Since November, Connie Flynn, owner of ZenQuest Martial Arts Center in Lenox, earned a seventh degree black belt in karate and a black belt in Brazilian jiujitsu. That would be enough activity for a lot of people, but Flynn keeps kicking. We caught up with the “Kyoshi” - a title granted to seventh-level black belts that means “teacher of teachers” - to talk about the business of spiritual and physical strength through martial arts.
Q What’s meant the most to you this year: the black belt in jiujitsu, or the seventh- degree black belt in karate?
A They’re both important. The seventh-degree black belt is significant. We had to travel to Okinawa (Japan) for me to get it. The thing that was really significant to me in jiujitsu is that [Brazilian mixed martial artist Demian Maia, the world’s 12th-ranked welterweight in The Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts competition] came here to have me do it in front of my students. ... It’s unique to be a female that goes that far, especially outside of Brazil.
Q You have a bachelor of science degree in human development and family studies from Cornell University and a master’s in education from the College of St. Rose in upstate New York. Did you teach before you got involved in the martial arts?
A I explored the traditional teacher role, but with the constraints and restrictions of just being in the educational system, I sought out the community center. ... I can honestly say that both my undergraduate and graduate degrees have been very useful in what I do, because what we do isn’t just training for the martial arts. We’re like life skills coaches.
Q What advice would you give to girls and women who want to get involved in the martial arts?
A Pursue your dream. In the dojo, we’re equals. Everyone starts with the same uniform. The same belt. The same expectations. If you go in, work hard, follow the instructions, follow the people who came before, you can get you to where you want to go. The sky’s the limit as far as martial arts goes.
Congratulations to Sensei Connie for this incredible honor. Huge thanks to Tony Dobrowolski, Noah Hoffenberg, and the Berkshire Eagle for this. To read the full article online, visit https://www.berkshireeagle.com