Firewalking is a powerful metaphor experience. walking barefoot over hot glowing coals is a unique and exciting way to challenge yourself to overcome limiting beliefs and act in the face of fear. As a fire artist, firewalking is a beautiful way to develop a deeper connection with the element and energy of fire. It is a teacher for performance, career, practice, and purpose.
It’s an indelible way to learn a lesson. Everyone will remember their first firewalk. Everytime you think about it, you think about the lessons that come with it. Firewalking is a powerful metaphor for facing fears, reaching goals, and understanding that not all of our beliefs are true. There are many things that we think are impossible, too difiicult, or would hurt too much that lead us to not even try. Many of life’s challenges are built up to be these big things, but are really surmountable hills.
Why should flow artists care about fire walking?
Having been a juggling and prop manipulator since he was 16, the art of firewalking dramatically changed Kevin’s life in 3 ways:
It was very scary to take the leap into being a performing and a leap of faith to make a living off performing. Firewalking forced him to examine his fears and act in spite of them. Even if the path seems treacherous, much like walking on 1000 degree Fahrenheit coals may seem, the path is still walkable with enough determination and planning. Firewalking taught Axtell that you can do something even if you are afraid of it. Fear does not have to define you. Axtell has been a professional performer for 14 years, and today, he is living the life he wants largely due to his firewalking experiences.
Firewalking has allowed Kevin to form a deeper connection with the element of fire itself. Having already been a seasoned fire perfomer of many years, walking on fire cultivated a deeper relationship, comfort, and connection to the flame. Axtell feels as if he embraces the flame now. Firewalking allowed him to reexamine his relationship to fire and heat giving a deeper association to empowerment and spirituality itself.
Walking on fire became a celebration of the performance and overcoming the phenomenon of stage fright. It’s helped him be bold, daring, and put himself out there not only as a person, but as a performer and instructor.
How has firewalking grown in the Flow Arts?
Kevin was able to share the firewalking experience at FireDrums in 2009 and increasing the exposure to Flow Arts festivals ever since. Since then, Bliss Butterfly ( Tamara Bliss Sharp) & Jeremiah Johnston have both been certified and are actively leading the west coast firewalking flow artists in this expanding experience. Thom Thumb and Jonah DiGirolamo came to a training with Axtell and Tolly a couple years after their exposure at FireDrums. They then went on to lead walks at Kinetic and FLAME. Tom Thumb has led walks in Italy, Japan. Jonah has led firewalks at a number of festivals across the US.
In order to sign up at FAI festivals, the signup sheet is at the FAI booth. Be sure to do sign up at least 2 hours before it takes place.
How did you get into firewalking?
Un 2005, Kevin and his then girlfriend, now wife, Brandi, were doing fire shows together. They were hired to perform for a Fire walking instructor training by Tolly Burkan and after they performed, they were invited to fire walk with the group. At that time, Tolly was leading instructor trainings twice a year, and Kevin and Brandi were hired again for a performance for the same groups’ graduation. They were invited a third time and were so inspired by the energy of the group and trainings that they decided to take the course themselves. Tolly lived close to them and asked Kevin to assist him with his trainings, logistics, systems, etc. and everything grew from there.
There are a few different firewalking training organizations, but many to one thousand active firewalking trainers (for the public). Three major schools. Five to six total in the world that provide certifications. All of them have roots with Tolly. He is the father of the firewalking movement. Historically it was a mystical practice by an elite few only to be done by a king, shaman, advanced monk, kahuna in Hawaii, advanced medicine person. He was the one who said that anyone can do this and started leading seminars in the early 70s and in the early 80s he started to lead teachers to expand the movement. Kevin is now the Director of the Firewalking Center. You can find out more by visiting their website or following their facebook page.
Poppe hails from Bloomington, IN where she is an active member in the flow arts community through helping to organize local events, choreograph routines, perform, teach, and mentor.
When she isn't spinning a prop or doing acrobatics, she does web design and development, social media, and content strategy. She hopes to use these skills to help elevate flow artists, the community, and the craft.