visiting www.ekata.net.

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