The Ekata team represents combined decades of training and experience in fitness and martial arts, and each member is passionate about helping you achieve total, lasting fitness.
Meet the Founders
Head Instructor, Co-Founder
Sifu Ed has studied a variety of martial arts for nearly 40 years, holding a black belt or equivalent rank and instructor’s certification in Jeet Kune Do, Savate, Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, Karate and Kung Fu. He has competed in numerous full-contact competitions, including full-contact karate, kickboxing, Savate, Muay Thai and “no rules” tournaments.
As a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, he studies the effects of movement-based awareness training on children and adults to improve their ability to focus and learn more effectively. As a professor, he teaches mind/body connectivity through the study of movement in the Department of Theater, Film, and Television, as well as applied exercise science and Eastern philosophy. He is responsible for the physical conditioning of students on a department-wide basis.
He has studied with many world-renowned Martial Arts Masters including Bruce Lee’s students Sifu Jerry Poteet and Guru Dan Inosanto. He has also studied with many great Lamas, Gurus and teachers of Eastern philosophy and religion. He was personally trained in Jeet Kune Do by Sifu Poteet, named by Inside Kung Fu magazine as “unquestionably the greatest Jeet Kune Do Instructor in the world.”
Ed has also assisted instructing courses in defensive tactics for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Force Training Unit and has trained in Special Weapons and Tactics with DEA Mobile Enforcement Team II.
He has privately trained many celebrities including Val Kilmer, John Malkovich, Alicia Silverstone, and Julianne Moore.
Certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as an athletic trainer, Ed was chosen one of America’s Top 100 Trainers in 2005 by Men’s Journal magazine, and one of the top 5 in Los Angeles. In 2010 Ed was inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame and voted “Martial Arts Leader of the Year.”
Sifu JoAnn has made a habit of breaking with convention. A British Columbia native, she moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s to work in Hollywood as a makeup, hair, massage, and design specialist. After a successful career working with many A-list stars on top productions, she changed direction to pursue her love of physical expression through the study of martial arts.
She was one of the first women in the United States to receive the coveted rank of “Silver Glove” (Black Belt Equivalent) in Boxe Francaise Savate, after just a few years of training. Shortly afterward, she was voted the first female president of the American Federation of Boxe Francaise Savate.
JoAnn continued training, earning instructor’s certification in Muay Thai (under Kru Surapuk Jamjuntr and Kru Saekson Janjira) and Jeet Kune Do (under Sifu Jerry Poteet and Sifu Fran Joseph). Even after suffering a debilitating knee injury that led to a complete ACL replacement, in 2003 she won the U.S. Championship in Boxe Francaise Savate Assaut, which later led to competition in the World Cup of Boxe Francaise Savate in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, where she claimed the title of World Vice-Champion (No. 2 in the world) after fighting five times in less than 24 hours!
After winning her world title at age 45, JoAnn turned her attention to figure competition, athletic competition that entails showcasing the body’s aesthetic lines. The criteria are similar to bodybuilding, but women are judged on symmetry of the body as related to athleticism and not the size of musculature. JoAnn won two regional championships plus the California State Championship Open Division against women half her age.
JoAnn has an uncanny ability to teach and communicate information so that others can enjoy success in reaching their own personal goals.
Sifu Casey Monaghan
Kids and teen classes, adult kickboxing
Having grown up around martial arts, Casey, son of Sifu Ed, has been a longtime student, beginning serious training at age 13, and having since earned his instructor black belt.
He has competed in numerous Savate assault competitions, and placed 4th/5th in the world at the 2014 Savate World Championship in Rome. In addition to Savate, he focuses on Jeet Kune Do, has competed in Muay, and has had practice in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
“I believe Ekata’s success lies in the fundamental drive to positively affect every person who steps through the door. Martial arts becomes a vehicle by which one realizes their true potential and teaches us immense amounts about who we are,” Casey says.
She has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in dance education from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and has been teaching dance since age 14.
“Dance allows the dancer to express themselves in an organic way that cannot be replicated. It frees the spirit and heals the soul,” Kristen says.
Kettlebell and Combat Jiu Jitsu
In 2013-2015 he won multiple bronze, silver and gold medals in Jiu Jitsu competitions, and was a bronze medalist in the 2013 IKLF Championships for kettlebell.
“Since I started training with kettlebells in 2010, I’ve been able to hit numerous personal records, and this style of training has opened my eyes to how versatile one tool can be in boosting strength and athletic performance,” Mike says.
Jiu Jitsu Competitions
• 2013 North American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (NABJJF) Worlds NoGi (Bronze Medal) lightweight division
• 2014 NABJJF LA International NoGi (Silver Medal) lightweight division
• 2014 NABJJF LA International NoGi (Gold Medal) absolute division
• 2014 NABJJF North American NoGi (Silver Medal) lightweight division
• 2015 NABJJF LA International NoGi (Bronze Medal) lightweight division
• 2013 IKLF Championships (Bronze Medal) Double Jerk (150-200lb weight class)
Private Training, Kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do
Derek has competed in kickboxing competitions, and has won gold, silver, and bronze medals in BJJ competitions, as well as bronze medals in kettlebell competitions.
“I love Ekata because every time I walk in greeted by my students and friends, this truly feels like a home away from home,” he says.
Little Pandas, Dragon Program, BJJ
He focuses on training both kids and adults with a goal of growing as students and increasing their skills.
“Being part of Ekata has changed my life for the better. It has given me positive goals to focus on, and I’m constantly improving my mind and body,” Greg says.
She danced professionally for the Los Angeles Clippers and Seattle Sonics, in addition to international resorts, dance teams in Seattle and Los Angeles. She has also choreographed and taught at multiple dance studios.
Heather is a firm believer in the power of Zumba, as she has seen its effects in her life, helping her bounce back after three pregnancies (with 40-50 pound weight gains) and post-partum depression.
“Ekata is all about mind, body, and spirit – an important trinity I follow in my own life as a way of taking charge of one’s health and life,” says Heather.
Adult Jeet Kune Do, Kids Gung-Fu, Kids Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
He has studied a wide range of martial arts disciplines, including Kali/Escrima, Pencak Silat, Tang Soo Do, Hwa Rang Do, Boxe Francais Savate, Muay Thai, Krav Maga, Judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Jeet Kune Do (both original and JKD Concepts), and Xuan Tong Gung-Fu.
He currently instructs adults Jeet Kune Do levels 1 and 2, kids Gung-Fu level 3, and kids Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Other classes he has taught at Ekata include Kali/Escrima, Savate, and Muay Thai.
“Something I love about Ekata is getting to work with the students and help them develop their disciplines,” Michael says.
Leo Hobocienski Vargas
Behavioral Specialist, Theatre Classes
He is an actor, dancer, singer, and all-around performer, as well as a leadership and performance coach.
“I love Ekata, because they share my values and my commitment to creating and instilling community among all that we touch daily,” Leo says.
Shaka (Louis Hurd)
CIZE and Kids/Youth Hip-Hop
Ekata enjoys excellent relationships with some of the world’s top instructors in martial arts and fitness.
Sifu Fran Poteet-Joseph
Master Jeet Kune Do Instructor
Fran holds black belts in several martial arts, and is an expert in Wing Chun, Excrima/Kali, Hwarang Do, etc., but she focuses on the art and philosophy of Jeet Kune Do. She teaches JKD to men and women in the Los Angeles area, and strives to make each class exciting and inspirational. Fran has the outstanding ability to make every person or class she teaches feel special, while having a blast!
Professor Nicolas Saignac
Boxe Francaise Savate Professor
Kru Surapuk Jamjuntr
Expert Muay Thai Instructor
After coming to the U.S., Puk opened The Muay Thai Academy of America in 1987, which is located in North Hollywood. Since the MTA’s opening, Puk and his co-instructors have produced many national and world Muay Thai champions and considered the leaders in the development and teachings of Thai martial arts.
Today with nearly 45 years of Muay Thai experience, Puk continues to teach new students, develop better fighters, and spread the tradition of Muay Thai to all people who desire to learn. He is well known and is respected by all past and present Muay Thai champions, trainers, and promoters throughout Thailand and the United States.
Professor Luiz Baek
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Professor
Grand Master Ting-Jue Zhou
Master Martial Artist/Healer
Master Zhou is an extraordinary living treasure who has both taught and given healing treatments to everyone from his Holiness the Dalai Lama, the LA Lakers, to Olympians, spiritual master, artists, celebrities, and dignitaries world- wide. He is often called “The Healer’s Healer.”
Mestre Amen Santo
Hip Hop Dance Instructor