By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter
Palisadian Mauri Konell spent her childhood in the outdoors of Redondo Beach going to the beach and taking martial arts classes.
On the inside, Konell was fighting a battle with anxiety and depression that would hospitalize her at the age of 13 and lead to a lifelong struggle with her self-image.
Her petite body type and curly dark hair made her stand out among a “sea of tall blonde volleyball players” and led her to develop several eating disorders.
But laying on the hospital bed, Konell said in an interview with the Palisadian-Post, she remembers thinking to herself: “If I make it out of here, I’m going to help other little girls who feel this way.”
While studying psychology at Occidental College, she took a part-time job teaching karate to younger kids and teaching at a children’s hospital with a program called Kids Kicking Cancer.
It was through her real world experience that Konell found her passion for teaching others and has since been striving to make an impact on their young lives.
Fighting against social pressure to pursue further education, Konell took on a full-time position as a karate instructor, teaching from sunrise to sunset, logging the school’s inventory and staying after hours to work personally with kids and their parents.
“Sometimes I would get in my car at 8 or 9 o’clock at night and think, ‘Oh, my God, I just did a full-on family therapy session,’” Konell said.
It was that realization that led her to open her own practice, now known as the Girl’s Empowerment Experience.
“I would develop these programs that were yoga and fitness and meditation, and all of a sudden, I had this holistic experience for them that basically I had designed for my 13-year-old self,” she said.
Konell’s program—now also open to boys—offers workshops in self-defense, yoga, meditation and journaling, to name a few. Her goal is to take the philosophical lessons found in martial arts and instill them into the lifestyles of her young students.
Her hope is to empower every girl to be “her own hero” and to know that their super power is believing in themselves.
“If I can just impact one kid to follow their heart and follow their dreams and they inspire others, now we’re making massive change in the world,” she said. “We can also help prevent a lot of the violence and chaos that is happening right now. Preventative mental health is crucial in giving ourselves those tools to cope with challenge and conflict.”
Having found success in her program, Konell still faces some of the challenges that she overcame as a child, sometimes finding it hard to believe in herself or that she’s good enough to be the one teaching the lessons her program offers.
But this time, Konell is prepared with the solution to overcoming those doubts, attributing the answer to hard work and positive mindsets.
“I don’t believe in luck, I just believe in alignment and doing the footwork,” she said. “I believe that when you believe in yourself the steps appear.”
Konell often tries to find new ways to challenge herself and recently appeared on the CBS show “Million Dollar Mile” where contestants race to complete an extreme obstacle course against elite athletes.
“I battled so many injuries along the way,” Konell recalled. “I was terrified to be on national TV and be exposed as an imposter.”
She feared the millions of viewers that the show promised would see she’s no athlete and would no longer be able to lead by example.
But instead, Konell learned that vulnerability was just as important in a respected leader.
“What I learned from that is that people don’t need a role model of perfection, they’re looking for someone in the trenches with them,” she said.
Confident in her ability to lead, Konell is now looking to expand her program to various schools and expand her offerings into week-long workshops as well as host more private groups.
Her self-love by fitness mantra has paved the way for her to start offering branded apparel and journals “that people can use as their own self-reflection tools.”
She is also working on a children’s book about self empowerment and believing in yourself.
Until then, Konell will keep working on her overall goal to make change, “one person at a time.”