And then he was an 8th...
Recently, I had the honor of attending my Sifu JR Diaz’s promotion from 7th Degree Black belt to 8th Degree Black belt. This was such a dignified and emotionally charged moment, that most of the attendees were left in tears and speechless.
Sifu Diaz has been a pivotal force in all of our lives; and I purposefully use the word force because he is a force of nature on and off the mat. Over 40 years of a fully dedicated life to Kenpo Karate, Eskrima and his students, now personified in the 8 red stripes on his belt.
My Sifu after being promoted to 8th Degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate.
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My primary Martial Art system I study is American Kenpo.
My senior instructor is Senior Master of the Arts Huk Planas, a 10th Degree Black Belt.
Sifu Huk Planas (left) and Grand Master Ed Parker (right)
My instructor (left) back when he was a brown belt with Sifu David Perez (center) and Sifu Planas (back right)
My friend and instructor Sifu Marty Zaninovich was a 1st Degree black belt in the early 80’s
“I was totally captured with his teachings……..After I attended, I asked (about joining the Parker Lineage), then was referred to contact Mr. Planas.”
Sifu Z remembers,
“This was a very eye opening experience we’ll never forget. That lesson opened a whole new thought process that we were about to engage in. What an awesome journey that continues with something new to learn all the time!!!”
Sifu Z (right) and Sifu Planas (left)
Sifu Planas has 17 countries around the world that study under him.
“There has always been a lot of questions from many practitioners and Instructors in the US and Europe of what the people and talent is like from each perspective group?"
"My response is; they’re awesome and train very hard. No difference in either group.”
Regardless of Town, City, State or Country, the Planas requirements are the same without compromise. It was on a teaching trip to Sweden that Sifu Z and Ingmar Johansson a Swedish Kenpoist also under Sifu Planas and a 6th Degree Black began discussing this very topic.
Sifu Z (Far left) Sifu Planas (Center) Sifu Johansson (Far right)
Sifu Z explains,
“I called JR. Diaz that exact moment and asked if he would be willing to facilitate in gathering a team to help coordinate the event. He did on the spot; Jesa Harper (Kenpo Girl), Gino Martino and several others.”
After the Event Committee was formed, plans for the event were underway.
This event is anticipated to be one of the most exciting developments in the Parker/Planas Lineage for 2017.
Sifu Z explains,
“To this day we are fully entrenched with the preparation for the event; J.R. Diaz was and is so correct with his recommendations.”
The event is scheduled to take place at the Westgate Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Westgate has hosted international events and has earned a well deserved reputation for accommodating Martial Arts seminars.
Students attending can look forward to an atmosphere of sharing, learning, networking and participating in a historical event.
“It brings unity and a tighter bond within our Parker/Planas group and collectively creates fluid boundaries for us all.”
Participants can not only look forward to staying at the Westgate Resort, but can attend a variety of classes by Parker/Planas Lineage instructors from around the world. There is also a banquet scheduled for all participants to dine and get to know each other.
Events like these remind me of family reunions.
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.
Jesalyn Mae Harper
Hello my name is Jesalyn. I'm a divorced single mom and a karate addict...
I am currently a 1st 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
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