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The Kenpo Police

Have you ever been so passionate about something, you were willing to argue with strangers online about it? Most of us have, or at least thought very hard about it. In the Kenpo karate community, those who like to do (maybe initiate?) the arguing are akin to the Kenpo “Police.” They believe it’s their job to point out what’s right or wrong and how all-things-Kenpo should be.

Police photo by Charles Roberts

Photo by Charles Roberts

For example, a few months back, someone posted a video of themselves doing a Kenpo form on Facebook. The video received some praise from the instructor’s students and a critique from some else saying that’s not how Ed Parker, founder of American Kenpo, did it. After that, the comments turned into bile and venom about tradition vs progression, east coast Kenpo against west coast Kenpo, and personal attacks.

This online war-of-words phenomenon isn’t exclusive to just martial arts discussions. The karate ones tend to be tame compared to gamers and nerds. If you ever want to question your faith in humanity, just go read the exchanges among strangers on popular sites like Reddit or YouTube. You’ll quickly understand why the common internet mantra is “Never read the comments.”

There are two types of people who do this. Those who genuinely believe their position on the topic and want to change the opinion of someone else. Sometimes they can articulate their point of view well in a logical, thoughtful, and respectful manner. And the others are trolls. Trolls are folks who don’t really care about changing someone’s mind or even having a legitimate conversation. They’re only looking to elicit a reaction. Don’t feed the trolls. Nothing good comes from it. Ever. Either group though will try to say, respectfully or not, how Kenpo should be done.

The Kenpo Police arguments generally start around topics like:

  • Those guys don’t do their techniques/forms the right way (Right way meaning how they do them).
  • Such and such organization hands out rank too easy.
  • East coast vs West coast vs International kenpo
  • That’s not how Mr. Parker intended “x” to be.
  • So and so promoted himself to grand supreme rank.
  • Etc. etc.

The Kenpo police make up an extremely small segment of the Kenpo population. By and large the Kenpo community has been some of the most caring, supportive people I’ve met. Most are open-minded to variations on doing a technique, to running an organization, and how to operate a karate school.

But when you post anything online, like the video mentioned earlier, you open yourself up for any and all comments. People are going to judge, have opinions, and verbalize them. Some words will be of support and encouragement while others will be quite contrarian to that. The thing is, you can’t please everyone. And certainly not people who will judge you based on a comment, a video, or your Kenpo lineage.

The Kenpo Police are out there. They have as much right to express their opinion as the rest of us. Really the question is, how do you respond to them? It’s a different answer for each person. But when I feel the urge to argue with the Kenpo Police, I think back to the 3rd Degree Brown Belt Pledge laid down by Mr. Parker:

I pledge that as my skill as a teacher progresses I will never condemn, ridicule, embarrass, or shame any student or fellow instructor in the presence of a class or group. All grievances or disputes shall be conducted in private away from group observation.

Sam Bowley
Bowley Kenpo Karate in McKinney, TX

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The Kenpo Police
The Kenpo Police
The Kenpo Police believe it's their job to point out what's right or wrong and how all-things-Kenpo should be.

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