I started taking kickboxing classes this past fall from Lila and was surprised at how it shifted my mood and energy. In a setting that would normally intimidate me, I was encouraged by the other women in the class and Lila's candor in teaching. A big shift from KUGA (which she still teaches for but has stepped back from full time directing) to Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai, made me curious about how she navigated transition in her life. Check out her thoughts below as she shares about recent changes and the journey she is on in this season. It reminds me to be open to change, unafraid of others expectations and have courage to step into the unknown.
Who you were at 10 years old? I was in 5th grade here at Kalaheo School, running with the popular crowd. I had a huge wave hair sprayed in my hair and had a potty mouth during recess and was able to control it when I went home. I never swore in front of my parents ever but out of the house I had a different vocabulary. Swore more than I ever did as an adult. My parents had been divorced for a couple years by this time and I rolled with the back and forth custody and it was just the way things were. I hadn't started any hobby or sport at this point. I was however a nightly act for my mom where I would dress in all her cool '80'sl party clothes (She was only 30 years old at this time!) I would get my toy karaoke machine and entertain her and her friends. In my slam book I would play MASH and I always wanted to be a "Choreographer" as a profession. Describe a typical day for you? Wake up, have Tea, and do something active Run, Jiu-Jitsu, Kickbox or cross train. Sweat A LOT, shower, prep dinner and wait for the time to come to pick up kids from school. Then from there it's taxi mom until we all come home and from there mom's know the drill... dinner. bath. bed. Most of us know you as the mastermind behind KUGA - tell us about how you first started this and what the purpose of it is. - Kauai Underground Artists- KUGA was created after I had started break dancing, I started doing small Jams for the b-boys to battle at. It was called a few different things and it was small. 20 people or so but it started growing exponentially and I felt like we needed to make this official. I had 2 friends Marisol and Sara who had a passion and background to dance and teach dance and promote hip-hop culture on the island. We had a vision to offer positive activities for youth and educate and expose Kauai to Hip-Hop culture. We officially created KUGA and started the non-profit. We did this together until life happened, Sara moved to NYC and Marisol had to take care of other things, I was left to run the ship for years to come. It was fine though because my life allowed for it and I was passionate about it.
How did running KUGA shape you? It taught me a lot of practical business. Business 101 all day. From Marketing, Accounting, Administration, Setting up systems, managing people, teaching children & creating successful events. I never held on to KUGA in a sense of this is what I built. I was learning as it grew and I know that it was all the grace of God that it turned out so successful. I just blazed on forward and God made it all work out for good. Literally. What were some of the challenges you faced? Dealing with the expectations of people. I still run into it to this day. People don't realize I did what I did out of a passion. No one paid me to do anything but teach dance classes, everything on the backend and everything having to do with Love Life is done out of my desire to see something positive on the island. What did you enjoy most? Watching kids be free and dance. I still enjoy this the most. I teach just 2 classes a week right now and that fuels my fire!
How did you know it was time for the next chapter? I felt it coming when I lost the grace for managing the day to day business. It became a burden. I continued for a couple years even when I felt the time was coming to transition, but I had to keep check myself as to why I was feeling this way. I tried to talk a few people into taking over and their timing wasn't right, but when our lease ended and after checking the market for a new space, I realized I couldn't afford to continue on the budget I had. I literally couldn't pay the rent out there for what we charged. Thankfully the stars aligned and The Koloa Dance House was launched and KUGA dancers and teachers seamlessly moved in there under new direction. Tell us more about what you are doing now and what attracts you to it. Oh man, I am hooked on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) at Longman Jiu-Jitsu Koloa, I have always been an active person but the need to learn a skill was on my radar about 2 years ago. I workout hard and I wanted to workout hard not to look good but to learn a skill or train for some sort of race or competition. I love how the human body adapts to difficulty, I love sweating and getting to the point where you want to throw up because you pushed yourself so hard. I love doing things that are outside of my comfort zone and BJJ and Muay Thai have made me face my pride & insecurity. It has also made me more mentally and physically resilient.
What has surprised you this past year? Running the Kauai Marathon without training for it was a huge surprise! Another mental challenge accomplished. Being promoted to a blue belt and winning Gold medals in a couple Jiu-jitsu tournaments on Oahu, being given the opportunity to teach a women's kickboxing class at the gym I train at. Share a recent break through that is influencing your perspective: To be honest I am waiting for a break through. I am desiring my perspective to be shifted and for something to HAPPEN! I am in a place feeling quite void of a lot of things. The problem is I don't really know what it is I need break through in and I don't really know what it is I even want at this point. It is hard to look forward to this next year in this place. What advice do you have to offer when it comes to following your passion and pursuing a dream? First of all write it down if it’s a dream and be true to yourself if it’s a passion. Stay consistent in things that get you closer to the dream and keep investing time & energy into what you are passionate about. Being consistent is key to becoming proficient in something you are passionate about. I heard recently on a podcast some very accomplished guys say ”often times people who are excellent at certain things are often looked at as eccentric, weird, or obsessed” and I totally agree. Theres so much mediocrity in our culture and “balance” is a thing we all are looking for but to be successful in walking out your dream or becoming a master of your passion you need to spend time in it and on it and to the rest of the world around you , you may look weird or obsessed, but it’s not a bad thing because it’s by choice & a lot of the time it’s a sacrifice or lifestyle that is worth it to you!
Thank you Lila for honest reflection in the midst of transition and the reminder to follow what fuels us with consistently and persistence. Check out where KUGA is now, go follow @koloadancehouse and try out a class or if you're interested in Jiujitsu or kickboxing head over to @longmanjiujitsukoloa to get into one of Lila's classes.