As Ryan Parks flips a bo staff from his right hand to his left hand, behind his back and over his head in one fluid movement, he says one thing to himself:
“This is easy.”
That mantra is part of a learning system called Kung Flow that the fire spinner and former addiction recovery counselor has spent the better part of seven years developing. Standing in the sands of Laguna Beach wielding my own bo staff (not quite as gracefully), Parks instructs me to say it too.
“By saying, ‘this is easy’ you are initiating a kind of self-programming sequence,” he says.
Incorporating the use of bo staffs and swinging tethered weights called poi, Kung Flow might seem like a martial arts class, but the use of light sabers and the philosophy that we all have Jedi-level intel puts the program on an entirely different level.
“This is a physical fitness class,” says Parks, “even more so, it is a mental fitness class.”
Operating on the notion that our brains are computers with infinite power and possibility, Kung Flow teaches you how to overcome your struggles with concepts like algebra or the coordination required to expertly handle a bo staff. These stem from running outdated software, Parks says. In other words, you’re due for an upgrade. And once you install that new software, or Selfware as Parks calls it, you can unlock your inner Jedi.
“And the bo staff and light sabers are just a tangible way of showing yourself what you are capable of,” says Parks. “It’s a massive self-confidence boost.”
Becoming a Jedi is an idea that resonates with people of all ages, from all walks of life, and as a result, it’s not uncommon to find Navy Seals spinning alongside stay-at-home-moms at Kung Flow’s Jedi events.
“People want to have a mission; they want to be doing something to help the world,” he says. “And the Jedi is a very clean archetype. Everybody knows what a Jedi is.”
Parks and his girlfriend, Ava Levine, are hoping to build a Kung Flow community in Laguna Beach. They recently acquired land in Laguna Canyon where they hope to use a space to expand their cause.
“We are looking to create ongoing classes for anyone interested in upgrading their physical and/or mental fitness,” Parks says.
And Parks and Levine are not short on interested individuals.
“Sometimes we’ll go with our light sabers down to Main Beach and invariably we will end up in 15 conversations,” he says. “We don’t recruit; we attract.”
During our hour-long lesson, Parks breaks down the eight major movements of the bo staff while asking a series of zen-like questions in which the easiest answer is the right answer. The experience is akin to spoon bending, Matrix-style, and it’s easy to see how the core principles of Kung Flow are meant to be applied to daily life.
“Once we are able to understand how incredibly powerful we are," Parks says. “We can start upgrading the way we do everything.”
And when you think of it that way, everything is easy.