Mililani’s Lee Ohana Keeping Alive Ancient Greek Combat

Ken, Christian, Angela and Jewelz Lee. Photo courtesy the Lee family.

The popularity of mixed martial arts has been increasing for more than a decade. For Mililani resident Ken Lee and his family, MMA has long been a lifestyle.

“They didn’t have much of a choice,” Lee said of his children, Angela (15), Christian (13), Victoria (8) and Adrian (6). “It has been a way of life.”

Lee has been coaching MMA since 1996 and spent several years as the head coach of the Canadian National Pankration Team. Pankration, in essence, is an ancient Greek form of mixed martial arts. It was the first combat sport held in the Olympic games in Greece in 1896. In 2003, there was a push to have pankration become an officially sanctioned sport again.

Lee was among 40 delegates who traveled to Greece to attempt to reinstate pankration, but the Olympic Committee wasn’t adding sports at the time.

With that in mind, Lee returned to the Islands in 2004 along with wife Jewelz, whom he had met while a student at Kaimuki High School, and the couple began to raise a family – and to teach MMA, of course.

The family recently returned from the 2012 USA Pankration National Championships in Las Vegas, where both Angela and Christian dominated their respective fields.

All told, Angela won three national titles (in the girls 15-and-under division – lightweight/open weight division and women’s lightweight division), while Christian took home two national titles and one silver medal (in the boys 13-year-old divisions – middleweight/open weight division and 15-and-under open weight division).

Angela and Christian also won the 2011 USA National Championships and the 2011 Tigerbalm North American Championships in Vancouver, British Columbia. They will represent the USA at the 2012 World Pankration Championships in Geneva, Switzerland, this August.

Beyond the family’s accomplishments are the life lessons that can be learned from association with MMA.

“The competition is not about the medals, but the challenge,” said Lee. “We don’t emphasize the medals. Aside from the physical

attributes they gain, we’re proud that the kids are humble and well-balanced. You wouldn’t think of them as being aggressive. MMA has been a good part of our family dynamics and good for our family as a whole.”

Some of Lee’s students are currently training for an MMA event, which will take place May 19 at Saint Louis School.

Lee still occasionally competes in MMA himself. He took home a silver medal during the family’s trip to Las Vegas earlier this month.

“I thought there was going to be an old man’s division, but there wasn’t, so I had to compete with the younger guys,” laughed Lee, who is 39. “There was a good pool of competition, and I did fine.”