Jamie Leno Zimron is the developer of The KiAi Way, a leading-edge integrative, body based peak performance training. Jamie grew up in Wisconsin and at age seven was introduced to golf when her parents took up the sport. Jamie became a state and national junior golf champion and played competitively until she entered Stanford University and became interested in the martial art of Aikido. After graduating Phi Beta
Kappa from Stanford she earned her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, and continued to practice and teach Aikido. She founded and was the Chief Instructor of the Women’s Aikido School/Aikido Arts Center in San Francisco for many years. Along with her vast experience in golf, Aikido, bodywork and psychotherapy, Jamie is certified through the LPGA as a Class A Teaching Professional. She owns and operates KiAi Golf and founded The KiAi Way Inc. a company she formed in 2001 to bring innovative high performance principles and practices to golf, leadership and workplace wellness.
Examiner: When you began playing golf what were the mental training programs for you at that time?
JZ: There were none except my dad was a big proponent of Dale Carnegie, PMA (Positive Mental Attitude). If there was anything I just had PMA, which was helpful.
Examiner: The things we focus our thoughts on connected to mental dialogue is considered a mental training practice.
JZ: It’s interesting how Dale Carnegie’s programs from back in the 1940’s became expressed in modern mental trainings. My father’s “PMA all the way” from Dale Carnegie became like a mantra.
Examiner: Dale Carnegie was instrumental for your mental game because he influenced your father and your father influenced you. Did you take any Dale Carnegie programs?
JZ: My dad was a Dale Carnegie program! Every day he woke up us kids at six in the morning even in the middle of the Wisconsin winter and said, “What’s today kids? And we had to answer “The best day of our lives until tomorrow - no matter how we felt.”
Examiner: It wasn’t like you had to get up and sit around the breakfast table and recite Dale Carnegie secrets to success quotes?
JZ: Well we sort of did. Breakfast was early in the morning and Wisconsin mornings are really cold in the winter. The conversation was like, “Sit up straight it’s a wonderful day. Best day of my life until tomorrow. PMA all the way!” That was breakfast.
Examiner: Did you feel that?
JZ: No I didn’t necessarily feel it but whether I felt it or not that’s what we got. My dad acted that way whether he felt it or not. He was a Depression era child and had a very rough life growing up. He pulled himself up by his boot straps. Dale Carnegie was a role model who had gotten over his fears of public speaking and made a great success of himself through the power of positive thinking.
Examiner: You mentioned a story about how Dale Carnegie training from your dad focused your thoughts to make a crucial, clutch seventy-two foot putt in a golf tournament.
JZ: I was defending State Champion and playing in a semi-final match. I was one hole down going into the 18th hole and had to tie the hole to get into a sudden death play-off. It was a five par and my opponent was already on the green in three with a giant green. I had this monster putt to make from the fringe of the green. My opponent had a fairly long putt but mine was much longer. I just walked up the hill to the green thinking, “Anything is possible, never give up.” I ended up sinking the ball into the hole. A newspaper reporter later measured it and put my seventy-two foot putt in headlines. I went on to win the sudden death holes and the next day won the tournament to become the Wisconsin State Champion all over again.
Examiner: Do you remember feeling as though you were in a meditative state? What was the experience for you?
JZ: Interesting question. When I think about it I was in a bit of an altered zone state because everything was sort of a blur, behind and around me. I was definitely in an extra-focused state. I wasn’t nervous, my heart wasn’t pounding, there was no sense of dread or negativity. I just looked over the putt, went up and stroked it and it rolled right into the hole. The whole thing was sort of surreal.
Examiner: Were you saying a mantra?
JZ: Not really. I remember being in a really quiet state, feeling slightly scared walking up to the green and thinking, “I’ve really got to make this.” Then I just went about my business and everything else kind of receded into the background. It was general positivity like, “This can be done. I can still win this. This is possible.” My main interest was to get the ball close enough to the hole to two putt, while hoping she might three-putt. I knew it wasn’t over. I could still win. Making that putt was thrilling and I guess I had made mental space for it to happen.
Examiner: You were able to take that day’s victory and be successful the next day to win the Championship. Sometimes players after experiencing a huge success the next day are flat.
JZ: I didn’t feel that the next day. The next day for me was a piece of cake. I think I won by a lot and everything seemed easy. I was in an extremely positive whole state. I can feel that right now as I think about it. I felt very whole, mentally and physically strong.
Examiner: Why did you shift your athletic direction from golf to Aikido?
JZ: I shifted my direction from golf to Aikido when I entered college. I had had the opportunity to play professional golf as I was ranked in the Top Ten in the national with player’s who are now in the LPGA Hall of Fame. When I began college Title IX had not yet come to pass and I developed other interests. These athletic interests included an introduction to the martial art Aikido. I became involved in golf again in the late 1990’s when a friend asked for a golf lesson. At the time I was living in San Diego and when my friend asked for the golf lesson I taught it like an Aikido lesson. I brought my sword and she brought her 7-iron to the Torrey Pines driving range.
Examiner: You brought a sword? What did you do with the sword?
JZ: A sword and a golf iron are very similar. The way you hold the sword is almost exactly the way you hold a golf club. I brought my sword to show her the the proper grip, club face position, and how to use her energy from her belly-center through the club to make better contact with the golf ball. I showed her how to stand to have more balance and stability like a martial artist does. I was using my sword to show her these things and then we used her golf club and she began making these beautiful swings and hitting the ball in ways she had never hit before. All this happened within an hour and it was fun and easy for me to teach. I had been teaching martial arts and I knew golf so this lesson for my friend was what started my program of combining martial arts and golf. More friends began asking for lessons so I began to develop my program KiAi Golf, which blends martial arts, sport psychology and body-mind fitness with golf instruction.
Examiner: KiAi Golf is your branded name.
JZ: Yes. Ki, is the life energy and Ai, means love, unity, harmony, oneness. KiAi is about holistic integration. Using your energy, mind, body and spirit all working harmoniously together. When everything is working together - like gears in a finely tuned car or a great orchestra, everything works well. The idea is that you are the master of that. You are in charge of things working together. You can’t have your mind saying one thing, while your emotions are feeling something else and undermining your belief. You can’t have your mind saying, “I can reach this green” while emotionally you’re flooded with fear of the water hazard or bunkers ahead of you. Emotions can overtake your mind, your hands may begin shaking or sweating and your physical motor control becomes compromised. There needs to be synchronized harmony in your thoughts, emotions and movement. And there are self-mastery skills to learn and practice.
Examiner: Avoiding distracting thoughts.
JZ: Yes,and you are the one in charge of that. That’s what I teach. I call it Body/Mind Technology. There are principles and practices that are like a roadmap to “the zone.” When we are centered and relaxed, grounded, when we breathe, have a quiet mind and not in the reactivity of stress, fear, anxiety or anger we calm down. We move into more balanced and harmonious states. It’s very practical and the effects are tangible. It’s actually somatic psychology. Somatic psychology is the integration of body/mind interaction.
Examiner: The terminology in biofeedback is psychophysiology.
JZ: I think a big mistake made in sports training is that physical training is frequently taught separately from the mental. For example people go to an office to learn visualization techniques which is good but it’s more effective when it’s presented in a more integrative way. The steps I’ve taken are in uniquely combining my knowledge as a golf professional with my training in martial arts, fitness, bodywork, and psychology to offer clients more holistic peak performance training.
I try to give clients whether it’s through golf or corporate leadership training, generic tools to teach them to center themselves in their body. They are taught how to focus, how to quiet their minds, and be in an integrated zone. People get to a place I call the, “Stress Mess.” Stress is a biochemical/psychophysiological happening in the body. Our thoughts and feelings are influenced by stress hormones and chemicals. We need to calm that down so we are able to think better, feel better and perform better. People need to have ways to move from “stress mess” when it happens. To shift themselves into a more integrated zone where the person is centered, calm, balanced, focused. It’s like driving a car. You are always making little adjustments. In golf it could be that you just hit a great shot and then you miss a putt. All of a sudden the golfer is in the “stress mess.” The person can get out of it back to the integrated zone. They can learn the road map back to center when they get off track. Something unknown is always going to happen when people play. I teach an easy demystified road map out of the “stress mess” back into the zone.
Examiner: Explain what KiAi Golf is and what a client would expect from the experience.
JZ: The idea of using martial arts in golf has been taken up in recent years by great names like, Phil Mickelson, Annika Sorenstam, and Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods has a very strong East/West background. A client can expect to understand the golf swing in new ways and to discover how to use their lower body and core power properly. They will understand that a relaxed, centered, balanced, swing motion is going to get them a lot further in their performance than trying to kill the ball with their arms and upper body tension. They can expect to gain a lot more power, accuracy, consistency and a more positive mental game that keeps their swing motion relaxed and contact centered when striking the ball. They can also expect a great fitness program called, “Make Your Golf Club Your Health Club.”
Examiner: What is this?
JZ: These are new warm-up exercises and a fitness program to create balance, core strength, flexibility and focus - using their golf club. They don’t have to go to a gym, lay down on a mat, get exercise balls or ropes and pulleys for their conditioning. They use their golf club. The exercises can be done either indoors or out. On the golf course you have to keep re-centering, re-grounding, re-balancing yourself. The exercises have them work on their fitness, their focus and their swing patterns so that they gain power, accuracy, consistency and confidence.
Examiner: What is the typical amount of practice required for people to benefit from KiAi training?
JZ: When people do the exercises 5,10,15 minutes a day it is going to help them. The martial arts training idea is daily practice. When you do something every day you are working on ingraining it. To benefit the most it needs to be in the context of daily training. Routine becomes a part of you and everything I’ve designed is technically correct.
Examiner: How is Aikido different from other martial arts or yoga practices?
JZ: Karate is a linear and combative martial art. You spar, you win or lose. Aikido did away with competition. The notion of “Ai” / harmony is this idea of going with the flow. Ki is using your inborn energy- power not just your muscles or will power. This is what makes it different. Aikido is almost dance-like because it uses the notion of blending, moving with and harmonizing to access energetic integrative power instead of brute force muscle power. It’s known as the most advanced martial art philosophically and spiritually, and helps us develop much greater mind-body control and self-mastery.
Examiner: Jamie thank you for taking the time for this interview and sharing your thoughts on integrating mind/body training in golf.