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3 Questions with Josh Hanson

[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: Josh Hanson
Practices martial arts at: American Kenpo Karate Academy
Location of the school: Manassas, VA

How did you get into martial arts? –
The story of how I first started in Martial Arts is pretty standard.  When I was 5, I used to

Josh's son, future Kenpo master

Josh's son, future Kenpo master

 get picked on and bullied on the school bus.  My mom enrolled me in a school that taught Okinawan Kempo and Aikido because she worked with the man who ran the dojo.  It was very traditional and more of a do what I do because that’s how it has always been done kind of environment (though the Aikido came in handy on the bus).

The story of how I really GOT INTO the martial arts is more entertaining.  I was a freshman or sophomore in high school and in sixth period Yearbook class when I saw another kid I had heard also studied martial arts.  So I went up to him and tried to strike up a conversation on our common ground.  It (and I) instantly annoyed him.  Lucky for me (and not so much him) we were assigned to the dark room where I pestered him endlessly in the tiny, dark, smelly room.  After a week or so, he finally broke down and introduced me to American Kenpo.  A few dozen kicks to the groin and strikes to the neck and solar plexus later we became friends and I was obsessed with American Kenpo.

What is your first martial arts experience like or first memory? –
An early martial arts memory is of my first demonstration.  I was 6 or 7 and it was the 4th of July in Joplin, MO.  Our dojo was participating in the festivities that were held in a football stadium.  We were doing weapon forms and I was supposed to be doing a sai kata (that I had practiced all week) but someone didn’t show and I had to switch, a few minutes before we went on, to the bo kata (that I had just learned and hadn’t practiced).  To add to the stress, I was placed on the front line so I couldn’t see the other students who knew and had practiced the bo kata to help me.  I struggled through it, remembered most of it and overcame my fear.  Looking back, it was an excellent life/martial arts lesson.  I learned to expect the unexpected, not to let my emotions or fear overcome me and to be diligent about practicing new material.

Tell your favorite karate story –

Most of my favorite karate stories involve a small garage in Anna, TX and/or Mr. Bowley and Mr. Wilson.  However, most of those stories shouldn’t be shared in an open forum due to statutes of limitations and the fact that blackmail is only effective when it stays secret. 

Other than those, my favorite story is about testing for my brown belt.  It was Spring 1994 at Mr. Duffy’s Training Camp near Austin, TX.  I had just turned 18 (or was about to).  The whole weekend was amazing.  I got to meet Kenpo legends as well as fellow practitioners from around the country.

After an eventful drive from the airport (another story all together), we arrived at the camp.  Not long after throwing my bags on my bed it was time for the first part of the test.  There were 6 of us testing (if I remember correctly) and the first night was techniques and sparring.  Mr. Hickman brought his body armor so we were doing the techniques full power on Chris (another student in our class) which was an incredible workout.  Then came the sparring.  We were sparring on an incline and during one of my multi-attacker fights while I was maneuvering to keep my attackers inline I engaged the closest attacker and lost my footing, falling face first downhill.  The attacker grabbed my shoulder or arm and fell with me.  I landed face down and his knee connected just to the right of my spine (cracking a rib) sending a sharp pain throughout my body and knocking the air out of me.  There were a few more matches after that.  Then, the last match I was an attacker in the multi-attacker fight and the one black belt was the defender.  I was exhausted and couldn’t breathe that well.  I was directly behind the defender not really paying attention and delivering the occasional backfist to the back of his head when out of nowhere he threw a beautiful spin backfist that connected with my nose (flat break).  Shortly thereafter we broke for the night and Mr. Duffy said a few words to us about the next day and I was wondering why he kept looking at me.  Blood was flowing out of my nose and down the front of my gi.  I learned several important lessons that night.  Number one, wear a black gi when testing, blood doesn’t show up as well.  Number two, no matter how tired you are KEEP YOUR HANDS UP.  And three, knowing your environmental conditions (the incline) is more important than you think during an altercation.

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