My primary Martial Art system I study is American Kenpo.
Because of American Kenpo’s large following, many people ask who my instructor is or what lineage I am? A lineage in American Kenpo is no different than a style is in Kung Fu, a Heya to a Sumo wrestler, a team to a MMA fighter or in layman’s terms for a non-Martial Artist--your family.
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)
Sifu Planas began training in Kenpo in the late sixties with Steve Labounty and Tom Kelly. In 1969 Sifu Planas moved to Pasadena, CA and began to work for Grand Master Ed Parker. He was promoted through Grand Master Parker up to his 7th Degree Black belt in 1985. My instructor Senior Professor JR Diaz currently holds a 7th Degree Black belt under Sifu Planas. Through this association our group as well as myself, continue to study with Sifu Planas and his Parker/Planas Lineage.
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
When he attended a seminar by Mr. Parker,
“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 Zaninovich or Sifu Z discussed the change with his good friend and fellow black belt, David Perez. They had their first lesson with Sifu Planas in a park in Sacramento, CA.
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.
Sifu Z is a 9th Degree Black belt under Sifu Planas and travels the world now. Sifu Z has had the privilege of traveling to and teaching in many of those same schools under Sifu Planas.
A common discussion with many students he says is,
“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)
They came up with the idea of having a International event in honor of Sifu Planas and his lineage.
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.
Sifu Z can’t stress the importance of these events enough,
“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.
Bonds are created and ones already established are strengthened, only to deepen our commitment and studies. Nonetheless, it will be a privilege to honor our patriarch who has held us all accountable to train and teach a higher level of Kenpo.
For those who have never attended such an event, I strongly encourage students to attend events like this. Remember, the past is the past and the future is always uncertain, but the present is called so because it is a gift. The time we have with our senior instructors is a gift that some have not have.
All information such as schedule, list of instructors, classes, prices and merchandise can be found on the Huk Planas World Gathering Kenpo Camp website.
I attended my first ever Martial Arts convention called Dragonfest.
Dragonfest is an annual fundraiser for the Martial Arts History Museum. The convention hosts a variety of booths. For $25 guests can meet local instructors to discuss their systems and styles, shop various items ranging from Japanese style art to knives and even Gi’s and of course meet various celebrities.
When I first arrived it was a bit of a culture shock. The mixture of the variety of booths, the Taiko drums and lion dancers were an adrenaline rush and slightly overwhelming. There was a stage available for demonstrations, performances and a live auction. There was a large diversity of systems, some I hadn’t even thought about seeing at a Martial Arts convention such as the United States Sumo Federation and Michelle Manu a Hawaiian Weaponry specialist. It was while I was first walking around that I met Robin Hart.
Robin Hart is the Owner of Muay Thai School USA and is the only female professional promoter in the USA that has brought some of the best Muay Thai fighters from around the world to the USA. Robin found out about Dragonfest after her and her Summer Junior Muay Thai Camp students visited the Martial Arts History Museum. She told me, “The networking here is amazing. It’s awesome to be a part of the Martial Arts Community.”
And what a community it is ranging from Muay Thai, Kenpo to Kung Fu and even Sumo. Robin reassured,
“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.”
As I walked and talked I found that I could have a thorough conversation with anyone about Martial Arts. I sat down and spoke with Carrie Ogawa-Wong, 2005 inductee into the Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Fame, White Lotus Kung Fu Master and instructor at the White Lotus Kung Fu Studio. Her and her husband Doug Wong (Founder of White Lotus Kung Fu and Author) were selling his books, t-shirts and handing out information on their Dojo.
Carrie has attended every Dragonfest, minus the very first one. As a veteran to the convention she said, “It’s great that once a year we get to see our olds friends in the different systems that we have in a way grown up with.”
“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.”
I ran into fellow Kenpoists Marissa and Minh Mach at Ed Parker Jr.’s booth and asked them what they thought about their first visit to Dragonfest?
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.”
Yet these meetings are not just limited to a photo op and autographs. I spoke with Mr. Leong about his book “The Eight Lives of Al “Ka-Bong” Leong,” which tells the story in vivid detail of his career in film and stunt work. At each celebrity booth, guests can purchase memorabilia, have the celebrity sign and then discuss and talk with them and this is all possible because everyone here is approachable.
Towards the end of the day I was able to meet up with the one and only Cynthia Rothrock. Cynthia is a Martial Arts Film actress that is heavily involved with the Martial Arts History museum. She has attended every Dragonfest.
“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.”
Cynthia explained that anyone can enjoy Dragonfest. She studies 5 different forms of Martial Arts: 3 Chinese systems and 2 Korean systems. She says anyone interested in starting Martial Arts could attend and see the various demonstrations and speak to the different practitioners to determine what system is best for them.
The truth is I was slightly skeptical about attending Dragonfest.
I had envisioned a group of mainstream pretend Martial Artists running around in some costume and swinging fake Samurai swords at each other…
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.
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, wondering 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...
Dating someone in martial arts is an alluring concept. I know multiple married couples that study together and have always viewed them as gold miners—the ones that struck it big. But the grass is not always greener on the other side.
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?
In reality it’s a naive concept.
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...