"Kindness is Magic" - Interview with Bobbi Koonse

I like shedding light on the goodness in us since there´s more and more anti-Semitism in the world. So I will keep on putting good people under the spotlight here. Today I would like to introduce you to Bobbi who happens to be my Tai Chi instructor at the YMCA while her husband is a musician/teacher at the school I graduated from, CalArts.
"Kindness is Magic" - Interview with Bobbi Koonse

By Bessy ADUT

Bobbi Koonse is a certified Balance & Mobility specialist, having received her training from Cal State Fullerton at the Center for Successful Aging. She has also received certifications in Silver Sneakers, A Matter of Balance, and the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program. She has been practicing Karate and Tai Chi for over 40 years at the En Mei Ryu School of Karate and is considered a full master of the art form (5th Dan). Bobbi has taught Tai Chi and Balance and Mobility for older adults at the Crescenta Canada and Verdugo Hills YMCAs. She teaches Tai Chi and Balancefit for the Livewell Senior Program at Adventist Health Glendale Hospital, Burbank YMCA, and several Senior Living Apartment complexes. She is dedicated to helping older adults improve their balance and mobility, and reducing their risks of falling so that they may have a better quality of life.

Where are you located?

La Crescenta / CA

Could you share with us how you started and got to where you are today?

I became interested in Martial Arts at around the age of 16. I did some training during high school and got very serious about it in my early 20s. I have trained in Kyokushin Karate, at a very traditional martial art school. Around 20 years ago my instructor brought Tai Chi into our practice. It really added a lovely balance to our training. When people find out what I do, I am always asked about “self-defense”. Actually, when I started my training the thought never entered my mind and still never does! At least not in the traditional way a person might think of defending oneself. I was and still am interested in the mindfulness of the practice as well as the philosophical aspects of martial arts training. It can help a person build self-confidence and self-esteem through mastery. Most importantly it teaches a person to NOT fight, but to remain calm in times of conflict. And most importantly, adapt to change...

Has it been a smooth road?

Great question. Does smooth mean easy? Then, no. Not easy. Martial Arts training is hard, especially if one is attending a traditional school and going for rank. But I always enjoyed the training, for me it was and still is fun. I have been at it for over 40 years.

Could you tell us more about your life and career?

I started teaching Karate after I earned a first-degree black belt in 1986. After receiving my 5th degree black belt I stopped pursuing additional rank but continued my training. I began teaching Tai Chi around 18 years ago, sometimes adding some Karate just to mix things up a bit. People really seem to enjoy it! I am also a Certified Balance and Mobility Instructor, having received my training at the Center for Successful Aging at Cal State Fullerton. I teach fall prevention classes, along with Tai Chi at several locations in the Los Angeles area.

What do you think goodness is?

Wow. BIG QUESTION! Can a simple answer suffice? I think goodness is being open to other people and their stories. And to treat others the way you want to be treated. Kindness is magic.

Who are you outside of your professional life?

I have been married for 38 years and we have two grown children, Rachel and Sarah. I met my husband Larry in Karate class! Larry no longer studies Karate but I’m sure it’s all still inside him. He is an amazing, very talented jazz guitarist who is always very busy recording and gigging. He has his own group, Los Angeles Jazz Quartet and plays with numerous local and international musicians and singers. A very busy guy for sure... I can't go to ALL the gigs like I did “back in the day” but I always enjoy hearing Larry play. He is such a talented, original player. He is primarily a Jazz guitarist but can also "play outside the box", and is well sought after. Our daughter Rachel and son-in-law Tony live in central California. Rachel is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Tony is a fantastic percussionist, always busy teaching and playing. Our younger daughter Sarah is a Registered Animal Nurse. She and her boyfriend Zack, a pediatric resident at CHLA, live in the Los Angeles area.


Larry and I have two cats, Olive and Shmuli and they pretty much run our lives. I have practiced Yoga for over 10 years and can always be found with a book in my hand. Larry and I enjoy hanging out with friends, going to movies and dinner. We lead a pretty simple life!

Are you interested in environmental issues?

I am extremely interested in environmental issues. We do our best to conserve and Larry drives an electric car. For ethical and moral reasons, I became a vegetarian over 50 years ago. Larry stopped eating meat after we married, and our children were brought up vegetarian. Rachel became vegan around 4 years ago.

Do you think the world is not a good place right now?

I do not think the entire world is a bad place, but there are definitely terrible things going on. There have ALWAYS been terrible things going on but now we have access to all the news. As a Jew, of course, my first and foremost concern is what's going on between Israel and Hamas. I grew up a secular Jew and was a member of Hashomer Hatzair, a Socialist Zionist Youth Movement. After I graduated high school, I spent a year living in Israel volunteering at a Kibbutz. It was an amazing, educational life-changing experience for me. Hashomer Hatzair is a left-leaning movement that never built kibbutzim on occupied territories. I still believe in Israel's right to exist. The people and the country are not going anywhere. And the Palestinians are not going anywhere either! I am not a fan of the current Israeli government and I worry that its policies will lead Israel further down a very dangerous path. Already the world has shifted its support and for good reason. After October 7th, I can honestly say that as a Jew, I do not feel as safe as I once did. The situation in the Middle East is very complicated and history long... But it’s still my belief that the Palestinians have a right to a homeland as well and I am one hundred percent in favor of a two-state solution being the ONLY way forward, what needs to happen “The Day After”.

How do you make the world a better place?

In small ways... I try to move through the world gently and with compassion. I do my best to treat people kindly. I am hopeful that the classes I teach help people live safer and less stressful lives. Kindness is Magic.

How can we all make the world better?

With compassion and understanding. Be less selfish and more giving in our thoughts and actions. We brought our kids up with the ideas and examples of goodness and generosity. Both Rachel and Sarah are very accomplished in their careers and are very intelligent beautiful young women. But the most significant quality they both possess is their goodness... They are such Good Human Beings. So as much as I enjoy my career as a Tai Chi and Martial Arts instructor, my “job’ as an Ema (mom) was and is the most important thing I have ever done.

How can science and spirituality co-exist?

I see no conflict between the two. But then again, I grew up as a secular Jew so for me it’s easy. People are going to believe what they choose to believe.

If you could go anywhere, where would you go (and why)?

Japan. I have never been and have always been interested in Japanese art, culture, and food. I grew up in an area of Los Angeles with a large Japanese community and was, therefore, surrounded by the culture. It was probably one of the factors that got me interested in Martial Arts. Larry has been to Japan many times and it is definitely on our bucket list.

Please let me know anything else you want to share...

I am going to be 65 this May and have no intention of retiring any time soon. I am so fortunate to be able to share what I love to do! I am so grateful for my family and friends. I think being grateful can lead to happiness.

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