When I was younger and first started training, self-defense techniques and katas were strongly encouraged but not sparring.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started sparring and fell in love with it. Yet, the first couple of months were kind of rough as I started to apply everything I had learned and practiced into a full contact scenario.
Kenpo Girl sparring for her 3rd Brown belt.
For the longest time, when people saw my bruises from sparring, their expressions would go from concerned to shocked and slightly taken aback. They would ask,
“You let men hit you?”
“Only after I hit them first,” I would try to laugh it off but the humor was totally lost to them and I began to realize that not only sparring—but women sparring—was considered so taboo.
I keep telling people, but no one seems to believe me.
Little do they realize that sparring is equally crucial in Martial Arts as practicing katas and techniques.
When I attended a large tournament this summer, I was super excited to meet other martial artists who were equally as passionate about sparring as I am. One of these competitors is fellow Kenpo sister, Heather Flessing.
Heather Flessing, 2nd Degree Black belt in Kenpo and 1st Place winner for
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I grew up in a highly competitive family.
Family game night was banned with the fear that a simple card game could easily become a reenactment of an old western saloon bar brawl.
The competitiveness of my family destroyed me on competing.
When I went to watch my first tournament, The Long Beach International Martial Con, my intentions were to photograph the event and socialize with the participants and at absolutely no point compete.
The Dojo I train at primarily focuses on self-defense and Eskrima rather than point sparring and tournament katas. I was excited to attend due to the significance behind it. The Long Beach International Martial Con was originally the Long Beach International Karate Championships and was founded by Grand Master Ed Parker Sr.
For Martial Artists living under a rock, Ed Parker was the founder of the American Kenpo System. He created the Long Beach Internationals in 1964. Many famous Martial Artists such as Chuck Norris, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and “Superfoot” Bill Wallace have established their reputations as world class fighters at the Long Beach Internationals.
It became an annual event and in 1967 Bruce Lee was introduced for the first time to the Martial Arts community and demonstrated his one-inch punch and two finger push-ups
Bruce Lee demonstration at Long Beach Internationals.
It has been many years since the birth of the Long Beach Internationals and is now known as the Long Beach International Martial Con and run by Steve Cooper. Yet I still expected to see finely tuned techniques, katas and good sparring. The first day was black belts, and when I looked at the schedule and saw 12 and under black belts, I will admit I was skeptical.
In my Lineage we have an age requirement of 16 to be a black belt. I’ve always agreed with this because I have always felt being a black belt is more than just skill. There’s a maturity and intellectual aspect I have always associated with being a black belt.
Maturity and Intellectual are not the first adjectives that come to my mind when talking about 12 year olds…
I spoke first to Trinity Harnden, 11 years old and black belt, who had started training when she was 5 years old. She started first competing when she was 6 years old. She had won 3rd in the Self-Defense Techniques that day. Her advice to student’s thinking of competing was,
“They need to follow their heart. Breathe in and out (during competition) and you’ll be fine.”
Trinity Harnden executing her self defense technique.
Pretty mature and intellectual for an 11 year old.
Another 11 year old Black Belt I spoke with was Briannah McGee. She won 1st in Weapons in the 12 and under age group. She started training with the Bo Staff around age 5 or 6 and has been competing from a young age,
“You need to just pretend its practice and breathe.”
Winners of the American Kenpo Self Defense 12 & Under Black belt.
(left) Second Place Mikaela Mata Morose, (center) First Place Briannah McGee, (right) Third Place Trinity Harnden.
I watched many competitors shine in their victory I also saw many drowning in their loss. It was in the moment of water bottles flying and fists colliding with tables and doors, that I realized competitors were forgetting the true benefits and unconscious purpose of tournaments.
Tournaments aren’t just about winning trophies or plaques. Everyone has trophies, especially from tournaments that have been around as long as the Long Beach Internationals. My friend Skye Byerly a 15 year old Black belt in Shotokan and Taekwondo was competing at the Long Beach Internationals for the first time and said,
“It’s my first time here (Long Beach Internationals) but I’m making friends from all over and networking.”
Skye Byerly competing with her Bo Staffs
It’s about the experience.
I had the privilege of not just meeting these young black belts but getting to meet Bob White, 9th Degree Black belt, historical Tournament Champion and Hall of Famer.
Kenpo Girl with Bob & Barbara White
Everyone student who shows up and gets on the mat at these tournaments is already winners.
“Don’t be afraid of people who have been competing for a while.”
We have to remember our ultimate goal is to be better than we were the day before.
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The Summer Olympics happens every 4 years...
Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the Olympics.
Yes... That old.
Yet things took a turn for the worst.
How could that be?
In 2013 the IOC Executive Board recommended wrestling be dropped.
“We were greatly astonished by today’s recommendation of the IOC Executive Board not to maintain wrestling among the 25 core sports for the 2020 Olympic Games. We will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC Executive Board and IOC members of the aberration of such decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games.”
Nenad Lalovic, President of the UWW stated,
"Normally this is done in a few years, we did it in a few months. It was a question of our survival. We did all we could, we changed our sport and the federation was successful. We continue to work tomorrow.”
Some of the sports literally had to fight to be recognized.
Taekwondo started striving for the Olympics in 1974. In 1975 it was accepted for the World Games which is an international competition that recognizes non-Olympic sports. In the 1988 Korean Olympics and the 1992 Barcelona Spain Olympics it was a demonstration sport. At this time Taekwondo was already recognized by the World Cup, The Asian Games, All-Africa Games, and the Pan American Games but the Olympics wouldn’t accept it until the 2000 Sydney Australia Olympics.
One of the requirements to become an Olympic Sport is
To have a recognized international committee that oversees the sport, thus ensuring all athletes are competing under the same rules and regulations.
Tragically over the years it has been almost impossible to unite the organizations.
At this point of time the World Union of Karate-do Organization or WUKO, attempted to unify with the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF) to form the World Karate Federation, in hopes to finally become an Olympic Sport. The union was unsuccessful, causing the IOC to suspend its recognition of WUKO. When the union was unsuccessful the WUKO created the World Karate Federation or WKF.
It was finally in 2016, in Rio de Janeiro that the IOC announced that Karate would be a recognized and participating sport in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan
The politics and drama associated with organized sports can be trying at times.
As a Kenpoist, I tend to view my system more as a self-defense system rather than a sporting system like Judo. Nonetheless, I always find myself watching the Judo, the Taekwondo and the Wrestling because these athletes are not just representing their sport and country…
They are representing our community.
It’s another 4 years before the next Olympic Games and the Karate Community is already buzzing about the Tokyo Games and we should be happy for them because it has taken so many years and so much dedication to reach this point.
But let’s not forget, it’s not guaranteed that the Martial Arts will continue in the Olympics…
Especially if we don't support them.
If you ask any martial artists why they study there are typically 2 answers; self-defense and to improve their quality of life.
But what about the other generations that study Martial Arts?
Are these benefits available to elderly or disabled students?
It couldn’t be further from the truth.
A fun fact: Sherlock Holmes knew Bartitsu.
Robert Pilkington started Cane Masters in 2015 with knee and back problems.
Robert Pilkington: 2nd Dan in Kenpo, Shotokan and Taekwondo.
Developer of Cane Po.
“After 9 months of training in the Cane Masters system, I went to my primary care physician for my annual check-up and he barely recognized me. I was standing up straight, not limping, was able to get up and down, had lost weight and my overall health had improved tremendously. “
Their most recent non-profit program is changing lives.
“I also suffer from extreme PTSD, and when I train, it gets my mind off all my issues, and for a few hours I have some peace in my head.”
Many Veterans are used to working out on a regular basis.
Bill believes the positive effects of the program are due to changing the frame of mind,
“If Veterans accept the challenges presented in the Cane Masters System, it will help them physically and mentally. It gives the veteran something to think about and study rather than the day to day misery that most of us suffer through, both physically and mentally.”
The program is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) through Homeland Heroes.
The program is perfect for Veterans and the ability for one to carry canes or walking sticks in public is protected under the American’s With Disabilities Act or ADA.
...“Covered entities must allow people with disabilities who use manual or power wheelchairs or scooters, and manually-powered mobility aids such as walkers, crutches, and canes, into all areas where members of the public are allowed to go...”
The ADA allows disabled persons to carry canes and other ambulatory devices in public places such as restaurants, hospitals or even airports.
This program isn’t just assisting Veterans and the elderly...
Programs like this are helping break down barriers.
No matter your age, physique, or mental capability… You’re quality of life will improve with self-empowerment.
As stated, the Cane Seminar for Disabled Veterans and Homeland Heroes are non-profit organizations that rely on donations. The donations given to the Cane Seminar for Disabled Veterans are what provide the combat canes for the Veterans participating. If you are interested in donating to the cause or are interested in Cane Masters a link is provided below.
There are many misconceptions and stereotyping in the Martial Arts community.
“Well… you—um— don’t look like you work out often.”
I’ve run into many misconceptions concerning Martial Arts but none are as prevalent as the stereotyping of body image. The two largest forms of exposure for Martial Arts is movies and Mixed Martial Arts such as UFC. It’s natural that the general public would automatically assume all female practitioners would look like Ronda Rousey.
The truth is stereotyping can be found in every system.
I was completely shocked to find out that Sumo was so popular in the United States that it would warrant an Organization such as the USSF. The USSF might be considered a small organization compared to other Martial Arts but they currently have over 600 members which includes approximately 100 active adult athletes and with about 100 active youth in competitions. There are numerous active sumo clubs in 15 states. They even have active students or Rikishi in states that do not have an established club yet.
I had a hard time wrapping my head around those numbers.
Whenever I thought about Sumo with my naïve mind; I pictured huge, obese, scantily clad Japanese men wrestling each other. I was blinded by one of the oldest stereotype of Sumo…
“During our competitions and demonstrations we show people that our athletes come from a variety of ethnic, cultural, and sporting backgrounds. Many athletes come to the sport with a background in judo, freestyle wrestling, other grappling sports, bodybuilding, football, and mixed martial arts.
Sumo is a contact sport and can be very rough. That roughness keeps some people away and attracts others. An average match lasts just a matter of seconds. It’s amazingly explosive –that’s the reason people love to watch it. The burst of energy and adrenaline makes sumo as physically and mentally intense as any sport can be.”
Definitely not a sport or Martial Art for a lazy person. The USSF is trying to break all stereotypes of Sumo, especially to achieve their ultimate goal…
Any new sport admitted into the Olympics has to be open to both male and female. Thus, women are now invited to compete. The first female World Sumo Championships were in 2001. The USSF sent a full ladies team to the 2015 World Championships for the first time.
“The biggest obstacle is the stereotype that sumo is for men and especially for the “big” men. It is slowly becoming more popular with the ladies, mainly due to the fact that they see that there are weight divisions and that there are some very athletic women that do sumo. It’s not just for “big” people.”
These are the battles of stereotypes the USSF and the IFS has had to battle.
To some it will always be some that will want to judge a book by its cover.
I study karate to level the playing field in the event I must defend myself and my son. Remember, it takes 25 pounds of pressure to break a smaller bone, it takes even less to break the nose, to pop out an eye ball or to simply crush the groin. I don’t plan on over powering an attacker. I plan on breaking them.
My Sifu always says, “Karate was made for women. It’s an equalizer.”
I’m a single mother.
I’m an artist and writer.
I fall into the Bantamweight division and like to eat cake.
I am one of the many faces of Martial Arts…
And proud of it.
I discussed this recently with my good friend Debbie Goodman on her TV show, Martial Arts Mania.
Debbie Goodman (Left) Kenpo Girl (Right)
“I started with Shotokan Karate but it just didn’t do it for me. I tried a blended style which taught self-defense moves but there was no philosophy… I finally found John Cho’s Kung Fu school and felt it was a good fit for me."
In 2013, Debbie was nominated for a "Martial Arts Hall of Fame" award in Newport Beach. On this trip she attended a book signing at the Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank, CA and filmed the event and interviewed some of the martial arts celebrities that attended.
Soon Martial Arts Mania was the talk of Los Angeles but suddenly the show was facing an uncertain future. Martial Arts Mania’s co-producer, Eric Catlapp, in May 2013 was tragically killed.
“The show came to a screeching halt at that point and I wasn’t sure it would continue,” Debbie explained.
Debbie saw an opportunity and took it,
“I told him I'd been dying to get an interview with James Lew, and if he could get me an interview with James Lew, I'd come down when he was available, and whichever one of the stars was available on that day, I'd interview them. It turned into a dinner party at James Lew's house, and Don Wilson was the one that was available.”
Don Wilson (Far Left) Debbie Goodman (Left Center)
James Lew (Right Center) James Wilson (Far Right)
Below is the links to CMAC and Martial Arts Mania.
You can also view "Kenpo Girls" interview on Martial Arts Mania below.
For the last few months I have had the privilege of meeting many different students that study Kung Fu.
At a Martial Arts History Museum fundraiser I had the opportunity to meet not a student but a Founder of a style of Kung Fu, Douglas Wong. After lightly discussing his martial arts resume with me, I concluded this man definitely knew Kung Fu. But it wouldn’t be until a few weeks later that I sat down with his wife Carrie Ogawa-Wong at Dragonfest and got my Kung Fu facts straight.
Carrie Wong (left) Kenpo Girl (Center) Douglas Wong (right)
She has studied...
- Aikido under Kensho Furuya
- White Tiger under Master Doo Wai
- Taiji under Master Wen-Mei Yu
- Five Animal Sil Lum Kung Fu and Yau Kung Mon under Master Wilson Quan
- Five Animal Sil Lum Kung Fu and Matrix under Master Tom Chan
- Matrix under Master Al Garza
- Kamishin Ryu (karate)
Some of her students include Kevin Sorbo “Hercules, the Legendary Journey”,
Lucy Lawless “Xena: Warrior Princess”
and Ryan Gosling “Young Hercules”
Carrie training with Lucy Lawless
“The easiest way I explain it is with cars. Kung Fu is a car and each style is a model. The styles are all different but in the end they are all Kung Fu.”
Yes apparently all cats know Kung Fu.
Carrie explained, “When we weren’t doing regular testing none of the students ever asked about it but if you are an instructor that focuses on it then that’s what they (students) will focus on. The American society has a need for promotion, a need to show their progress.
There are so many different systems in Martial Arts, I asked what Kung Fu provided her that no other system did?...
This was something I had read about, that Kung Fu focused on a spiritual energy. The definition of chi in Chinese refers to “air” or “breathing”. These are two different things but both are essential for a martial artists to establish an “energy,” which we transfer into power.
I frowned, the image of Kung Fu and power in my mind were conflicting ideas....
After further discussing the topic, I was reminded that 10x World Champion Kick Boxer, Don Wilson got his start in Kung Fu. Doug has trained previous champions such as William Henderson and Alonzo “Lumpy” Young.
We could go on and on about the misconceptions of Kung Fu.
It leaves us in a quandary on what to do and what to say when confronted with these misunderstandings?
Smile and remember you could be speaking to a future fellow scholar.
I attended my first ever Martial Arts convention called Dragonfest.
“Even though there’s not a traditional belt system (in Muay Thai) we still have advancements like any other system. When people are deeply involved with Martial Arts they have a deep respect for each other regardless of the system.”
“Anyone can attend, there’s a little bit of everything in the Martial Arts culture here. People can be so limited on the culture of Marital Arts so it’s good to attend.”
Marissa had thought it would be smaller, “I didn’t expect it to be this big and with all the notable Martial Artists here. It’s awesome and we appreciate the varieties (systems/styles).”
There were many notable Martial Artists present for the event; from Ed Parker Jr., Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock. One of the celebrities I had the opportunity to speak with is Al Leong, actor from Die Hard and Big Trouble in Little China Town. He had attended last year as well and told me, “This is a better location, it keeps getting bigger. This brings a lot of different people together and different styles together.”
“The Martial Arts History Museum is sponsoring this where you can meet actors and other Martial Artists, there’s entertainment and knowledge for everyone. Everyone here is so friendly and it gets bigger and bigger each year.”
The truth is I was slightly skeptical about attending Dragonfest.
It wasn’t that way at all. Everyone had pride in their system and style and where excited to be at an event where they could discuss their passion for the art. The Martial Arts History Museum might have hosted the event, but it is the passion we all share for the study and art of Martial Arts that brought us there and kept us captivated.
Though this event may be overwhelming for some, I would greatly encourage anyone to attend. This event was an eye opener to the idea of having support not just in your dojo and your own system but to reach out to other various systems.
The physical training may vary but the spiritual journey is all the same.
I attended a fundraiser and award ceremony at the Martial Arts History Museum in honor of Actor, Movie Producer and Traditional Martial Artist Ewart Chin.
Many of his friends and Martial Arts family in June 2016 came together at the Martial Arts History Museum to honor him with Ewart Chin Day. I graciously was invited to attend.
This was the first time I had visited the Martial Arts History Museum or had met someone that studied a traditional form of martial arts. In my system of Kenpo, I appreciated that tended to be somewhat progressive; that over time it evolves with the student’s needs. It had me questioning why someone would want to study a traditional form of martial arts.
I researched Hung Gar Kung Fu and found the style was known for deep, low stances and strong hand techniques. Training techniques varied but traditionally the student could spend months up to years perfecting just their stance training. Sometimes the students could be sitting in only a horse stance for several hours at a time. Perfection of the stance would lead to learning a kata. Traditionally it might take a full year for a Hung Gar student to learn just one kata.
I felt myself have a moment of nostalgia and Tradition was on my mind as I walked through the museum and saw all the traditional systems and styles on display from antique Samurai swords and armor to ancient Polynesian weapons.
Ewart (Master in Hung Gar Kung Fu) couldn’t stress enough...
I wondered how many traditional arts had been lost over the generations?
Yet we also live in a fast paced world, few people might have the time let alone the patience to dedicate to a traditional art such as Hung Gar Kung Fu. Today so much knowledge is available at the tips of our fingers, but what knowledge and lessons are we possibly missing out on by cramming so much into our little brains?
He explained, “I do believe that they are most definitely missing out on traditional systems. Most modern schools and teachers do not grasp these traditional styles and as a result are not able to effectively pass on to their students.”
“My advice to a new student wanting to study traditional forms or traditional styles is that they have to be open to rigorous hard training and learn from someone who truly knows the style. Be humble for it will change your life for the better. Study for the right reasons.”
“Study for the right reasons,” it doesn’t get truer than that.
Knowing that, when a new student is looking for a Dojo to start with they need to be mindful of not just what system they want to study but how would they like to train? My advice is to check to see what local Dojo’s are available in your area. Research their systems and training styles and make sure it fits your needs. As always, never be afraid to ask questions.
As for current students I leave you with an English Proverb…
“You don't know where you're going until you know where you've been.”
Discussing Theories On Martial Arts Films with Don Wilson...
I was invited by my friend Debbie Goodman, creator and host of Martial Arts Mania, to visit the Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank, CA. We were attending a fundraiser for the museum and I was surprised to find that the majority of the guests attending where not only martial artists but involved in films.
I am a complete novice concerning Martial Arts Films and had had mixed emotions of the genre. As an instructor I can’t even begin to count the times students come in asking when they would learn to do front flips or climb up the walls like a ninja.
Yet, who am I to judge? “The Next Karate Kid” was a hit when I first started taking lessons. I remember watching Hillary Swank obsess over her forms with Mr. Miyagi then many years later jumping in the ring with Clint Eastwood in “Million Dollar Baby”.
The truth is it never fails to see a high attendance in Dojos when a blockbuster such as The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Karate Kid (2010) opens. As I walked through the museum, viewing items such as Danielson’s headband from the first “The Karate Kid,” I felt myself slowly becoming more inquisitive to this mainstream subculture of karate.
Was an audience’s fascination on martial arts or the film? How engraved had the film industry become in Martial Arts?
Luckily, later that night I got to have dinner with Don “The Dragon” Wilson.
Don is an 11x World Champion Kickboxer, practitioner of Pai Lum Kung Fu and has starred in over 30 Martial Arts Films.
His response was diplomatic and realistic, “They are not prejudice. Hollywood is color blind, they only see green. It’s about how much they make on opening night. Women now-a-days can do action films, you are seeing more and more of them. What they (Hollywood) wants a big opening and it’s believed a female star might not open as big as if a man was the leading role.”
It’s an interesting concept for Hollywood considering the largest Martial Arts film opening is Rush Hour 2 at $226.2 million and the largest Action Heroine film opening is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at $424.7 million.
For all the people that failed math like me, that almost a $200,000,000 difference.
In 1973 Enter The Dragon starring Bruce Lee and distributed by Warner Bros opened and changed the film industry and began the “Kung Fu Kraze.”
Don explained the significance of the genre...
As for the captivation...
He further clarified, “You can watch the flashy kickers and the stunts with flips but it’s not realistic on the street. It’s not applicable.”
He had a point. Somewhere between the flying kicks and super strong punches, audiences had become captivated with the genre, but there is still a line drawn between Martial Arts and Hollywood Martial Arts.
That line is application.
This could possibly even be the reason student’s that first start at a Dojo seem somewhat disappointed at times. In the end, flashy showmanship will not save them from someone trying to harm them. If we could all run up walls, we would never have to fight anyone.
Nonetheless, we will still see an influx in students when the next martial arts film releases. For the lucky ones that walk into our school it could change their lives for the better. There are still the unfortunate ones that find themselves in a McDojo; schools that feed off the craze but do nothing to better their students.
I believe the best thing we can take from Martial Arts Films is what they are intended for: Entertainment.
Now excuse me, I need to go watch a shirtless Tom Hardy in "Warrior."
I have been struggling with ambivalent feelings about my position at the Dojo...
Either way, I was feeling off and an upcoming seminar was just what I needed. Our Dojo had the honor of hosting three majorly iconic figures in our system: Grandmaster Huk Planas (10th Degree Black Belt), Sifu Marty Zaninovich (9th Degree Black Belt), and Grandmaster Frank Trejo (10th Degree Black Belt).
Grandmaster Trejo had to be picked up due to previous health issues from Diabetes; where his legs, left hand and part of his right hand had been amputated. He had insisted he was ready for some wheelchair Kenpo. My Sifu told me he didn’t have a ride for Grandmaster. Knowing my Sifu was stressing, I immediately volunteered for the task, taking the stress upon myself.
I had never met this man but knew he was a legend.
Worrying was clearly a waste of energy.
He also told me about how he became involved in Kenpo and became an instructor...
I secretly loved hearing his stories of teaching as a lower ranked student.
For his class we pushed his wheel chair out onto the mat. He started with a few stories, opening with a few Rodney Dangerfield jokes he had practiced in the car with me. Watching him run a class in his condition was nothing short of remarkable. He grabbed a few students to help demonstrate the drill we would be working on. It was awesome watching him demonstrate accurately the drill despite his handicaps. He had students working on a sticky hands Huba exercise that had the students working on free movement and feeling where blocks and strikes should go, instead of being told were to insert them. The student’s enjoyed it and it was clear the class was a success.
When we were driving back to the hotel for Sifu Trejo to relax before Dinner...
When he asked what was wrong, I didn’t know how to tell him that I was feeling the edges of my puzzle piece shifting, wanting to be an instructor but that the Dojo was trying to force me to fit in my old gap. I tried explaining, “I’ve been struggling with where I belong in the Dojo. I help on the mat teaching but I am not viewed as an instructor because I’m out ranked by so many. I don’t know what to do.”
He nodded and told me another story,
“We had a pool stick we used as a club. I grabbed the pool stick and I’m hitting him in the ribs with the stick. When he wouldn’t drop him I started hitting him in the legs. He finally dropped my instructor and I remember him standing in the door. He salutes us and says ‘I’m coming back to kill you,’ and he takes off. Well we chase him outside and start fighting again, trying to hold him down till the police could get there and arrest him.”
I was horrified, “What about the other students? Did they help?”
He turned and looked at me with a stone cold face and said, “No and some of them out ranked me. They just stood and watched.”
He told me, “The rank doesn’t matter. I fought for instructor. I did it for my school. That’s what matters.”
I realized I had lost sight of why I do karate. It’s not about obtaining a black belt. A black belt is merely a status symbol that a student has met certain requirements. It’s the student behind the belt that matters. It’s the dedication to yourself, your instructor and your Dojo that counts.
When it was time for Grandmaster Trejo to go home he gifted me with a new gi with his patch and he told me the story and meaning of his patch.
I wanted to make a patch that was like the black armbands you wear when in mourning. So I made the Ghost patch and I only had 10 of them made for the 10 instructors he left behind. Well as time went on they each began to make their own patch and said this should be mine. I left it grey with no colors because when Grandmaster Parker died the color in Kenpo left.
It’s up to us to bring the color back.”
I know there’s no crying in Karate, but I cried a little.
Over the last two weeks we have been actively promoting various level students...
The Peter’s Principle.
I remember distinctly thinking during my last test, “If my Sifu passes me he’s probably blind.”
There are a few things that can help an introspective student regain their confidence after a test.
Ok maybe not that confident.
Yes that's me at the end of my test getting my new technique,
"Escape from Death"
As always, any open dialog is always the best. It’s taken many discussions with my instructor to clear my head of any self-doubts. Constant reminders to be the student and let him be the teacher, constant reminders that perfection is an impossible goal and constant reminders to be my own best friend not my own worst enemy. One of the reason’s we practice martial arts is to build confidence. We need to allow a promotion to do just that—build our confidence.
Pat yourself on the back, you deserve that new belt.
I am on Day 4 of mat leave due to a cold bug a student gave me on the mat...
No Kenpo Girl is not happy.
Because everyone enjoys an enthusiastic student. They not only make instructors life easier but make mat time entertaining with their eagerness to learn new things. Yet, it’s usually these dedicated students that end up bringing more than just their enthusiasm to the mat. They bring the sickies.
When I attended a seminar by Sifu Marty Zaninovich he stressed that we should do martial arts not just for self-defense but more for self-preservation. I contemplated his words of wisdom as I sipped my Theraflu.
If this is the case then martial arts which has been looked upon as a self-defense orientated activity is in all fairness truly about self-preservation. It goes way beyond learning to block a punch or using hand sanitizer. With your self-awareness you begin to recognize your strengths and use them to your advantage.
But what about recognizing when we are at our weakest?
At what point of time do we transition from the warrior who pushes our body to the scholar who listens to the body?
Not many new students understand the concept. Many martial artists are promotion driven. They tend to try and squeeze as many classes in as an attempt to speed up their next promotion; even training when their body is at its weakest. In turn they are failing to recognize the promotion is and should only be a fraction of the goal.
If you truly understand the material and have met your dojo requirements, then missing one class should not make a difference for your promotion. If you are genuinely concerned it will, discuss it with you instructor. They have been sick at one point of time and can guide you through it.
For the experienced martial artists that try to push their way through illness at a dojo, shame on you. Not only is it disrespectful to your body but to your fellow students and instructors. You are needlessly exposing them to sickness.
My parents enrolled me in a martial arts after school program when I was young ...
Needless to say my experience with competitive martial arts is limited. I’ve never paid to watch any fights, usually stumbling upon results or highlights on my Facebook feed, and discussing them with whoever brings it up around the Dojo water cooler. It’s not that I am against competitive fighting—I have just always felt knowing who the top ranking fighters are in UFC wouldn’t save my ass in a street fight.
When I was asked to help promote/attend the grand opening of the UFC GYM in Northridge, CA and the Paradise Warriors Retreat UFC Seminar, I was surprised. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know what I would walk away with. That’s even if I could walk away afterwards.
When I and Ms. Z arrived at the gym we were pleasantly surprised to find that UFC GYMs are like martial arts versions of Chucky Cheese. It was clear that this place was well stocked for any form of fitness training but was also equipped with a mat and their own cage.
Yes that's me playing hide and seek.
It sounded ruthless and I had been told the classes were for any age or level but I was skeptical.
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I was proven wrong by the first class. The striking class with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and his dad/coach Ray Thompson was a pleasant surprise. Here where two clearly experience instructors not only providing realistic drills but discussing the technique and theory behind each drill that was obviously Kempo based (and yes some of the students were kids and women).
It was also an eye opener. As I watched it became clear that very few students had any martial arts basis to go off of. Some of the students didn’t even know what a proper fighting stance was. The Thompson’s were introducing them to literally basics and principles such as...
There is technique in MMA. It comes from the basis of whatever system you choose to start with. You have to learn the basics and hone your technique otherwise you’re just another bozo jumping around in gym shorts.
After class I got a chance to talk to Stephen.
A funny history lesson: My Grandmaster Sifu Ed Parker Sr. was Elvis’s instructor and it was Elvis’s involvement in martial arts that inspired Ray Thompson to start martial arts.
Stephen replied, “No, because of the way I move I don’t worry about it. I see these guys, you can tell (they’re effected) by the way they talk but they get that way in the gym. You have to train smart. When we spar we work light, we work the body not the head. You just have to train smart.”
Training smart was something he had brought up in the class repeatedly even discussing his former injuries and how he listens to his body to determine work outs at times.
Stephen didn’t even hesitate, explaining the importance of learning to defend yourself regardless of age and that it helps teach modesty and respect. He also brought up bullying, that learning to defend yourself will deter bullies.
Pretty much what all proper martial artist instructors have been saying since the beginning of time that no one wants to listen too. Now at Upstate Karate they teach various styles of martial arts. I have been somewhat confused about this in the past and I had read articles and rants online about learning too many systems and never mastering one. “Some people feel that by doing MMA you aren’t mastering a system. Your response?”
I can relate as an instructor. The countless times a student missed class for a week because of a track tournament or even a fatigued student because of back to back practices; at times the parents seeming to be more concerned with the quantity instead of quality of sport activities. I had a wonderful time talking to Stephen. He appeared to be a genuine guy that enjoys not only doing martial arts but teaching it, even taking time during the seminar to help the younger kids in the class. The complete opposite of what I expected.
We later watched the class by Carlos Condit ...
This ended up being pretty much a drill class. Carlos introduced incorporating elbows into blast double take downs and double under clutches. This was interesting to me because I had never heard of such things but as I watched the students you could tell that because they lacked the power principles most would have to try hard to take someone down or get pulverized in the process. The main lesson I walked away with from Carlos was a comment he made that indirectly connected back to Stephen’s interview...
“The more wars (sparring) you have here (gym), the less you have out there.”
Carlos responded, “Yes my son’s been doing Jujitsu a few years. He’s 6. I don’t train him, I just play and wrestle around, let it be fun.”
There are many different systems of martial arts and at times I think parents get confused on what is what and which they should enroll their child in. So I asked him for advice he would give parents thinking of enrolling in martial arts.
Carlos believes and advises, “Take out the competitive aspect and let them train and have fun. When they have fun it allows them to make mistakes and grow.”
I think in turn MMA has the potential to be no different from a singular martial art. It really just depends on where you train and who you train with. Unfortunately with the popularity growth of UFC I believe we will see more MMA versions on McDojos popping up. Anyone who’s contemplating training in a MMA style should take their time to do their research and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The trainers that enjoy the sport and know what they’re doing will welcome the questions because they have the knowledge to answer and are worth your time.
Is it fair to assume if martial artists spend so much time contemplating war, then love is going to come up eventually. It’s natural to find ourselves attempting to merge our lives with mat time. Yet, it always seems to become a tedious balancing act when it comes to mat time and matters of the heart. My Sifu once advised, “Date someone in martial arts.”
I’ve contemplated that statement, wondered if that really is the secret to a successful relationship. As marital artists our equilibrium is naturally set to balance life and mat, but what happens when a third party becomes involved? Haven’t we all heard the phrase, “You’re going to the dojo again?”
Let's be honest, we've all been there and done that...
I was visiting two of my married Kenpo friends; discussing sparring with them when I found out they never sparred together. They practice techniques and forms together… but they didn’t spar. They worried it would cause bad feelings and resentment between the two of them if one was either hit too hard or just right. As a person that loves to spar, the idea of working techniques/forms and eliminating sparring sounded like hell to me; like building a relationship with someone and removing sex from the equation.
This entire time I had been day dreaming what it would be like to date a fellow martial artist—thinking how wonderful it would be to work out together and for someone to finally understand my passion for the art.
Relationship goals... Or Urban Myth?
No relationship is perfect and we tend to lose sight of what is important. Finding a partner that supports us and respects us for who we are. Every relationship is different and will have different needs. If someone loves you for who you are (and you are a martial artist) then they should respect and love that part of you because it’s who you are.
I’m no relationship expert but I am a martial artist and I hope my future partner recognizes from the sparring to Kenpo kisses (bruises) and the long mat hours are not only what I enjoy but they are making me a better person every day.
Jesalyn Mae Harper
Hello my name is Jesalyn. I'm a divorced single mom and a karate addict...
I am currently a 3rd Brown belt in American Kenpo and a Junior Instructor at Double Dragon Kenpo Karate under JR Diaz, I am part of the Parker/Planas Lineage and study Karbaroan Eskrima with JR Diaz, under Guro Ed Planas
Ed Parker Jr.
Long Beach Internationals
Martial Arts History Museum
Martial Arts Mania