Cole Manson

Snowboarding Sensei

 Kishindo — it means “The way of the honest tree.”

That doesn’t mean much to most people, but in Whistler it’s the definition of our very own style of mixed martial art.

It comes from the heart and soul of Sensei Cole Manson and about 1,000 Whistler kids have learned its creed, studied its teachings and are wise to its ways.

“The philosophy behind the art form is that a tree is inherently honest, because nature is honest — it can grow up and take any shape or form it wants,” explains Cole. “So, if a person is honest with themselves, they can grow up and take any shape or form they want.”

Kinshindo takes all the things that Sensei Cole loves about Karate and Taekwondo and Hapkido and Kung fu and Jiu-Jitsu and fuses them together for a unique made-in-Whistler art form.

Cole should know what works. He’s been studying this his whole life, ever since his first Taekwondo lesson at age five in White Rock.

He had his first junior black belt by nine, a black belt in karate at 16, followed by a black belt in Hapkido. And he’s still learning, spending five hours every Saturday to study Capoeira and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Cole moved to Whistler in 2002. Perhaps if he’d had the foresight to study the town’s demographics, Whistler would not be the obvious choice to set up a martial arts school — a small town where martial arts are just another sport in a town mad about sports.

But Whistler, as it does to so many, called to Cole.

“I just came out here on a hunch, on a feeling that if I love Whistler, I can make it work,” he says.

A decade later he calls the Awesome Arts Academy in Function Junction home — a permanent welcoming facility for his growing student body.

He sees shy, timid students become self-confident; aggressive kids learn self-discipline and respect.

“That’s the thing about martial arts — it’s the perfect type of cross training activity for all your other sports because you’re getting the agility, and strength and flexibility training that you would need for any other sport. With that comes the mental aspect — the goal setting, the focus, the concentration and the self-discipline — that’s why it’s so good for everything else in life.

“And it’s fun.”


Peak to Creek, on a nice hard packed icy day, going really fast.