Hair slicked back and tied into a bun, Peter Lee Thomas, at first-glance, is an imposing figure. Then comes his disarming smile, which brings an instant ease and familiarity.
It’s just Thomas’ way. He’s a gentle soul who has worked his way through the martial arts world, practicing in Kyokushin Karate, Muay Thai, and Jiu Jitsu, among other disciplines. His career is as diverse as his martial arts background. Thomas, who is based in Los Angeles, is a stunt coordinator, fight choreographer, actor, martial artist and trainer to known Hollywood stars.
“... my passion is in coaching and working in the fitness realm,” Thomas told Hayabusa during an exclusive interview. “It's been a passion of mine since I was very, very young.”
He’s orchestrated the fitness journey of people who range from the everyday athlete to people with worldwide recognition like Halle Berry, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Demi Lovato.
Despite those impressive connections and experiences, there's an easygoing nature that exudes from Thomas. Martial arts gets the lionshare of the credit.
“It's this gift that keeps on giving,” he said. “So you have to just really harness that and apply it to everyday life. It's like the late, great Bruce Lee said: All things, all knowledge is ultimately self knowledge. So through martial arts training you learn a lot about yourself. It's all about perpetual growth and for me … I feel like I've been given this really rare opportunity where I get to pass it on to the younger generation and to people of all walks of life.”
Thomas isn’t alone in his assessment. The American Journal of Psychotherapy studied martial arts and its participants and determined there is a mental and physical health component to training in one of the disciplines. According to the study, martial arts: “enhance self-esteem through the provision of physical activity and group experience, and the teaching of relaxation, concentration, assertiveness, and directiveness and honesty in communication.”
Will has been defined as the power of control over one's own actions or emotions. It’s also a characteristic that has played a major role in Thomas’ life. He’s applied that attribute to his growth as a person and for attaining the goals he has set out for himself.
“[Will] is paramount. It's one of those things where it's not about the lack of resources for anybody. It's the lack of resourcefulness and the lack of willingness to get up and do something,” he said. “I think that's where it lies. I think that is the true power of its essence and we all have it. We all have this drive within us and we all have this inner compass and we're born with it. It just becomes kind of clouded with self judgment and with all the other things.”
It’s a belief he encourages people to tap into when they face the aggravations and challenges that come in different forms on a regular basis.
It's better to be a warrior in a garden versus a gardener in a battlefield
Thomas believes firmly that no matter your background, the will of a fighter is within everyone. He was approached by a client who practiced yoga and ran marathons regularly. She wondered aloud if martial arts was even for her.
The message he relayed to her was simple: Yes.
“I look at martial arts in a very similar light where you become truly adaptable to whatever may come at you,” he said. “Whether it's stress from work, stress from, you know, home or whatever the situation is. You learn to become … very much a peaceful warrior and I think that's the most beautiful thing. One of my teachers once told me this, ‘Peter, it's better to be a warrior in a garden versus a gardener in a battlefield.’ You should always be ready, you should always be happy. It just really is about a mindset, and I think that's the true Bushido way and that’s to be the warrior, the Peaceful Warrior, and to never want to resort to violence because that's really the lowest form of communication.”
It’s a mindset to which Thomas has joyfully embraced.