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Bowley Kenpo Karate » Philosophy » What can Spider-Man teach us about Kenpo?

What can Spider-Man teach us about Kenpo?

One of the first things beginners learn upon starting Kenpo is the creed. A particular statement sets up a recurring theme found in the future belt pledges. “Should I be forced to defend myself, my principles, or my honor . . .” It continues in the orange belt pledge: “which will direct me to greater obligations and responsibilities . . to serve my instructor, fellow students, and fellow man.” In the purple belt pledge: “shall never misuse my skills to hurt or to make afraid . . . “. From the blue belt pledge: “will defend . . the weak, the helpless, and the oppressed.” And even in the black belt pledge: “to protect any student from ravenous individuals who would try to take advantage of personal weakness”.

With great power comes great responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility

The theme is be a good person. Conduct yourself with honor. Help those needing help. Do right by your family, friends, associates, and people you meet along your path. This concept is addresses and reinforced through every belt advancement.

Spider-Man lives by an extremely similar code. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Peter Parker’s uncle instilled this belief in Peter at a young age. And upon being gifted with great power, Peter passed on the responsibility with deadly, unfortunate ramifications. His uncle was killed by a man Peter could have stopped had he acted with honor and tried to help someone else. Since then the motto became his guiding principle.

It’s no different in Kenpo. As you gain more knowledge and skill in martial arts (your power) your responsibilities increase. These responsibilities could be teaching newer students, defending bullied individuals, working within your community, or developing an inner guide to push your personal development. The martial arts journey is more than how to defend yourself or attack opponents. It’s also how to develop spiritually, emotionally, and with honor.

In our school, we talk a lot about what the ramifications are for using Kenpo: from how some of the targets we attack in techniques can leave permanent damage to how to deal with different levels of bullying at school. As we teach new strikes and techniques, we also have to teach the responsibility associated with the new “power.” In Kenpo, we teach how to cripple, blind, or at worst, kill an assailant. Understanding how, when, and why to use those skills is a huge responsibilty. For many of the kids these are hard concepts to fully digest. That’s why they’re brought up so often throughout the karate journey. Reinforcement is constantly needed.

Spider-Man’s uncle tried to reinforce the honor concept frequently. It took tragedy for the lesson to sink in. My goal is to encourage my students to act responsibly with their martial arts training. Perhaps one day they’ll be a hero to someone needing help.

If you enjoyed this post, please help spread the word by sharing it with your network or commenting below.

Hat tip to Mr. Luellen.

Sam Bowley
McKinney, TX

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  • Tony Kelser

    This is your best yet Sir. There is so much I could say but suffice it to say… Good Job.

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