A couple of weekends ago, a group of us drove to Austin, Texas to participate in the first Kenpo Senior Conference. The event had about 80 Kenpoists from all over the world, and it was the best karate weekend we’ve ever been a part of. It was amazing to be among so much energy and desire to perpetuate the Art.
There were a variety of classes on Friday night taught by some of the chief lieutenants under each of the senior instructors. The four Senior Instructors each taught on Saturday followed by two classes on Sunday, also from top students. It was very much information overload (in a good way) but here are just a few thoughts and non-technical takeaways from the classes that we attended. Technical information is being integrated into our regular school practice.
Mr. Steve White, 8th degree – Kenpo counters to common grappling attacks – This was our first exposure to Mr. White, and the energy he brings to the mat was contagious. We spent an hour moving to-grappling and out-of-grappling situations within the technique of Five Swords. It was tremendous fun but the teaching style of Mr. White was money in the bank. We will definitely make every effort to try to train with Mr. White again.
Mr. Glenn Haley, 4th degree – 2nd Point of View where the Opponent is a grappler – Having trained alongside Mr. Haley before at some of Mr. Duffy‘s Spirit Camps, this was the first time to be taught by Mr. Haley in a class. Let me tell you, he is as good as advertised. His background in multi-discipline training always related back to Kenpo. The premise was learning how grapplers think so Kenpoists can better know how to counter the attack. The drills were very well done. Mr. Haley is another instructor who, if teaching, we will try to be there.
Mr. Bruce Meyer, 6th degree – Teaching Children – Mr. Myers perspective on teaching children very much echoes my own. A martial arts instructor is absolutely in character development mode for teaching children because most of society isn’t going to do it. Just thought that for young children in martial arts instructor has a very good chance of becoming a childhood hero is a deep thought that you need a lot of consideration given more responsibility to protect.
Mr. John Sepulveda, 9th degree – Variable Expansion – We were fortunate with two opportunities to train with Mr. Sepulveda last month. In each class he really pushed us to think beyond what the techniques are and delve more into what could come next. It was both fun and eye-opening to transform hard-hitting techniques into brutal devastation.
Mr. Lee Wedlake, 9th degree – Principles of Instructing – Mr. Wedlake is sought after to teach seminars worldwide, so he knows a thing or two about how to get the most out of people through instruction. Even if you’re already incorporating most of his suggested methodologies into your teaching practices, it always helps to have it regularly refreshed and become top of mind. His statement of “there’s a way to say something to get the best out of someone through coaching and a way to not say something because it can crush their spirit” really hit home. It’s a concept which should be practiced constantly.
Mr. Bob White, 9th degree – Closing the Gap/Technique Entries – Like Mr. Sepulveda, this was my second opportunity to train with Mr. White in a month. It’s extremely easy to become infected with his enthusiasm and passion for karate. All instructors should aspire to teach as he does. We all loved his equation of “basics plus conditioning plus unity equals success”. Unity refers to your family, people you associate with, training partners, classmates, and organization. The brotherhood of who you associate with plays a critical role in your opportunity for success; in every aspect of your life, not just Kenpo.
Mr. Stephen LaBounty, 9th degree – Rough and Tumble strike-downs and wind-downs – Sigung LaBounty was as memorable as advertised in articulation, humor, intensity, and being the teacher of teachers. He demanded we practice with the intensity as if we needed it for a real-life situation. But that intensity was leveled out with humor and an overwhelming caring that we and what we were doing absolutely mattered. He is a natural leader, and it’s easy to see why so many seek out his counsel and advice.
Mr. Tommy Burks, 8th degree – 2 man knife drills – in a weekend deemed with practice like you would use the training, knife fighting is no joke. Mr. Burks prediction that if you get into a knife fight, you’re probably going to get cut, hits home profoundly. I also agree with his assessment that kids and under belts should not start training with a knife until at a maturity level to handle it.
Mr. Thomas Kozitsky, 5th degree – Footwork – Mr. Kozitsky took a few “trouble” techniques built around the seven step, and we worked through them to firmly establish our base. When you have a solid foundation in your stance, tricky footwork is much easier to accomplish.
One other story about the senior instructors and the power of a name. When you train with people you admire it easy to put them on a pedestal. These senior instructors certainly qualified in that regard. So when they recognize you and address you by your first name, especially in a crowd of many, it makes you feel good. All four senior instructors (independent of each other) recognized my instructor, Damian Wilson, and called him by his first name. It’s absolutely put him on cloud nine and made his weekend. Food for thought for those who are teachers (or those who aspire to be teachers) in addressing your students, acquaintances, or even coworkers.
This was the type of event where, if you let it, it made you not only a better martial artist, but a better person. Wherever or whenever this event happens, every Kenpoist should make the effort to participate and absorb as much as possible.