Nothing by Halves: Ken Duken
Mr. Duken, what in your opinion makes someone a good man?
Ken Duken: This may sound trite, but: being yourself. Though we should also be asking ourselves whether certain qualities or behaviors make a person a good man – or a good human being. I often ask myself whether there is even such a thing as the archetypal man or woman. Aren’t we beyond that? Can’t we just see people as unique individuals? Of course, a man is a man, and a woman is a woman; I have never felt that the goal of equal rights is to force everyone to be the same. Rather, it is about meeting at eye level, regardless of the gender constellation. I think that an attitude like that will help you to successfully navigate this world.
You’ve got some pretty clear opinions. How non-conformist can a person be?
I’m all for challenging the status quo and trying to change things. This attitude is reflected in the many demonstrations happening here in Germany right now – though some of them have been more, some less meaningful. But in any case, the freedom to take to the streets and say what you think is a valuable asset. Not every country gives you this freedom. I also believe that you have to look at the world in relativistic terms and accept that everyone rebels in his or her own way. Because rebellion also has a lot to do with where you grew up and how you were raised. Our society, for example, is an individualist, consume-oriented society. It dictates, for instance, that we are cool if we own a certain product. As a result, we buy outrageously expensive things to impress people we don’t like anyway.
"The sooner I allow myself to make mistakes, and the more I can accept not having achieved what I wanted to achieve, the freer I feel."
You come across as a very self-confident person. Who is Ken Duken really?
Probably someone who combines self-confidence with thoughtfulness and reflection. I ask a lot of questions, over and over again. And I’m not self-confident in the sense that I show up someplace and say: “Here I am, I can do it, let me at it!” Of course, that also is a part of who I am, but what is more important is that I come from a generation or a way of thinking that allows me to say: “If you say A, you don’t necessarily have to say B. I can admit that B might be wrong.” The sooner I allow myself to make mistakes, and the more I can accept not having achieved what I wanted to achieve, the freer I feel. If you want to impress people or achieve something, you quickly feel the pressure to do it right – and can only fail. Today, I just do something again if it didn’t work out the first time. That’s something that has brought more calm into my life. And perhaps it affects the way people see me.
You mentioned trends and consumption earlier. How would you describe your style?
I’m not the kind of person who wants to attract a lot of attention through fashion. I look for clothes that are timeless and that I feel comfortable in. The clothes I wear should be comfortable and give me the feeling that I can move freely. I like to dress in such a way that I can go to a fancy dinner in the evening but also to a hip-hop concert.
How important is quality?
My closet is not especially full; I’ve got just a few quality items there. Durability is important to me, not only for the sake of sustainability but also because I have lots of favorites that I want to keep for a long time.
"I’m not the kind of person who wants to attract a lot of attention through fashion. I look for clothes that are timeless and that I feel comfortable in." – Ken Duken
And what are those?
Jiu-Jitsu T-shirts that I get on my birthdays because I love the sport so much. I also love to wear grey jeans, because they are very versatile and can go with all sorts of different styles.
Is interior design important to you?
Yes, interior design is a huge weakness for my wife and me. I don’t need a villa or a palace – what I need is my cave. Meaning that I want to feel comfortable in our apartment or house and feel inspired. I want colors and designs that I like and I want them to smile back at me. But most importantly: just like with fashion, it’s not about impressing friends or guests. The clothes you wear and the things you surround yourself with are part of your character and your personality. But I also find it exciting to think about the issue of getting the best value for your money. Buying something just because it is expensive doesn’t make sense to me if I can get it in the same quality for a much lower price.
"I don’t need a villa or a palace – what I need is my cave. Meaning that I want to feel comfortable in our apartment or house and feel inspired. " – Ken Duken
When do you really feel like you’re enjoying life?
Doing sports and exercise, which I never do alone but often with friends and acquaintances – whether it’s running, yoga, stretching, weight training or Jiu-Jitsu. Working out with other people means a lot to me.
How often do you train in a week?
From one-and-a-half to three hours a day, five to six times a week. If I sense that I’m not feeling well, I do regenerative training, stretching or yoga. If I want to reduce stress, I do intense, martial arts-based circuit or strength training. That’s been difficult this year, but I usually look for a Jiu-Jitsu school near my shooting locations and right away I’ve got a new family. No matter where I am, I can always find a school where I can train and learn new things.
How important is mobility for you?
This year we got in the car and drove all the way to the south of France to have at least a little summer vacation. We were able to move freely in the hotel complex and go to the beach. Freedom, physical activity and mobility have always been very important to me.
You’re a brand ambassador for CUPRA . . .
Yes, I like the brand’s vision very much – and that it gives you good value for your money.
"I usually look for a Jiu-Jitsu school near my shooting locations and right away I’ve got a new family. No matter where I am, I can always find a school where I can train and learn new things." – Ken Duken
The CUPRA slogan is: “Create your own path.” Does this message resonate especially well with you?
Yes, I can really identify with the brand – though here, too, it is important to be aware of one’s actions. Would I get in a car and drive around the corner to go shopping? No, I’d rather walk and carry my bags as long as I still can. For short distances, I really love to walk. But this freedom to go wherever I want . . . that’s where the car comes in.
Do you have any vices or weaknesses?
I’m the kind of person who loves to enjoy themselves. Good food and drink, that’s my Achilles heel. I’d rather spend an outrageous amount of money on food than on luxury goods.