Quantum turns 25: A Retrospective, Part I

Enter the Dojo

In September of 1995, Master Rachael Evans, creator of the Quantum style, opened the doors to the first Quantum Martial Arts Dojo in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. By the turn of the millennia, the sunlit, 8,000 square foot space would evolve into a thriving enterprise including a deluxe cafe, juice bar, and health center. The early years of Quantum would also see the community bloom. Master Evans remembers, “I started with just eight students and within four years, I probably had about 165.” With the strength of this community, the Dojo went on to incorporate half a dozen outreach programs at local schools and a thriving participation in the Seattle Pride Parade. Quantum became a mixing place for adults and families of all walks of life.

The 1990s in Seattle were politically charged—filled with protests, energy, artistic fervor, and a collective endeavor to create space for those with little or no voice. The Quantum Dojo was born into the heart of it, located at the corner of East Pike and 12th Avenue and just up the street from SubPop, the record label at the epicenter of the grunge movement in Seattle. The music scene was exploding, and Quantum students were training alongside, or making juices for, members of The Gits, Soundgarden, Nirvana, and many other successful local bands at the time. As Master Evans put it, “It was a really good part of town to be in, and it was a really cool Dojo.”


History of the Quantum style

The roots of Quantum can be traced back to Master Evans’ childhood fascination with kung fu films, starting with her experience sneaking into the drive-in theater at nine years old to watch Bruce Lee star in Enter the Dragon. “I saw this little guy besting everyone around him, and he seemed like a superhero to me.” From this initial pull, she studied martial arts on and off as a teenager, but her training really developed while she was serving as a musician in the US Marine Corps, training at Shin’s Tae Kwon Do Dojo in Twentynine Palms, CA. With the support of her mentor Master Mark Karasek, Evans went on to earn her 1st Dan Black Belt at Shin’s Dojo under Master Chang in 1986. The following Spring, the vision of what would become Quantum was conceived. 

In addition to the military base, Twentynine Palms is home to Joshua Tree National Monument, and the ecosystem of this unique desert was a strong influence on the developing Quantum style. “I went out in the desert and danced with coyotes and came back with this vision. It made me want to create phylums to write down everything that I knew. I took those concepts back to Seattle in 1987 and I started writing forms, to essentially codify my ideas.” Much of the initial vision is still apparent in many aspects of the Quantum style. “From the belt colors and what they mean, the design of the Masters belt, the interaction of Quantum physics with the Japanese five elements system… everything came to me in the desert.” Though the concepts came together in one day, the fleshing out of these ideas took time.

Working in her mother’s driveway in North Seattle, Master Evans started by writing an intermediate level form, the adult green belt form, “Attitude,” then went back to the white belt level and worked her way up through the ranks. Once she had written the forms, she started teaching them. Finding students proved easy— Master Evans remembers, “Everywhere I went, no matter where I was or what I was doing, I talked about martial arts and people were like, ‘Hey, can you teach me?’” Training in garages and parks, then in rented studio and gym spaces, she built a core group of students committed to helping her create a Dojo. At the same time, she developed the Quantum library of techniques and exercises, filling in the blanks and expanding the style to include different fighting ranges and engagement levels, taking inspiration not just from Tae Kwon Do, but also including elements of Wing Chun, Judo, Jiu-jitsu, Tai Chi, and Arnis. By the time she secured a lease to build the Capitol Hill Dojo, Master Evans was a 3rd Dan Black Belt, and the Quantum style had grown into a refined blend of hard and soft styles, circles and straight lines, long and close range fighting techniques.


QMAHNC Inc.

When Quantum first opened its doors as a for-profit business, the full name was Quantum Martial Arts Health and Nutrition Center. QMAHNC Incorporated, for short. It was conceived as a place for people to come in and be healthy in various ways, and Master Evans’ mission was clear: “The intention was healing. Using martial arts to heal, and to understand myself.” 

The mission wasn’t always clear to everyone else, though. Tony Evans, Master Evans’ brother, first began his training in the Quantum style in 1995 after having studied Tae Kwon Do as a teenager. Now a 2nd Dan Black Belt, he remembers, “It was clear to me pretty quickly that what Rachael was doing was a lot cooler than what I was doing… [But] it wasn’t clear to me what her view of a Dojo was, or how it had a behavioral aspect to it. I just thought we’d get together and I would learn different techniques, get more power behind them, and look flashier, and I didn’t realize that that came with a different attitude.”

That different attitude is what set Quantum apart from other contemporary American dojos, most notably through the focus on training for personal growth instead of on competition. Quantum students did not participate in meets or matches, but rather progressed through the curriculum through belt tests in a supportive community. Experiencing these personal gains in front of one’s peers built a tight-knit community of friendship and mutual support.


The Amenities 

The Original Dojo was a complex business full of many amenities: a juice bar and cafe, massage facilities, hot tubs and a dry sauna, a healing and nutrition center, and a pro shop selling gear and traditional martial arts weapons. The juice bar and cafe were vegetarian, and the menu was, unsurprisingly, full of characteristic puns. There was a juice called the Single Middle Punch (apple, watermelon, and pineapple,) and another called the Connective Tissue Cocktail; lunch items included Alphabet Soup (where they added every single vitamin supplement they had in stock), and a sandwich named Gizmo (after a long-time student’s dog). They had a sandwich called the F.L.A.T. (fakin’, lettuce, avocado, and tomatoes), and a soup called Split Pea and Sham. Master Evans made all the soups, and they were always vegan. 

The QMAHNC, Inc. space was plumbed with showers when they rented it, and from there, the students rebuilt saunas, fixed the pumps on the jacuzzis, repaired the lockers, and tore out a bunch of walls to build new ones. Master Evans explains, “I wanted to give people access to facilities to help them take really good care of themselves. I wanted to cook for people, take care of them, and teach them how to eat right—and for the restaurant to pay for the martial arts, so I could give the classes away for free.”


Outreach programs

Although Quantum was originally operating as a for-profit organization, the guiding principle of service to others was present from the start. The concept of creating outreach programs to help underserved youth was launched in the late 1990’s, and Quantum ran after-school and PE programs in several Seattle schools.

“We started working for the Seattle Unified School District in 1997. [We had] up to four programs running at a time during those years, working in Giddens, Concord, Bailey Gatzert , and Lowell Schools’ after-school programs. Many of these programs were in underfunded schools with a diverse student body, so we went up to them and asked, ‘How can we help?’” 

Patti Hearn, former Quantum student and 1st Dan Black Belt, was a Blue Belt at Quantum when she founded Lake Washington Girls Middle School in 1997. She asked Master Evans to come in during the day and offer a PE program. Quantum launched a partnership with LWGMS in the Fall of 1999 that continues to this day. Master Evans remembers, “I was so honored when Ms. Hearn asked me to come be a role model for young women… Lake Washington Middle School is where some of the most heartwarming and interesting work I’ve ever had a chance to do happened. I learned a ton. I still feel humbled by those experiences, and I carry those girls in my heart every place I go.” 


Self Defense / Security

In addition to community outreach at schools, Quantum students were also heavily involved in social justice organizing. Home Alive is a nonprofit group formed in response to the 1993 murder of Mia Zapata, the lead singer of the punk band The Gits, and Quantum offered space for the organization to teach self-defence classes. Master Evans was also involved with an offshoot of the Guardian Angels called the Q Patrol, a grassroots movement created to organize watchdogs to patrol the Seattle streets at night, ensuring that queer people would get home safely in the face of hate crimes and street harassment. 

Through her involvement in the Q Patrol, Master Evans was introduced to the organizers of the Seattle Pride Parade. She ran their security operations for four years (1994–1998), and organized the full security detail. As such, most of the Pride security team during these years were Quantum students, shouting “Yes Ma’am,” through their walkie-talkies as they directed the parade through the streets.


Next steps

Over the five years spent training on Capitol Hill, the Dojo had blossomed into a whirlwind of a bustling and busy enterprise, but the workload was taking its toll. Despite the massive interest of students, the needs and expenses of the complex business meant Quantum was struggling to make a profit. Then, in 2000, the cost of rent was tripled overnight, and the Dojo could not keep up with the increased costs. QMAHNC, Inc. declared bankruptcy, packed up the mats and moved the Dojo to North Seattle, where they reincorporated as a non-profit organization. The next chapter would involve building out a new and very different Dojo which they called  MAPI, or Martial Arts in the Public Interest.