DecompressGearSidebarIf (when?) a zombie apocalypse happens, we’re teaming up with Tirrell Kamara. When the founder of the United Source Muay Thai martial arts school in Kirkland isn’t, as he says, “changing lives one kick and punch at a time,” he’s probably bow hunting.

Kamara began his hunting adventures seven years ago, when a pal invited him to go salmon fishing along the lower Columbia River. While fishing, conversation turned to the upcoming deer hunting season. Kamara had never hunted deer before, and soon he found himself tagging along on his friends’ next hunting excursion.

“I’d always thought about hunting, but it wasn’t anything I’d ever actively pursued,” Kamara said. “We went deer hunting and put in about 15 miles that day, and it was more or less my initiation. I’ve learned since you probably don’t need to put in that amount of boot leather.”

For a while, Kamara hunted with a rifle, but it was the bow that really launched his passion for the sport of hunting. “Once I started bow hunting, everything changed for me,” he said. “Getting after those animals with a bow and positioning yourself to be reliant on a higher level of skill and get close enough to make an ethical shot … it’s a surreal experience.”

Kamara sees bow hunting as an extension of martial arts. “The most stressful part of owning a business is balancing my passion for martial arts and approach to people with the necessities of running a financially profitable business,” Kamara said.

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Photos by Rachel Coward

Kamara first opened a Muay Thai studio in South Seattle in 2002. In 2005, he moved to the Eastside and began teaching classes out of the Redmond Athletic Club. Five years ago, Kamara opened his Totem Square location, a space he said is “not just another meathead gym.”

“We are here to help people strive to improve lives,” Kamara said. “We want everyone to feel comfortable coming in after a hard day and taking it all out on the bag.”

Much of Kamara’s business education was self-taught. He was teaching himself how to bow hunt, too, until he stumbled upon the Northwestern Outdoors Radio show while driving down to Oregon on a Sunday morning for business. Kamara was impressed by an interview on the show with Mike Jenkins, a hunting guide with Upfront Outfitters.

“He wasn’t the typical blabber-mouth know-it-all; this guy had very authentic information. So I decide, ‘You know what? I’m going to call this cat.’ And we ended up rappin’ for about three hours,” Kamara said.

20151016_Tirrell-BowHunting_069Kamara set up a guided five-day hunt for the upcoming elk season with Jenkins. The trip took Kamara’s love of bow hunting and his skills up another level.

Kamara usually hunts in southwest Washington’s Willapa Hills between Longview and Raymond. His goal: 2,500 shots in a season. Like any outdoorsman worth his salt, Kamara has quite the “AND IT WAS THISSSS BIG” story. After a morning spent scouting for elk, Kamara and Jenkins decided to take a quick break along an old logging road to eat some ramen noodles and catch a blink or two.
“So Mike (Jenkins) is dozing, and I start to doze too, which is weird because I usually don’t sleep real well in the woods,” Kamara said. Then something started crunching the forest carpet around them. “My bow is strapped to my pack, but I don’t respond right away. Then I hear a noise again and turn my head and it’s staring at me,” Kamara said.
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What Kamara said next is not suitable for print. No more than 10 feet away was an enormous mountain lion. “This Tom was big. He had his paw suspended in the air, but for some lucky reason he didn’t think I looked like good eating,” Kamara said. “That dude could’ve pounced on me. Once the threat was over though, how incredibly cool was it to see that! You don’t see that if you’re on the couch.”

Despite that too-close encounter, Kamara says the outdoors is his refuge, even if he doesn’t score a bull elk to make steaks or sausages.

“There’s a joy and beauty of connecting with the outdoors. People get so meat-crazed, even hunters. They miss the cool connection point of just being out there,” Kamara said. “It’s as Bob Marley says — we live in a concrete jungle, and philosophically and physically we’re very detached from the process of the things we consume. Knowing I can develop the knowledge and skill set to connect with nature and be able to provide for myself is the icing on the cake.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of 425 Business.