Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Coach Kiki

Editor's Note: This is part of our occasional series of profiles of people who are finding success through approaches that defy the conventional wisdom.

When I sit on the edge of the track and take my shoes off for a freezing jaunt through the puddles of McCarren Park or to pan-fry the soles of my feet on the same artificial turf in the summer, I'm glad to know I'm not alone, nor the most intense guy out there.

It always cheers me up to run into my friend Coach Kiki, who can very often be found teaching his unique fitness program at the track's high-hurdle starting line. Kiki (Kwesi Morris) is usually surrounded by a diverse group of enthusiastic students who follow his rigorous full-body program that uses only the body itself to build strength, power, and flexibility. “The body is its own machine,” says Kiki who utilizes the body's weight and geometry to generate resistance.

His group runs through a fast-paced series of sprints, lunges, medicine ball passes, stair steps, planks, high-steps, and the like and it is not at all unlike what the top Kenyans do for cross training. Kiki brought the seeds of his innovative yet timeless approach from Africa's opposite coast in his native Ghana but his outlook has a Rasta inflection. In fact, Kiki was a pretty well-known Reggae DJ until his fitness business grew so large that it crowded other things out.

“I had to give up the music because my training requires me to get up very early in the morning,” he said, “so I couldn't stay out late.” Not only does Kiki rise early in the morning, he does much of the workout along-side his clients-over and over all day long. He's zonked when he hits the pillow at night.

I'm pretty sure anyone who works out with Kiki will have very significant results as his program is quite serious, yet available to many thanks to a sliding rate scale. It's great just to be near the guy; he has a force of character that is palpable. His presence there in the park has a very positive effect.

For my part, I always cruise over and shake his hand. I jog away feeling a little bit stronger.

Kiki's Web Site
| NYTimes Profile

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