Get ready because this heart-felt conversation packs a one-two punch! I’m so excited to share my chat with my dear friend Monique Washington Jones! Monique is an amazing woman with so much heart, and she is authenticity at its purest. Her smile is warm, and her laugh is contagious. She is the perfect blend of power and grace. Monique is a successful second-generation martial artist and sixth-degree black belt who was essentially born on the mat. Raised in the dojo by her father, she has been training for nearly 40 years. When her heart led her to shake up the industry, that’s exactly what she did.
Monique founded WKD Karate 4 Girls, a female-only martial arts leadership academy. Now, even after the pandemic shut-downs, her studio is thriving with 150 students that she instructs, both in-person and virtually.
Monique shared her position on heart leadership as to how you move through the obstacles life throws at you. “Through your passion, you can push through those obstacles,” she says.
This position of empowerment permeates her life, her team, and her business. It’s how she leads her team and influences her students. She’s extremely passionate about her company and her life’s work. Though, she shares it hadn’t always been easy, coming up in a strongly male-dominated industry. But martial arts are sports of endurance and strength, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
“We try to make it a whole life skill and not just learning how to kick ass,”Monique shares with a laugh.
She believes training never ends, and neither does its effects. In karate, you’re always working on the next belt, the next skill, while also learning to defend yourself. These habits will affect how you show up at work, at school, and how you push through obstacles.
Monique attributes 100% of her success to the people she surrounds herself with. She lovingly refers to them as her tribe. She also shared a genuine peek into her faith and how that practice sustains her. When the pandemic hit, this was her chance to practice what she preached.
How was she going to push through the shutdown, the loss of business, or the no-contact rules in a high-contact sport? She and her team not only kept the business alive through the pandemic, but she also catapulted it to another level.
“When we heard we had to shut down, it was devastating to me. Anyone who had a brick and mortar had to…We still had to pay for the space, pay insurance for this space and not be able to walk in it for five months.” It was heartbreaking.
After a good cry, she remembers picking herself up, going straight to her inbox and sending out lesson plans so her students could keep training and still get attendance credits. Before the pandemic, Monique had never even heard of Zoom, but now Karate 4 Girls is fully equipped to instruct online. Virtual classes made training and certification difficult, but they pushed through and adapted their approach. Her students and their parents have appreciated the consistency from K4G as they kept showing up throughout the tumultuous times of the pandemic.
Driven by her passion, Monique led her team to be better, more resilient instructors and unify as a stronger team. In the process, she became a better entrepreneur. Her word of advice to female entrepreneurs is to just be ready for whatever may come your way. “We have this saying in the martial arts industry, ‘keep your hands up. So, when you spar, keep your hands up so you can protect your face.'” Keep your hands up, and always be ready!
Monique has been training in martial arts for almost 40 years. She was originally taught by her father, so the sport is literally in her blood. But even when she was young, she watched as talented female students left the sport because they had to train with guys, sweat with guys, spar with guys, and roll on the floor with guys. She even wanted to quit herself, but her father insisted she would push through and stay in training.
When she had the opportunity to open her own studio, she knew what her heart was leading her to do: flip the industry on its head and create an environment for only girls and where they could thrive.
Monique wanted girls and women to see the benefits of training, self-discipline, confidence, and relevant life skills. Her heart-driven mission is to empower females. To train them to stand up and speak out on their own behalf. Once they can do this, their world will change.
“It’s having that voice and being able to speak up, even if things don’t go your way…it’s knowing that you have a voice in the room is…what empowerment means to me.”
Though there were plenty of naysayers, she remembered being that little eight-year-old girl, the only one on the mat, and having to endure the imbalance of the sport. She knew what an opportunity like this would mean to them. Now, all 150 students are girls and women ranging in age from three to sixty. Monique and her team build them up in the dojo and send them out into the world, so they’re ready and their hands are up to face what comes. “It’s not just a sport. It’s a lifestyle.”
Living in Greatness
Monique’s own recipe for success in life, leadership and business is very specific. First is to lead by faith, whatever that belief is for you, and don’t let fear take over. Fear can paralyze you and keep you from realizing your true greatness. Secondly, surround yourself with the right people that you can lean on, that hold you accountable and will always stretch you to do better. They have found success in what they do and can be living examples of possibility. And always believe in yourself. Knowing that your opportunities truly are limitless gives you the confidence to push through, level up and thrive.