Keoni Ha’aheo Everington was first exposed to martial arts at age 11 when he started studying Kajukenbo. At age 16, he started study at Ahn’s Tae Kwon Do, which he continued for four years. During college, after a brief experimentation with western boxing, he decided to go back to martial arts and join the Tai Chi/Kung Fu Club at Miami University. There he studied many styles of Kung Fu including Tian Shan Pai, Shaolin Crane, Hong Gar, Wing Chun, and Lee’s Modified Yang Style Tai Chi.
In 1992, Keoni participated in his first martial arts full-contact tournament, The Battle of Cincinnati. After a very close match, he lost to the eventual champion of his weight class. Later that year he became president of the Tai Chi/Kung Fu Club. At this point he recruited Sifu Eric Knight of the Black Tiger Fighting Society as head instructor. In the following two years Keoni participated in numerous martial arts performances, culminating in Asia Fest 1994.
Later that year, as an English instructor for Renmin University in Beijing, he was fortunate to have first hand experience with Chinese martial arts in China. During his first year in Beijing he was given his Chinese name Hua Wu Jie by a Tai Chi instructor. He was able to study several compulsory Yang Tai Chi forms such as the 24 empty hand, and 32 Straight Sword. For a short time he trained with the Renmin University Wushu team, but chronic injuries convinced him that more traditional Kong Fu was better for his long-term health. Therefore, he started studying Chen style Tai Chi with Zhang Weiyi.
The second year in Beijing, Keoni joined the English Department at Tsing Hua University. Early during his Tsing Hua tenure, he participated with the Tsing Hua Wushu Team in the Renmin University Beijing Wushu Tournament in Chen style and 32 sword. Although his skills were no match for some of the best China had to offer, he found the experience a good motivation for future pursuits. He continued his studies with Zhang Wei Yi and added Wu Style Tai Chi to his repertoire.
A few months later, he was first introduced to Bagua master Sui Yunjiang and soon started training in Dingshi Bazhang. In early 1995, he was inducted as Sui Yunjiang’s tudi and paid homage to Li Ziming, Liang Zhenpu, and Dong Haichuan at Dong’s tomb in the outskirts of Beijing. By the summer of 1996, he had completed Lao Bazhang.
Since those two years in Beijing, Keoni has spent shorter stints in places such as Taipei in 1997 to further study Wing Chun. While in Taipei, he also studied Five Element Xingyiquan with the Wu Tan Association. In Shanghai, 1998, Keoni continued his Baguazhang training. Also, in 1998, while in Hawaii, he learned some traditional Tongan spear fighting.