We are thrilled to be connecting with Brent Ramos again. Brent is a Martial Artist, Hawaiian Healer and is also a content partner. Content partners help Voyage in so many ways from spreading the word about the work that we do, sponsoring our mission and collaborating with us on content like this. Check out our conversation with Brent below.
Brent, it’s been too long since we last connected. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with our community again. Some readers might have missed our prior conversations, so maybe you can kick things off for us with a quick intro?
Aloha! My name is Brent Kekoa Ramos. I am a life-long martial artist, Hawaiian healer and self-proclaimed Punk Rock aficionado. I founded an award-winning Punk Rock Kung Fu school in Chinatown San Francisco in 2010, and recently moved to Denver opening up Koa House, a Hawaiian infused boutique spa with a full martial arts gym attached – the world’s first “martial spa”. My journey to entrepreneurialism has been a wild and crazed adventure, extending through all sorts personal danger, crazy personalities, and transcending into deep love. t is a path I would not change for the world, and hope my story and insights can inspire you to chase your wildest dreams.
You have a unique concept, bringing luxury spa services combined with gym classes in a single membership. Can you tell us more about this?
The concept was born out of our original school in Chinatown. We were teaching martial arts for 8 years, and as a teacher you start to see that 99% of people are actually training as a pathway to heal themselves. Very few actually were training for sport or to fight – and we love this! That reasoning could be physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional. Everyone was coming in to find a spark of empowerment in some way, whether they knew it, or not. The problem is, after leaving the mats they rarely take the time to look inward and grasp a self-healing practice to round out their training. We always saw this as a limitation of martial arts development. So, flash forward, and our personal path for mastery demanded us to learn a healing practice… Since my heritage roots to Hawaii, we jetted off and went deeply into Hawaiian healing and Lomi Lomi on the island of Maui. After graduation and in self-reflection, we discovered the exact opposite for healers: Clients on our table who are healing, rarely take the steps afterwards into a physical practice, and are needing that spark of personal power to take the next step on their wellness journey. So, we have a client outcome problem occurring within both industries. The two are symbiotic, yet there are no places to bridge that link or articulate a unified path for people. This is how Koa House came to be. Of course, human experience will always be at the top of the pyramid. So, we ensure all spa services are authentic luxury experiences with amazing organic, wild-crafted, Hawaiian sourced products. And on the gym side, we laser focus on using martial arts as a pathway for life navigation. We wanted to ensure you get fight gym quality instruction, but placed in a comfortable spa-like environment that is fun to be within. We wanted a place that offered quality instruction you cannot find in strip-mall kickboxing classes; yet you feel like you are in an oasis the entire time with the most comforting instruction.
As the only Hawaiian spa in Colorado, can you tell us more about Lomi Lomi massage, Hawaiian healing and how this started?
Hawaiian Lomi Lomi is a full 360 healing system, style, and modality of massage originating on the islands. The practice includes everything from plant and medicinal identification, preparation, chant, a form of counseling (called Ho’oponopono), body work or massage, pre & post-natal work, bone setting, and even martial arts. The great healers of the past would treat all aspects pending severity from things like light intention setting, individual or group counseling, and down to physical fitness regimens. From there, plant medicinals, body massage, bone setting, and even martial arts (Lua) could be part of the healing system prescribed. On the martial arts side, it was seen that if there was a point where someone would hurt themselves, the community, or someone else – it was a great imbalance which needed to be healed. When all else fails, they may need to be stopped with appropriate martial force to awaken them. However, once stopped, it was back into the cycle of healing as listed above with the only purpose being, to heal. Aloha and Abundance was a way of life when living on islands and their finite resources. Healthy community and relationships to the land was a core necessity which needed to be healthy and maintained by all. Therefore, healing as we understand it today was a daily action – it was a way of life. Lomi Lomi existed on all islands, and every family often had a healer. In modern times, the late Margaret Machado from the Big Island is most well-known for teaching non-Hawaiians and bringing Lomi Lomi to the world. Other teachers in our lineage are Mahilani Poe Poe from Maui, and our current Kumu Jeana Iwalani Naluai from Maui, along with others. In modern times, Lomi Lomi is often brushed over as a modality listed on a spa menu for a price increase – but it is much deeper than that, and we try to invoke that feeling into every session because authenticity can definitely be felt on the table. From an aesthetic perspective, it is recognized with lots of forearm usage, and long-gliding strokes which feel client-side like you are in a continuous amazing flow-state. It is hard to train Lomi Lomi in a standard massage school credit hour because it is intrinsically connected to Hawaiian culture, and cannot really be separated out. We maintain as much tradition as possible, but ensure the articulation and experience to the world is an inspirational and luxury experience, that someone from any background can find absolute delight in.
We see you offer a branding and design space for what you call “well-preneurs” and those in the wellness industry. Can you elaborate on what this is and the industry overall?
This is exciting for us, because it is something new that we are hoping to bring to help other wellness providers. The spa and service industry is in a rough wild-west space. 50% of well-preneurs leave the industry post-graduation. 30% more will fail, or leave in the next 4 years. Current post-graduate options allow for hotel, or strip-mall chain work, which ends up killing most healers with overworked hours, lack of creative control, and client churn-and-burn against and dismal pay. The result is almost an immediate jump to their own practice or business where they can make larger margins and etch out a way of life on their own terms. On one hand, this is great because we think everyone has the creative capacity to change the world. However, this is where failure rates truly occur… Hardly anyone is prepared to fully understand the thousands of layers it takes to create, brand, operationalize, and tether a business to revenue that makes sense – while also backing it into your own happiness plan with an eventual exit. Current educational programs totally fail to be real on this topic, and rarely offer anything in their curriculum that will prepare someone for activation in actual business post-graduation. So unlike others, we take this known fact head on – and start with the end in mind. For everyone who works at Koa House, we start with asking what the exit looks like from day 1. We want to know what they really want to do past Koa House, so we can empower them to be free and chase their own wildest dreams. So, while working at Koa House, we train and coach entrepreneurship almost like a fellowship in tandem while they work. For those ready to make the jump, we offer an in depth stuido-esque option where we can take them through a creation phase, and help brand, market, find whitespace, unfair advantages, media, ops, mindset training, and then drop them off at a jump of point to start getting their own business in market. We give free Lomi Lomi training and a ton of other business side training in the process. Entrepreneurship is a passion. We want to incubate and watch people succeed as much as possible. Well-preneurs have it the hardest, and part of our mission is to help. Whether that is here at Koa House, or through coaching – we want to work with you!
The above is super interesting. Can you elaborate more on what you do with “well-preneurs” in terms of idea incubation & designing business?
After going through the fire on our first business in San Francisco (which requires its own entire interview!) I ended up learning as much as I could about business to make sure I never went through that pain again. I also ended up getting noticed in media, and started working at lots of high-level agencies and marketing firms in Silicon Valley where I started to excel. From this success, I kind of developed my own methods, and focused purely on the SMB incubation-to-seed development of individuals and ideas. I find that a business, will only be as good as its founder and the clarity of mind within that founder. So, to start, I demand they look inward and do what I call “Foreverness Mapping”. This is a self-driven way to uncover exactly what type of life you want, things you want to achieve, give charity against, engage family and friends, places to live, and the finance or material life you need to do it all. This can be a dream-state in 2,5,10 years, but it needs to be seen clearly in depth as a definitive goal with specific dollar amounts. Only from here, do we start designing. We then start designing a business or brand that anchors to everything in that foreveness map. From branding, personas, and into unit economics. We then curate 7 fundamentals of business, but stay on the top 4-5: Idea, white space, unfair advantages, economics and then into brand design, personas, purchase cycle, marketing tool deployment, sales strategy. The rest we advise on, but do not curate with. Again, all pointing back to that foreverness map to make sure whatever we are building, will lead to happiness and revenue for all. Recently, we have just consulted or coached a few people from afar. But in the future, we would like to actually do this work hands-on alongside them, and see the idea go to market. All of this is a specific process, but hopefully that gives the reader a good idea of the method.
We know spa’s generally offer amazing products. It looks like you also offer a Hawaiian sourced product line – can you tell us more about what products you offer or include with your services?
Our spa line is amazing… We offer two lines for the time being, but will be releasing our own super-secret amazing brand soon – so stay tuned for that! Currently we offer Ola Tropical Apothecary based out of Hilo, on the Big Island. And, Pualani Beauty based out of Santa Cruz, CA with strong ties to the islands. Both source ingredients directly from Hawaii. We try to partner with fellow small businesses that are keeping organic and sustainable practices at the forefront of what they do. Each brand does not use perfume or fragrance oils in their products, rather they use ingredients that are directly from the plant itself. Everything in the products we use has an amazing benefit for the skin and the body. Its connection to the ancient Hawaiian la’au lapa’au (plant medicine) runs deep, which is why it is important that our product lines are sourced from Hawaiian land and farmers.
On the gym side, can you elaborate more on what types of martial arts you offer?
We offer mostly striking arts like Muay Thai & Kickboxing, Kung Fu, and Tai Chi. The Kung Fu and Tai Chi is what preceded Koa House and comes from our original school, 108, located in Chinatown, SF. Our Muay Thai comes from the world-famous CSA gym where I started, and is blended with some training protocols from our Kung Fu systems. Our Tai Chi, is legit. After going around the world to China and back, I have yet to find comparable training, which is from the lineage of Zheng Man Qing, Benjamin Lo, and Scott Meredith. We also offer yoga with individuals and partners we bring in. Our most popular classes are the “Bag Classes” where you burn upwards of 1K calories in 50 minutes, and then Tai Chi. Come give it a try! The main takeaway behind all of the content taught is actually nested in the presentation. We wrap all of this into a healer’s mindset – meaning although you are getting legit martial training that is otherwise intimidating to join, we focus the presentation and teaching in a way that simply brings happiness, comfort, and delight.
Alright, so before we go, how can our readers connect with you to learn more and show support?
To learn more, you can visit us at www.koahouse.com. We offer two free classes every week for the community to drop-in and experience, which occurs on Thursday evenings. Otherwise, you can shout us out on Instagram or Facebook at @koahouse. The best way to support us, is to give-back in your own communities! We will be here to provide a massage or host a class to support you 🙂