The Story Of A Kenpo Black Belt - Tell Yours!

in Karate
Several years back, I published the first volume of The Kenpo Continuum. The book is a collection of stories about kenpo practitioners who have dedicated their every spare moment, or at least spent a many years, on a quest to improve their Kenpo karate. Im working hard on putting together volume two of the book and am looking for submissions. To qualify, you must be a black belt in Kenpo Karate and have at least ten years of time on the mat. Your type of kenpo isnt relevant, as far as qualifying, because I am looking for kenpo practitioners from all varieties of lineages. This is not about horn-tooting or showing off, its about remembering our Kenpo roots and keeping track of where the many branches have gone. The following is my journey, as included in the first volume.

My Kenpo karate journey began in 1979, when I was 11 years old. My good friend at the time, Roben, was involved in a kenpo karate class and since I My idea worked out; we were close buddies for years.) I didnt know anything regarding the style, but was blessed to end up at an American Kenpo karate school, which was held at the Belmont, CA YMCA. My instructor was Vinton Koklich. I trained at that school for a bit over four yrs. until my family moved up to Sacramento. That class was once per week and because I never practiced, I left that school an advanced purple belt. But -- I was hooked. Id gotten my initial taste of American kenpo and there was no looking back.

I took time off from kenpo to get adjusted to my new home, but after a year or so, I started my search for a Kenpo school. Kenpo is one of those things that will get becomes part of you. Its not possible to stay away. I also discovered that there wasnt any other sort of exercise which didnt bore me to tears. I tested the waters at a couple of schools until eventually I found 1 that was okay. One day, when I walked in before class, I noticed a black belt on the floor stretching, who I had not seen before. I smiled and said hello and introduced myself, then I continued with my kata warm up.

He watched me for a few minutes, left the workout room, came back in, took my technique list, then told me to follow him. He brought me into 1 of the private curtained sections where instructors did private sessions, then announced, Im your instructor now. Uh, okay. His name is Ray Arquilla.

I learned to have my love with Kenpo karate from Vinton, but I believe I formed my passion for Kenpo karate because of Ray. He fixed my basics along with taught me tips on how to train. And BOY, did we train! I was 17, so, at the time, the three hour twice-weekly training sessions had been easier to handle then. I was also the only female in the class, so nearly killed myself keep pace with the guys. We did some over the top workouts. One that sticks out was the 5in the morning, crack-of-dawn, dead of winter, up-in-the-hills, on a Sundayworkout, near a river. Towards the end of the sweat-inducing workout, the instructor said, I want you all to follow what I do no hesitation. Is that understood? YES SIR! Then, he charged down the hill, through the brush then went flying into the freezing cold river! I must have been a bit nuts then as well because I took the dive with only a minor hesitation. (GOD, I HATE cold water!) It was a really quick swim, but I still practically froze in place. The other student assisting us on the other side said that my head poked up so high from the river that I strongly resembled a turtle.

It had been great though. I stayed at that school, learning more than I can put into words, for close to two yrs.

I later learned from Bob Liles for about one and a half years, when I was around twenty), then later left for a few years because of college along with other obligations.

One of the benefits to being at his dojo was that I was in a position to go to a seminar taught by, as well as being an uke for, Mr. Ed Parker Sr., the previous year before he died. I later made the move to Marin County, where I attended Marin Kenpo, becoming a student of Richard LaFave. He died a number of years ago, but I learned a whole lot in my short time with him. I needed to stop training before he died because I developed Hodgkins Disease (Lymphoma). I was extremely sick for about 18 months, with an additional year or 2 for overall recovery. I tried a couple of different Kenpo karate dojos throughout my recovery, but none of them felt like home for me.

Eventually, I stumbled across Darryl Liners school, where I attended for roughly a year and a half, leaving after I found a bun in my oven. 1 child became 2 - (it is magical how that happens) so after what seemed like a blink, it had been six years since Id been without my art. Throughout that time, I had become resigned to not ever receiving my black belt. By the time my son was 2, however, I started to feel the itch. I was tired of feeling like a fat, frumpy lump. (Raising kids can have that affect on a person, especially a work-from-home mom.)

I went back to Liners school, where I eventually was awarded my shodan. The quest for black belt took a mere 25 yrs. (total). I tested in front of a large panel at Larry Tatums first Las Vegas camp, in 2004. I felt fully prepared had been training really hard for the test, but, as life would have it, my 220lb. instructor fell heavily on my knee sideways during one of the first few techniques for the test. I limped heavily through the rest of the test (and the next half a year). Not the awe-inspiring impression I envisioned making!

As soon as I was promoted though, I began to teach a beginners adult class. Id always helped out at the many schools Id attended since blue belt, but this class was all my own. I loved it.

The only difficult thing for me about being at that school was that I had nobody to with. I did a whole lot of Air Kenpo. I could kick the airs butt like nobodys business. After awhile, I discovered a great Kenpo karate forum (www.kenpotalk.com) where I found kenpoists of like-mind along with 1 of like-location: Through the forum, I met Tara Turnbull, who lives only 45 min. away. Darryls school was right between us, so I invited her to join me for a workout as well as help teach my class. As she was also a kick-butt Air-Kenpoist, she jumped at the chance.

As luck would have it, shes a very capable Kenpoist as well. We rapidly formed a bond and soon after my 2nd degree black test, made the decision to leave to open our own school. Sacramento Kenpo Karate was born.

I was without an instructor for, but once having attended quite a few kenpo camps as well as seminars, I discovered a large group of kenpo enthusiasts who offered me help. The Majority of my instructors have been in the Tatum lineage and Taras has been from the Planas lineage, so we have a whole lot to draw from. Our school (and me personally) were very fortunate to have had Ron Nakamoto join us in 2008. He is currently a fourth degree black belt in American Kenpo and has not only enhanced the quality of our school, but of my personal life as well.

At SKK, we have utilized a lot of various dvds, including Larry Tatums and Mike Lamberts, both of whom have had an influed on my art. Ive found Lee Wedlake to be a wealth of generous knowledge. Most recently, Dr. Dave Crouch has been my instructor (and very good friend) and I have determined our kenpo karate philosophies to be most similar. I can sincerely say Ive become a far more devastating killing machine with the knowledge gained from him, in my relatively-few hours of mat time, than I had learned in the many years training at my previous school. He teaches kenpo in a concept-based way, which I can apply to every technique in the system. As Dr. Dave says, Kenpo is THE WAY you move, not the techniques themselves. Hes one of the the truest example of what Mr. Parker intended, that Ive ever had the pleasure of working with. In September of 2011, Dr. Dave honored me by kicking me to 3rd degree black belt.

Kenpo karate has been instrumental in shaping as well as guiding my life. It has always been a source of strength for me. I have met some of my best friends through Kenpo karate (you know who you are!)

I travel to camps as well as seminars whenever I am able, often taking hundreds of pictures at each one. I do whatever I can to give back to the art that I love so much.

Our website is the Sacramento Kenpo Karate. If you youre a Kenpoist, then youre family. Stop by anytime be part of a class. Wed love having you.
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Amy Long is a 3rd degree black belt in Kenpo karate in addition to being the publisher of the 1st volume of the Kenpo Continuum. She is currently searching for submissions for the next volume of stories.

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The Story Of A Kenpo Black Belt - Tell Yours!

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This article was published on 2011/01/26