By Jonah Digirolamo
At 23 years of age I arrived in the Sacramento airport, my last $20 in pocket, to meet with someone I had never met, in order to train as a Firewalk Instructor. Upon exiting the plane I promptly retrieved my bag and searched for the man I only knew as “Carlos”, a fellow Student at the training. As it turns out, he was an unassuming looking gentleman from the Dominican Republic, wearing an old Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, I greeted him with a hug and together we picked up the rental car. I entered the car with Carlos and reflected on how I ended up in Sacramento, with a stranger, renting a car to drive two hours to be trained in the art of Firewalk Instruction. I had worked as much overtime as possible in the past 3 weeks, solicited donations from friends and family, and now, exhausted, and with every cent invested in my training, it was finally going to happen.
What followed was a unique and intense experience that continues to shape my life today. The class size was smaller than most seminars, which meant that we would come to know each other intimately over the coming days. Each morning we started with a simple drum and dance to bring the group together, from there each activity would increase in intensity. Of these activities, two still stand out from the rest, in my memory. The arrow break was by far the most difficult. The first two times I managed to bend the arrow, but I hesitated and it did not break. Before I tried a third time I was warned by Kevin, “if you do not succeed this time, we will have to move on”, I pressed the point to my throat and the end to the wall. I could already feel the bruise forming over my throat, and still, I knew, that not only could I break the arrow, but that I would. I stepped forward, the arrow bent, you could feel the whole room hold it’s breath, and then it snapped. The release that followed was intense, I wanted to cry and laugh and smile all at once, my body felt both heavy as a rock and light as a feather. Still I maintained composure as we decompressed from the activity and moved to the next.
The activity that followed was similar, the rebar bend. For this we had to team up with someone, it was akin to the arrow break only now we were pushing towards another person instead of a wall. My partner was none other than Carlos, whom I had gotten to know a little more since our drive. Carlos and I each positioned the end of the rebar against our throats and made eye contact, together we counted, 1, 2, 3… The rebar bent as though it were butter, Carlos and I reached an embrace as the rebar fell to the ground between us, neatly bent in half.
These two exercises were very similar, and yet with one I barely succeeded, the other I took to as though I had been doing it my whole life. Both stand out as poignant memories. Through the rest of the training I continued to be brought to the edge of my comfort zone, as we completed exercise after exercise, each one moved that line of comfort a little further.
Spending that much time at the edge of one’s comfort zone is a rare experience for many of us in the 21st century. There are few other times in my life when I have felt so raw, worn down and open to change. These feelings tend to come through extreme experiences, for me personally the closest comparison to how I felt as I left my training is how I have felt leaving Burning Man. Exhausted, pushed to the the absolute limit of what I can handle, unable to be anyone but the rawest, most honest version of myself, and full of purpose and a belief that I can do absolutely anything I put my mind to.
A little over 3 years later I look back at that training and see how it continues to shape my life today. Not only was I given access to the necessary skills and information for leading firewalks of my own, I was taught lessons in working with others, pushing mental boundaries in addition to physical and most importantly, how to share these lessons with others. Through the FIT courses I was pushed over and over to the limits of what I thought I could do and what I thought was possible, these lessons earned a permanent place in my subconscious, replacing “no” and “I’m not sure” with “Yes” and “I’m learning”.
I am honored to be joining Kevin Axtell and Thom Thumb this May in Ohio for the first Kinetic Fire FIT ( FIT = Firewalking Instructor Training). Taking place 3 days before one of the premier US Flow Arts retreats in Oxford Ohio, this is an incredible opportunity for fire artists in the mid-west who would like to learn the art behind firewalking facilitation.
This is the lowest price at which a FIT is offered worldwide. With limited slots left I can not recommend enough securing your spot right away!
Going to a FIT has been one of the single most impact full events of my life.
Visit the Kinetic FIT Website to find out more about this opportunity for Fire and Flow artists to become Certified Firewalking Instructors
Also please feel free to contact me by email Jdigirolamo@gmail.com with any questions.
You can also Email or call Kevin Axtell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-209-353-6327 to discuss tuition, scholarships, and certification.
I’ll see you on the coals.