Monday, May 29, 2017

Need is the Seed

(from Mr. Dennis Conatser's Facebook page May 21st, 2014)

Ed Parker's American Kenpo is undoubtedly the most Dynamic & Pragmatic Self Defense System ever developed. It has been stated that "Necessity is the mother of invention", and Kenpo is no different. Although the reasons anyone develops an interest in any martial Art are quite varied, non the less a "need is the seed".

We must however, recognize realistically that any "effective" physical response/actions require "Coordination" which is ONLY developed through training. Regardless of the chosen {{{degree of response, passive or aggressive}}}. While we must clearly be aware of the legal consequences of any action or response that is "beyond what is necessary" to neutralize any aggressive confrontation or bullying intentions. We do have a need to initially utilize all means possible to avoid "harsh" physical engagement i.e., retreating, redirecting, or safely neutralizing and diffusing any acts of aggression..

This of course, IS most optimum...

However, we must NOT be so naive or ignore the potential reality that in some circumstances this plan of action may well be ineffective and possibly even instigate greater aggression. Thus, it would be far better to be prepared for aggressive engagement and not have to use it, than to need aggressive response and not be properly prepared~!

This Philosophy is simply Logical and a calculated Preparatory Consideration for a broad spectrum of potentially dangerous circumstances. To train students for minimal "hopeful or safer" responses to aggressive acts is irresponsible and lacks foresight and logical evaluation of real possibilities.

Man's gift is superior intellect over the lower species of the animal kingdom. He can develop any skills not found instinctive for self preservation and safety, yet In contrast, lower forms of animals all have acute instincts which naturally occur. The Tiger needs not learn to growl, utilize their sharp claws, deliver devastating strikes with blinding and accurate speed. The cape buffalo, rhinoceros, or mighty elk, instinctively coils and explosively utilizes their devastating horns or antlers.

In short, man has the superior mental & physical attributes to learn, coordinate, and train his body to become an effective weapon for self preservation which takes time to develop the mental (awareness) knowledge and physical coordination and reaction skills (which the base Kenpo system provides).
Attitude is the first consideration to mature usage of these developed abilities regardless. Broad preparedness for worst case scenarios is my concern. I don't prescribe to send my students to a potential war with partial skills.

This really puts the pressure on the {{Teachers}} to not only teach "ALL" the necessary skills, but the Hows, Whens, Whys, and to What degrees to apply any and all responses.

Friday, May 26, 2017

What style do you teach?

(by Steven J. Pearlman Ph.D. 5-23-17)

I’m hardly a soccer expert of any sort. I’ve watched soccer.  My son is learning soccer.  I’ve attended his lessons.  But I in no way purport to understand the intricacies of soccer.  And while I know many subtleties of soccer elude me, but I still believe that I possess a reasonably founded layperson’s understanding of what soccer is on the whole.

Unlike soccer, I don’t think the general public holds a sound conception of the martial arts, which is fraught with mythological perceptions: The first parent of popular martial mythology is the media--Enter the Dragon, The Karate Kid, Daredevil, etc.  I love a good martial arts flick as much as anyone, but they all distort the martial arts into what looks good on screen.  (Real martial arts—especially the most advanced—don’t film well at all because the movements are too subtle.)  We don’t see the same problem with soccer; there just aren’t thousands of soccer movies mythologizing the mystical, Eastern qualities of soccer or that depict soccer in fantastically unrealistic ways.  To be fair, I’m certain that any movies that have covered soccer have also, to varying degrees, distorted it, but soccer movies are hardly a genre the way martial arts/action movies are a genre.

Putting movies aside, the parent of martial mythology is the way the martial arts have promoted themselves.  Most people “know” of martial arts according to what they’ve seen at their local dojos.  One of the key problems with such observations, however, is that most people have observed classes for kids.  Meanwhile, the martial arts we provide to children can be radically different than the martial arts taught to serious adults.

Similarly, many adults now “understand” martial arts based on the classes they took when they were kids, which means they were only exposed to the child versions of the arts in the first place.  By way of analogy, we could say that the adults hold a conception of card playing roughly the equivalent of Go Fish, a great game for kids, but hardly the high-stakes Texas Hold’em that adults might play.

Finally, the last and arguably most toxic issue distorts public perception of the arts is the ubiquity of black belts.  So many people achieve a black belt in this or that after a few years of training and, often stopping shortly thereafter, continue to conceptualize martial arts from that rather nascent understanding.  I’m in no way denouncing people for earning black belts; my only point, having been training for about thirty-five years, is that virtually nothing you understand after a few years grants insight into the deeper qualities of martial arts.

By way of analogy, I always tell my students that a black belt is the rough equivalent of a high school diploma.  In high school, you might have learned some important, useful, and accurate things about geology, but you’re by no means a geologist, and you really don’t hold a clue about geology compared to someone working as a geologist for forty years.  Your conception of geology isn’t wrong, per se, and it’s great that you learned geology in high school, but your understanding of geology is still very simplistic.

Nevertheless, all of the factors above—movie mythology, child classes, “high school” black belts, etc.—put many senior martial artists in a quandary when trying to answer what is an otherwise fair and earnest question: “What style do you teach”?

Let’s say, for example, that I say that I teach karate (which I don’t; it’s just for example).  Once I invoke that term, I simultaneously invoke a tidal wave of connotations: screaming (kiais), white pajamas, rigid movements, blocking and corkscrew punching, etc.  I will say karate and my listeners will hear “karate.”  They won’t understand how different karate really is from their conception, how supplely the body most move to generate power, how a kiai isn’t about generating power but about rooting the body, how most bunkai—kata applications—manifest in the transition between postures rather than in the final postures themselves, how dedication to a sensei is really about a service to oneself, how the connection between karate and Zen exists but in ways that far exceed just “being in the moment,” etc.

Thus, the problem in saying that I teach karate is that the “karate” (or kung fu, or BJJ, or MMA, or Krav Maga, etc.) that most people understand isn’t the karate I teach, and it might not be the karate that really exists at all.  And there’s no easy way to bridge the gap between “karate” and karate because doing so doesn’t just require educating the public, it requires re-educating them.  Unlike talking about soccer, explaining what I teach in martial arts requires at least as much dispelling of popular misconceptions and partial truths as it discussing the facts.

In fact, even though my students see me demonstrate all the time, and even though what we always train the applications of our techniques, it still takes me students about a year or two to really get a sense of what the style is capable of accomplishing with more long-term practice.  Such is the case for many arts.

Yet if this diatribe seems like a critique of the public, then allow me to correct that:  Despite the challenges I’ve enumerated, the problem is that I become tongue tied and search for words.  I struggle to communicate against the popular misconceptions of the arts.  I struggle to put to words that which can only be experienced.  I struggle to do any more than invite people to come and take some classes so that they can begin a journey toward understanding.  And I’m hardly alone in that.  Many martial arts instructors struggle with communicating what it is they teach beyond the use of a popular term like “karate” or “kung fu.”

As Alan Watts wrote, “The menu is not the meal.”


Response from Ron Chapel

Ron Chapel's response to this article;


I was fortunate enough to list Ed Parker Sr. as my primary teacher until he passed, spending almost three decades with him. He introduced me to a more intellectual approach to the arts and echoed almost verbatim what you have so eloquently stated.

He always spoke of how no matter what you say to someone, they will always walk away with what their personal experience and understandings are of what you had to say. Everything will be understood through the filter of their own experience and emotions on the subject. So to that end, he always said to choose your words carefully and to avoid connotations that were commonly and generally used. He always said, "General terms and references yield general information and knowledge of the subject at hand."

Being specific is as important in describing what you do as it is what you teach your students. So, he said, "Create your own unique vocabulary and formulate the mental images that you want in other people's minds, and let them ask you further questions to give you the opportunity to elaborate."

Terms like "Karate," "Kung Fu," or even "Kenpo" have taken on such a generic quality and represent so many different interpretations and styles, the terms are almost meaningless to the uninitiated in most cases, and yet yield no additional information to even those who are educated in the arts anymore.

So like you I imagine, you avoid those words as do I in favor of a more personal expression of what you do as well as perhaps unique terminology associated with your teaching.

For me the answer is, "American ChĂșan Fa" based upon the principles of the "Martial Sciences."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Kenpo Lineage Association

(from the Z Ultimate Headquarters Facebook page)

What is the Kenpo Lineage Association?

The Kenpo Lineage Association (KLA) was developed by Grandmaster Taylor, to celebrate the timeless tradition and values of the Martial Arts. It recognizes and honors the achievements of the Monks, Masters, and Grandmasters who have dedicated their lives to inspiring students to reach their ULTIMATE goals in their Martial Arts training. KLA helps us to maintain the integrity and strength of our system for future generations.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A page from the 1974 Blair High School Yearbook

Photo from Kirk Goddard Larson's Facebook page

Blair High School is located in Pasadena CA

Monday, May 15, 2017

Good looking belt

(photo from Mr. Speakman's Facebook page)

I like the bold yellow lettering on the belt, it really stands out.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Kenpo Karate University

A few years ago when Mr. Luellen was doing his kenpo interviews podcast he interviewed Mr. Tony Cogliandro.

It was one of the better interviews and I remember he spoke about how Mr. Parker had always wanted to open a "Kenpo University." A place where kenpo students could actually come and stay for awhile and learn and train in both a dojo as well as classrooms.

What an amazing experience something like that would have been.

I picture it being something like the above photo. A Japanese style building, two stories, set in a wooded area with zen gardens around.

You would walk in the front door, to your left would be a cafeteria and lounge area, to your right would be offices and classrooms. Upstairs on one end would be the dormitory and showers and on the other end would be the dojo.