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Burn with Kearns: Dumbbells for domestic abuse – Kevin Kearns

by Kevin Kearns, contributing writer

“How women can break the debilitating cycle and get their confidence and life back”.

When I was just 12 years old my father died of alcoholism. My world shattered as I knew it .  The bullying I was subjected to before his death became relentless after his death. It was not until my uncle talked me into taking karate that I knew my life would change for the better and I would spend 42 years, to date, training in martial arts. It literally saved my life.

Then, at age 14 I was smart enough to ask the older students (25 years old and above) that looked like GI Joe’s, on how to lift weights and calisthenics. This boosted my confidence and self-worth even more than I could ever imagine. To feel physically stronger while having the skills to protect oneself is truly gratifying.

I have spent my life in training and teaching martial arts and fitness as well as self-defense for 35 years now. I’ve found that no group needs these skills more than women who have survived domestic abuse. It’s not just the physical, but the emotional and mental abuse that leaves deep wounds that can last a lifetime. And yes, there are men out there that are victims of the same type of spirit killing torture – and I’m one of them.

For women working to regain themselves and their self-confidence after going through what could be referred to as domestic terrorism, this is extremely challenging and awe inspiring as well. I have had the honor of  witnessing it first-hand. I also have 2 teenage daughters who have both learned how to handle themselves through self-defense and self-protection.

As I have stated at my certifications in the Burn With Kearns system for MMA fitness, we are 7 things as a coach in this business 

  • Educator
  • Motivator
  • Inspirator
  • Salesperson
  • Entertainer
  • Part Phycologist
  • Bank Vault

And above all – a coach.  The later 2 are the most important at times like these. Clients will confide in you many things. Nothing sends my radar into overdrive like domestic abuse and bullying. Any man that does any of it is a coward in my book and not a real man.

When handling a subject like this I suggest the following to the client confiding in me

  • Check the facts and recommend she speak to her attorney, law enforcement officer, or domestic shelter service ASAP
  • Find help right away – Being alone in a situation like this is horrible. You think the whole world is against you, they don’t get you, and you will be judged
  • Find a good therapist – The emotional scars left by this can last for years. You need help to manage your emotions and feelings
  • Ask open ended questions that are non-judgmental, empathic, and subjective. Be there for the person and be supportive. It’s about them, not you.
  • Watch for signs – depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, lack of any motivation, not taking care of their appearance, and changes in personality.

Let me tell you 2 stories –

“Little L”

I met Little L through her mom when I was working with a domestic abuse shelter last year. She was a black woman about 20 years old, 100 lbs. soaking wet, and had had 5 spinal surgeries for spina bifida. She was told once that she would never walk. She did. She was told not exercise, but she did. When I had met her, she was just choked and hit with a TV by her now ex-boyfriend who stood 6 foot 3, and 250 pounds. She fought him off and he is now blind in one eye among other things. Even though she had been through that trauma she kept her head and said to me “Coach, I want to learn how to handle myself better, so this never happens again!” I said, “absolutely”.  She became a very good Muay Thai student of mine.

“MaMa L”

MaMa L was little L’s mom. A great southern woman from Georgia. She had a presence about her since day one that was very inspiring, and we hit it off on that first day.  I informed her if I’m going to teach the women in the shelter how to defend themselves, I have some simple rules.

  • Forget being nice in a confrontation with a man
  • Use your brain and mouth to get out of trouble first
  • Once they cross the 6-foot personal space zone all bets are off . You have 2 choices. You send them to the hospital or the morgue because they have ill intent in mind with you, and you could be literally fighting for your life.

Mama  L just looked at me and said, “Um, huh, I like you Coach we will get along just fine.”  I later found out she was also a victim of domestic abuse and was punched in the face at her daughter’s bus stop right in front of Little L who was 4 at the time. Little L called 911 at 4 years old.

Since then, they became some of my biggest success stories.

When it comes to exercises here are some of my favorites for women in this situation.

  • Push-ups or bench press – Traditionally a man’s exercise, but when a woman can bang out push-ups, it’s very inspiring.
  • Pull ups – again since men are known to be stronger in the upper body, having a woman do pull ups, even assisted, builds confidence
  • Jab and cross – teaching them the mechanics behind the punches and how to translate force into a small area, especially a punch, has been completely gratifying for my female clients
  • The Thai Knee – this is not only great for the full leg but also one of the best self-defense weapons out there
  • Football kick – the intention is to aim for the neck but the … well, you know, got in the way. Not only good for balance, explosive power, and leg fitness it’s overall great exercise that will build explosive strength.
  • Dumbbell upper cuts- This is a great core builder as well as arm strength and rehearsing one of the best strikes on the planet.


Kearns is hosting a fundraiser to help remove the stigma of mental illness. More information can be found by visiting

Both of Coach Kearns’ books may be purchased on For more information about Coach Kevin Kearns, including scheduling speaking engagements and classes (both online and in person), please contact him at 508-404-8503 or

Coach Kevin Kearns has been coaching in the world of fitness, nutrition, and tactical self defense for over 3 decades. As the former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pro Fighters, and ranked in the Top 5 in the UFC , he is no stranger to the the importance of proper nutrition and proper mindset programming. He has long advocated to all his clients – athletes or the general population – about the importance of programming mind, body and spirit. 

Coach Kevin Kearns BS FMS CPT – Former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pros Ranked in Top 5 by the UFC Personal Fitness Coach, Author, Columnist, Motivational Speaker, Corporate Wellness Consultant, Youth Wellness Program Provider, Certification Specialist, Personal Self Defense, and Law Enforcement Defensive Tactics Specialist

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