It has been over a year since I got back on the mat and continued my study of Kenpo Karate.
I was so enthusiastic to be back on the mat as an adult and to have a new and mature perspective of martial arts. As you advance in our system, our self-defense begins to focus on complicated attacks from an attacker with martial arts training. It’s natural and crucial when we discuss these attacks that we discuss the systems they would originate from. For the longest time that was the only exposure I had to other systems and Dojos.
Then one day a group of us students were invited by my instructor to accompany him to Oregon to participate in a seminar. This was the first time I had ever been to another dojo. I loved speaking to the students; discussing techniques, sparring, and our general love of Martial Arts.
It was my inspiration to start Kenpo Girl.
My extended Kenpo family in Toledo, Oregon.
My ultimate goal being to create not only a forum for different Martial Artists to discuss their love for the art but also to expand my education. I have had the honor of meeting Martial Artists in Kung-Fu, Hungar Kung-Fu, American Kenpo, Kempo, Muay Thai, Sumo and even professional mixed martial artists.
Yet I hadn’t had the opportunity to speak with anyone from the Taekwondo system.
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I knew next to nothing about Taekwondo...
When Taekwondo or TKD was ever brought up I found myself wondering the following:
- If the study of Taekwondo was limited to a certain age and body type?
- How could it be considered an effective form of self-defense if you only kick?
That could knock anyone out.
So would being a contortionist or gymnast be a prerequisite?
When I met up with Mr. St. Clair at his dojang (dojang is Korean for dojo) in the Parkside neighborhood of San Francisco. He had brought two of his black belts to do demonstrations for me. As they demonstrated some of their stretching and spinning kicks Mr. St. Clair clarified for me,
“Any kick in any system can work and it doesn't have to be a high kick. However flexibility does help so we do spend quite a bit of time stretching.”
I think it’s safe to say any system should support stretching because Martial Arts is not just about hitting people but also physically and mentally preserving your body. Yet for Taekwondo, when you add in the competitions, stretching becomes a necessity.
The majority of my education on Taekwondo is based off of Taekwondo’s #1 publicity...
With Karate being added into the mix, would the popularity of Taekwondo decrease and would there be a decrease of students drawn to Taekwondo?
Mr. St. Clair said he had been disappointed in the caliber of fights in the Taekwondo section of the Olympics this year in 2016 but was reassuring that,
“I don't feel Karate being introduced to the Olympics would affect the popularity of Taekwondo. In fact, I’m confident Taekwondo will always be in the Olympics and am excited about karate being in it.”
The art will forever more be engraved with Olympic history...
Captain Nam Tae Hi, standing at the microphone, directs a taekwondo demonstration in 1958 for members of the National Armed Forces of Korea
Mr. St. Clair’s students are not militants but regular teenagers who want to better defend themselves on the streets. He has adapted their training by exposing his students to other systems and styles,
“I make sure my students have a plan B, we do ground fighting as well as weapons training. If they (his students) has to pick up a stick, they know how to use it.”
Two of Rick St. Clair's students:
Ms. Kaela Lee, 17 years old & 1st Dan
Mr. Daniel Uribe, 16 years old & Black belt.
Mr. St. Clair has his students do some cross training but he is adamant they do not forget the history or culture behind TKD. He requires his students to not only know the history of TKD but the language. All students must learn cues and basic parts of the Korean language as well as the history of their art to earn their black belt. In Martial Arts, there will always be knowledge passed down from generation to generation, regardless of their system or rank.
The South Korean flag has become vastly associated with TKD.
This is the one thing that McDojos are unable to duplicate...
We have to remember that although we might achieve black belt, the lessons will never end...
You should tuck tail and run.
I would really like to thank Mr. Rick St. Clair for inviting me to his Dojang and enlightening me on the Taekwondo system.
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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.
Is it fair to assume if martial artists spend so much time contemplating war, then love is going to come up eventually.
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...
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.
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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
Antonina "Black Panther" Shevchenko
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Martial Arts History Museum
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