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Bowley Kenpo Karate » 3 Questions » 3 Questions with Butch Bowley

3 Questions with Butch Bowley

[Editor’s Note – 3 Questions is a continuing interview series of martial artists who have become friends to Bowley Kenpo Karate either in real life or online. If you would be interested in participating in 3 Questions, please drop us a line. ]

Name: Butch Bowley
Practices martial arts at: No Longer Practicing, Trained at YMCA Midland, TX
Location of the school: Midland, TX 

How did you get into martial arts? –
This was an opportunity for my son and I to do something in common. He was just coming of age where sports were replacing ‘playing’ as activities, and I just happen to be searching around for an exercise. I’m not very athletic so competitive sports were out. And I get bored easily with repetitious exercises like weights or running. So I decided to check out a free 30 minute class offered by an instructor (Sensei Curtis Abernathy), a Tae Kwon Do black belt. For both of us, it was instant love. For my son it was a natural. He was fluid, quick, and intelligent so he progressed quickly and impressed the instructor immediately. I had to struggle as I have never been limber or in athletic shape. But I fell in love with the beauty and grace of the kata. It was complicated yet simple. We both thus began our path into the martial arts. Eventually we were exposed to Kenpo which seemed to be the obvious progression of our karate learning. But our father/son bonding time was the major part of our journey. It has and will provide both of us with memories and experiences that we will share all of our lives.

Butch Bowley as a purple belt

Butch Bowley as a purple belt

What is your first martial arts experience like or first memory? –
I think it is awesome when you first experience your training kicking in instinctively. When you can look back at an incident and realize your body knew what to do without you even thinking it. A fellow employee was approaching me in the office hallway one day. He drew back his right hand to throw friendly punch. This is the typical man-friend greeting where the fake punch is accompanied by a ‘hey hows it going?’. I instinctively reacted with a double open hand parry ( left-inward into the right outward ) which rolls over into an inverted eye-spear. I did it fast and stopped with my fingers just inches from his now wide eyes. “Wow, that was awesome” he replied. I hadn’t even realized I had done it as my body had instinctively reacted to his punch. And I realized that those hours of repeating the same techniques over and over had really worked. When my workout after that had boring repititous techniques, I was not quit so resentful of having to do them again (and again and again). It also boosted my confidence level that I could handle myself in a confrontational situation instictively should need ever arise.

Tell your favorite karate story –
Sometimes we learn valuable lessons from our mistakes. I remember an experience once when our class was belt testing. One of our upper students was testing for his brown. Testing for brown can be a very intense experience both physically and mentally. I was just there to be a sparring opponent for him. During our sparring round, I suddenly remembered having watched a black belt use a strange technique, so I thought this would be a good time give it a try. Its a strange move where you stop, open your arms wide, and stick out your chin to your opponent. You appear to be making yourself very vulnerable, but in reality you have just placed your arms in a cocked attack position and tempted him into a forward lunge predictable attack. This surprised him as expected and he lunged with the anticipated backfist. It was easy to parry and follow-up with a punch to the mid section. The spectators watching all laughed and I smiled at my success. However I noticed that my opponent was NOT smiling. As a matter of fact he was red-faced angry. He came at me with double speed and his punches were not quite so restrained. Basically, he kicked my butt the remainder of our match. Afterward he told me angrily that I had embarrased him during his belt exam and what was I thinking? And as I thought about it, I had to agree with him. In my attempt to be funny, I had dishonored him. I was ashamed. There is a time and a place for humor, but this wasn’t it. I apologized to him, of course. But I took away from that experience the knowledge that sparring should be done with respect for your opponent.


Early tournament days out in Midland, TX

Early tournament days out in Midland, TX

A sparring lesson learned the hard way. If the technique is not going to hit you, dont block it. It was my first tournament. I had only been in karate for a few weeks. I had not even sparred yet. But as I watched the fighers in the rings, it looked like a lot of excitement and fun. So I thought to myself, heck I can get in the ring and last three minutes. I know I dont know enough to win, but it would be good just to get my first ring experience out of the way. So I borrowed a set of gear and signed up. The thrill of being face to face with another human for the first time was a rush. He threw a kick and I blocked. He threw a punch and I blocked. Hey I’m not doing badly. He threw a high overhead. It wasn’t even close but I reached up and blocked. Unfortunately, too late I realized that by reaching up to block that I had opened a clear path to my core. It seemed almost slow motion as I watch his front leg come up into a beautiful side kick to my ribs. That was a big ouchie. Fortunately for me that kick gave him the three points to end the match. My instructor complimented me for my initial courage, but indicated we had a lot of work to do. My sparring grew much better over the years, but never forget that lesson. If it’s not going to hit you, don’t block it.


Well I am 62 now. In my younger days, I attended classes regulary for almost 8 years. And Kenpo has since became an integral part of my life. The demands of life moved me in different directions and I was not able to continue my training. I have missed it often. But I have never thought of myself as having left Kenpo behind. Even at my age, I still say I am part of Kenpo even though I haven’t practiced in years and don’t remember any of the names of the the techniques. But I still believe my inner self remembers enough of the inherent basics of the moves that I learned, if a conflict situation arises, I will be able to respond appropriately, physically and emotionally. I can honestly say that my training has done me well in other ways of life as well. It has given me the courage to stand up to bullies. That is those people who would force there demands on you against your will. It has shown me that in the contests of living, sometimes you have to block, circle, move offline, combine multiple strikes, and above all else live with honor. You must have faith in yourself and respect your opponents. You must not let fear stop you from accepting difficult challenges.

These are the basic tenets of Kenpo and they have served me well.

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