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Laguna Beach

 Volume 13, Issue 37  |  May 7, 2021

Kensho Fitness Studio: it’s all about intention and attention


Photos by Mary Hurlbut 

Bobby Lee, owner of Kensho Fitness, describes himself as an educator, a taskmaster, and a cajoler – the perfect qualities to translate his fitness philosophy into life-changing results for his clients. Certainly, expertise and accountability are critical to any workout program, but a little flattery goes a long way too.

However, it’s Lee’s philosophy of stillness – or maintaining a still point – that permeates every aspect of his life and his approach to training and fitness. He defines it as a point of certainty (about oneself) from which one navigates through the world.


The notion of stillness is not detachment, he further explains. “It’s the necessity to turn everything else off and be present in only the here and now.”

“Everything is about core,” he says. “The idea is to generate force in an object. The more stillness involved, the more efficient it is. You’re stronger mentally than you think you are.”

Lee’s studio is aptly named – Kensho is a Japanese term from the Zen tradition. Ken means “seeing,” shō means “nature, essence.” It is usually translated as “seeing one’s (true) nature,” that is, the Buddha-nature or nature of mind.

Kensho Fitness closeup

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Bobby Lee, owner of Kensho Fitness 

Learned from decades in the martial arts, Lee incorporates three facets of that training – physicality, spirituality, and mentality – into his fitness philosophy. 

“I try to instill in people the idea that training shouldn’t be mindless,” he says. “Clients aren’t maximizing their time here if they don’t put their minds into it. It’s a mental approach to fitness – involving attention and intention. Everything is about intention – as it should be in everyday life.”

Of course, the benefits of fitness are undeniable; some of the issues Lee addresses are: sarcopenia, osteoporosis, body weight, chronic conditions, and mental acuity. As part of his training, he also has several different focus areas – resistance training, golf fitness, youth fitness, and posture stability.


The studio opened last year as part of the Boat Canyon Wellness Collective, which occupies the upper floor in the Pavilions center. All of the businesses upstairs are dedicated to wellness and well-being, and Kensho is a wonderful addition.

 Lee offers one-on-one personal training in over 1,000 square feet of space – with not more than two clients at a time for the foreseeable future to ensure social distancing.

He strictly adheres to Federal, State, and Local government safety guidelines, so his clients can stay physically active. Implementation includes temperature screening, face masks, and frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas and equipment.

Kensho Fitness client and Bobby

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Bobby Lee assists a client with the “Arnold Press,” a shoulder exercise which targets the deltoids but involves multiple planes of motion to activate several smaller muscles at once

Lacking typical fitness facility mirrors – which tend to be a distraction – the studio is a unique space that reflects Lee’s mindful ideology. If a client prefers music during a session, there is a wide variety of music available. 

After thoroughly researching the equipment, Lee furnished the space with the most innovative pieces to be found – some with names such as the Arnold Press, Sissy Squat, and Superman Press. The weights on the weight apparatus are composed of chrome rubber, which is made from recycled tires. For safety purposes, all the weight discs are the same diameter. Lee also installed brand new anti-microbial rubber flooring resistant to mold and mildew. 

The studio’s white walls are adorned with art from Lee and his wife Heather’s collection. Heather – the daughter of the late Dennis and Cheryl Ekstrom, longtime Laguna artists – is an art dealer, curating art in hotels such as Montage Laguna Beach and Surf and Sand. 

To add to the peaceful atmosphere, a heavenly ocean breeze flows from an open patio door and provides more than ample ventilation.

Kensho Fitness Bobby weights

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Bobby Lee doing the “Superman Press”

In addition to designing a serene oasis in which to train, Lee brings a wealth of diverse expertise to his clients. He’s a Master Trainer, Nationally Published Fitness Expert, Former Fitness Editor of Men’s Fitness Magazine, a member of the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Senior Fitness Specialist, Certified Youth Fitness Specialist, Certified Golf Fitness Specialist, Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Professional, with over 35 years of martial arts experience.

It all started with Bruce Lee

In a strange but fortuitous turn of events, martial arts led Lee to the field of fitness and Bruce Lee led him to martial arts. When (Bobby) Lee was 14 years old and living in the Washington D.C. area, he got hooked by the Bruce Lee craze. “I was tall, but small in physique. I started training at 16, and it was my focal point for 35-39 years. I liked fighting, and I wanted to learn how to fight more efficiently.”

The road to Laguna

Lee graduated from George Mason University in Fairfax County, Virginia, with a degree in English.

Combining his writing talent with his dedication to fitness, he moved from the Washington D.C. area to California to work for Eastern Health & Fitness Magazine. He was then hired at Men’s Fitness Magazine as Fitness Editor. 

He also wrote infomercials and worked as a consultant on nutritional products. Now in his spare time, Lee golfs and reads, although he admits that he doesn’t write much anymore. 

Kensho Fitness squats

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Client demonstrates the “Sissy Squat”

Lee met his wife Heather, who had been in the fashion industry in NYC, in Santa Monica where they both lived in the same apartment complex. Lee says, “I buzzed her mother through the gate of the apartment complex, and she said, ‘You should meet my daughter.’” 

However, from what Lee says, it took Heather a while to come around. They married 17 years ago and when Men’s Fitness Magazine sold to a New York company, they moved to Laguna.

“Heather and I opened up a small antiquities and home goods store called TROVE on Ocean Ave and owned it for 14 years. I was working as a trainer all during this time.”


Lee currently has 20 clients, who come in by appointment only, two to three times a week, and train one-on-one.

“I care deeply about all of them,” he says.

It’s clear that he’s passionate about what he does. “Without passion, there is no compassion,” he says.

Lee’s approach is not just about fitness, but the engagement of one’s entire being, and he feels there must be a certain rapport between trainer and client for that to occur.

Kensho Fitness above head

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Bobby Lee spots a client performing the “Jammer Arm Snatch,” a full-body exercise that targets both the upper body (back, shoulders, and triceps), lower body (glutes, quads, and hamstrings), and core, in a single movement

Client Mark Miller says, “At 58, I have worked out consistently for the past 10 years – and off and on throughout my adult life. The type of workout I need has changed. The philosophy and methods about working out and getting the desired results have also evolved. From my perspective, Bobby approaches my workouts with an intelligent and thoughtful mindset, always considering where I am today, past and present injuries, and how best to train me to stay healthy and fit.”

Lee encounters clients who, as part of the fitness craze of the 80s, lifted too much weight – or too often – and are now experiencing the accumulation of that wear and tear.

“Sometimes those injuries take years to manifest themselves as joint problems in the hips, knees, and shoulders,” he says and further explains that he sees older folks who didn’t take care of injuries when they were younger and are now suffering the result.

Methods work

There’s no doubt his methods work, as another client explains.

“I hate working out…except with Bobby,” says Mark Christy. “About two years ago I went in with a rusted knee, a bad shoulder, and a heavy dose of skepticism. But he took me as I was and worked carefully on the things I didn’t even know I needed to work on. Always knowledgeable and watchful, I now see him 3x/week and actually look forward to working out with him. He has literally kept this old Buick on the road and changed my life for the better with his careful guidance. I cannot fathom anyone being more patient and supportive. He is doing what he was born to do.”

Kensho Fitness Bobby sitting

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Bobby Lee demonstrates the “Sissy Squat,” which builds the quad muscles and works the hip flexors while simultaneously strengthening the core 

Lee addresses functional strength, which is so important as we age.

“I have one client in his nineties, and six or seven in their seventies,” he says.

A long-term client has been with him for 16 years.

“Over the years, I have shared happy times with clients such as when a kid gets into college, but also sad times when someone is sick or diagnosed with cancer,” Lee says. “I try to get them as strong as possible before treatment.”

The importance of posture 

“Computers and smart phones have definitely made our lives easier, but it didn’t come without a price,” he says. “In the last 40 years, it has led to two postural distortions unique to modern life: Lower Cross Syndrome and Upper Cross Syndrome. Both are caused by too much sitting and staring at a computer screen or smart phone. An elongated neck, sunken chest, rounded shoulders and a hips back position are indicative of these syndromes.”

It results in the head leaning forward, and “Where the head goes, the body follows,” Lee says. 

However, he has a new software program that assesses one’s posture – and provides exercises that will help correct it. 

Kensho Fitness is currently offering a free posture assessment and a series of exercises to do at home.

Return on investment 

Lee continually seeks to do what’s best for his clients – while getting the best out of them. In doing so, he asks that they look deep within – incorporating the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of training – with intention and attention.

“One’s actions should carry weight,” says Lee.

Kensho Fitness Studio is located at 610 North Coast Hwy, Ste 210, in the Boat Canyon Wellness Collective. Ste 210 is at the end of the hallway.

For more information, go to or call (310) 699-0246.


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Maggi Henrikson, Sara Hall, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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