The Long Road Back

Discussion in 'KenpoTalk' started by oldsoldier2006, May 18, 2018.

  1. oldsoldier2006

    oldsoldier2006 White Belt

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    Hey guys and gals,

    (This is going to be a bit long so I apologize but it will lead to a couple of questions).

    Many many many years ago, I trained in Kenpo. As a young kid, I was enamored with he idea of getting my black belt in karate. Even when I didn't know there were different disciplines and styles of karate. I literally couldn't have told you the difference between Taekwondo and Shotokan. I was bullied when I was six years old and my parents signed me up for kung fu lessons, which lasted as long as it took for me to be put in a position to have to defend myself from said bullies. From that point on, my parents felt that I wasn't mature enough to handle taking martial arts of any kind. In addition to my proclivities for actually using what I had learned to defend myself, they felt that MA was a "fad" that was enjoying commercial recognition and would soon blow over. Thy also likely felt that I thought that I would get a BB in weeks or months and that once I got it, that would be "mission accomplished" - I wouldn't have to take lessons any more. They were probably right on most if not all counts.

    Not long after I had turned 14 years old, I managed to find someone (I'll refer to him here as "C") who trained at the local karate school who wanted an at-home training/practice partner. In exchange for allowing C to drill his techniques on me at nearly full speed, he agreed to teach me what he knew. He explained that my participation would allow for him to maintain his proficiency in "the basics" so I only stood to benefit as his practice dummy. His school taught American Kenpo. C was a 3rd degree BB and apparently had classes that he taught at the school but was always looking to stay sharp. C seemed to love karate at least as much as I did so we never passed up an opportunity to train together. His training was fast but thorough and we would train for sometimes hours in a day, depending on the day. Summer breaks between school years were prime time for me to learn as much as I could and we trained nearly every day of summers and other school breaks. C taught technique after technique, making sure I learned the names and how to perform them on "both sides". Same thing with all the forms. This arrangement lasted for better than two and a half years. I was a sponge throughout that time, though my motives weren't the best but probably understandable for a teenage male. I wanted my BB primarily for the bragging rights, though C and I never discussed why I trained until the end.

    Towards the end, I asked C what belt he thought I was. He got a disappointed look on his face but said nothing as he went to a closet in his basement, pulled a jump rope out and tied it around his waist and asked me if I thought he could still execute any technique that he had been taught better or worse without his BB. I imagined that he could do all of it just fine. He then threw his BB at me and told me to put it on. When I did, he called out a few techniques by name and I performed them. He did the same with a few forms, ranging from simple to difficult. As an adult today, I see the point C was trying to drive home to me. I didn't then. He asked me why the belt was so important. I told him that at that juncture in my life, I felt like karate was the only thing I was good at and frankly, I didn't feel like I was too good at that either. He concluded training that day by asking me to show up at his house early on a Saturday.

    I did reported to his house as requested and he spent the better part of five hours with no breaks calling out techniques, forms and sets by name. When he was finally done, I was barely able to stand. He left the basement and came back moments later with a BB that had two red stripes on either end. I couldn't believe it. He tied it around my waist and I felt like I was on top of the world. I was just about to turn 17 years old when that happened. Not long after he tied the belt on me, he explained that I would never be able to walk into a Kenpo school and be recognized as a 2nd degree BB. I didn't understand. C tried to explain the politics inherent in Kenpo to me but the explanation was lost on me. Nonetheless, he congratulated me on my hard work and sent me home to rest and recover. As we had since become coworkers at the same restaurant, he assured me that he'd see me at work and we'd talk about it more then. I showed up for work several times after the "belt test" and C was never there. I went to his house where his mother told me that he had just taken off and even she didn't know where he went. She guessed that he had joined the Air Force, a suggestion that she had given him at some point. I never saw C again. To this day, I still can't track him down.

    Years went by and in that time, the loss of my teacher/training partner diminished how much I trained. I didn't have C to ask questions to or correct me if I did anything wrong. I compensated by feeling like "the mission" had indeed been accomplished - I got my BB. And I bragged about it to anyone who would listen, mainly just friends and classmates. Life took over and I found myself with less and less disposable time to train. I had joined the military at 17 and threw myself into that quite a bit. It wasn't long before I stopped training altogether but many of the principles and techniques stayed with me. Skip ahead to 2004 during my last deployment to Iraq, I received multiple concussions which led to a permanent brain injury which decimated my long and short-term memory. This wiped out whatever memory of Kenpo I had left. I had stopped referring to myself as a BB a few years prior but my brain injury sealed the deal and in my view, made it clear that I could no longer refer to myself as a BB.

    In 2013 at 40 years old, I had a near heart attack which prompted doctors to urge me to start eating better and find a way to exercise. Military life saw to it that my body couldn't handle running any more. A lot of weight training was out too. I started thinking about martial arts again. I ended up deciding to train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and subsequently Judo. Both were different and I didn't have any previous experience in either so I went into them as green as you can get. One of the first things I had noticed was that the culture was entirely different form the "traditional" martial arts I had trained in. The advent of the internet had opened up countless online resources which have made for valuable supplemental training. In BJJ, depending on who you trained under, watching videos on YouTube was completely acceptable, particularly if you were getting stuck on a technique. Only recently, I found myself thinking "why couldn't I apply this to Kenpo?" The online resources are there, so why couldn't I review what was available and do my best to relearn all of the material I had been taught? Now that I am an adult, the BB only serves as a guideline for what material to research. In my view, I would take on relearning the Kenpo material up to 2nd degree BB more as a supplement to my personal well-being and back-handed tribute to the kindness of C who had made a kid's dream come true and disappeared out of my life. The belt doesn't matter to me any more. (The BB I was awarded had since been lost or stolen some time around 1999-2000). I will never dress out and I'll never teach or compete.

    So my questions are these - Would it be deemed as disrespectful to train based on online resources? Would it be considered "less than" if I have no intentions other than to just train by myself? Has the Kenpo community adapted/evolved to the point of accepting online tutorial (trusted but verified) as BJJ has?
     
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  2. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Here’s something to consider - in BJJ picking up stuff from video is valid because we take whatever we’ve watched and try it out on the mats. If the technique is no good or if we’ve missed necessary details we’ll find out in short order.

    If you’re practicing an art on your own and don’t have that sort of reality check, then video learning isn’t going to give you good results.

    On the other hand, if you’re just training by yourself for your own satisfaction and don’t care about the effectiveness, then who cares whether people you don’t train with consider it “disrespectful”?
     
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  3. oldsoldier2006

    oldsoldier2006 White Belt

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    I agree that my technique will only be as good as the demonstration I'm watching. This is a solo effort. I don't have the time or the available resources to find a Kenpo school that isn't 50+ miles away. This is really only for my own edification. I asked because I know there are purists out there that like to judge. I'm not one who likes to ruffle feathers.
     
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  4. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    So my questions are these - Would it be deemed as disrespectful to train based on online resources?


    I don't believe so, no.


    Would it be considered "less than" if I have no intentions other than to just train by myself?


    Considered by whom? And screw them anyway, why care about them? I don't care about them, do you?

    Has the Kenpo community adapted/evolved to the point of accepting online tutorial (trusted but verified) as BJJ has

    I don't know, can't help you there. I don't much care, and I have long ties to Kenpo. Why do you care? Just train, brother, do the best you can. And enjoy every minute.
     
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  5. pdg

    pdg Senior Master

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    The only time it would likely cause a 'problem' as such is if you were to walk into a kenpo school with "some guy in a garage gave me a BB 30 years ago and I've learned online" and expected to have that BB recognised.

    If you go into a school, you'll be a white belt.

    Just training and learning for yourself, fine, power to you - just don't expect rank from it.
     
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  6. oldsoldier2006

    oldsoldier2006 White Belt

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    I was just about to tell you that I didn't care, but if I was asking on this forum, it's pretty obvious that I do care after all. Relearning this at home with the help of videos et al at my own pace is really for no other reason than to try and salvage the coordination that I have lost thanks to my TBI. Worst case scenario, I find myself in a self-defense scenario (which I obviously try to avoid) and lay down a technique or principal - I highly doubt my assailant is going to care what it was or where I learned it from. I will never go to a Kenpo seminar as no one teaches it anywhere near me. Even if there was a seminar locally, I would only consider going strictly as an observer - not a participant.

    Thank you for your encouraging message. I feel the arts do bind us as a family of sorts. I'll keep training!
     
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  7. oldsoldier2006

    oldsoldier2006 White Belt

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    I agree with you whole heartedly. I can see why that would be the case for many reasons, starting with the politics that my friend had tried to tell me about. I know enough about the fracturing of the upper belts following EPS's death and the proliferation of 10th degree BBs that claim to be the "true disciples" (for lack of a better term - no mockery intended) of EPS and their appending Kenpo associations. I can't think of a single school or academy that makes money from instruction by allowing an out-of-practice black belt to walk in and keep their rank. Not the best business model, though I suspect that people in my situation are more the exception than the rule. Like many other skills, martial arts training is perishable, particularly over time. Honestly, I struggle to train in Judo and Jiu Jitsu as much as I would like to - trying to find the additional time and money to train Kenpo at a legitimate school would be the end of me.

    Even if there were a place that taught Kenpo locally (there isn't) and I wasn't already tied up with Judo and Jiu Jitsu, the aspect of being a white belt wouldn't bother me. As I got older, priorities changed. I'd find it strange to be in mid-life bragging about being a black belt. Fortunately, I have a great example at my judo school of my most recently adapted philosophy on belts. A student in his 50's who got his Judo brown belt in 1984 and fell out of training for a few decades came back to training a few years back. He was allowed to keep his brown belt and just stayed at that belt level until a few months ago when he tested for his black belt. Couldn't have been prouder of him. (I'm a staunch supporter of "team old man").

    Some martial artists learn early on in life that the belt simply doesn't matter. I wasn't one of those people. I had to learn much later in life. What matters to me now is the feeling of accomplishment I'll have when/if I am able to recoup everything I learned so many years ago.
     
  8. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I am never an advocate of learning via video as the only, or the primary, source of instruction.

    However, you have been through the training in the past with an instructor who pushed you hard, and you are trying to recapture something that you once had. In my opinion, that is different from learning via video.

    I have had times when life circumstances prevented me from training for some time, and aspects of a kata had become hazy. I used video to remind me, and I was back on track to be able to practice again.

    So sure, that can work. There are a lot of video resources available, and I will say that not all are created equal, so do a little research before you decide what to trust as reference material. Out of curiosity, do you know what your kenpo lineage was? That would help you identify material that would be most similar to what you had been doing. There can be a lot of differences from one lineage to another, even between those claiming to be American Kenpo, and tracing lineage to Ed Parker.

    And by the way, a Nidan earned from some guy in his basement is just as valid (or more so!!!) as one from a fancy school with fancy certificates and pedigree. If your instructor honestly felt you merited the ranking, then it is real. End of story.

    Once rank is given, it is forever. It does not go away. At least that is how it was viewed in the kenpo lineage I was in. Sure, you may have drifted and you may have lost the skills, but that can be rebuilt. The rank is forever.
     
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  9. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    And by the way, whereabouts do you live?
     
  10. oldsoldier2006

    oldsoldier2006 White Belt

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    Thank you for your kind words.

    From childhood, I probably put a disproportionate amount of importance on getting a black belt. I felt it put me on the level of Superman because I viewed earning a black belt as a symbol of flawlessness or some other metric of perfection. What thinking that way did manage to do, however is prompt me to assign an extremely high level of respect to the rank. I viewed it as the possession of a high level of skill in a given martial art which it is. Certainly more so than I did as a child, I now look at the black belt as an indicator of the wearer's level of dedication to training - the time put in. In my current endeavors, my belts mean nothing to me. Not because neither of them are black belts, but because I'm there for reasons other than bragging rights. I'm there for my health. I'm there because those arts offer me philosophies that I can apply to real life. Eventually I will want to teach, which honestly I can do now in BJJ if I really wanted to. Not because I will be of a certain rank but because I want to give back to the BJJ and Judo communities that helped me and propagate those arts. As far as Kenpo goes, I will never teach. Not even to my own kids. I won't teach Kenpo because it isn't my place. I won't teach because not only will I draw criticism from various members of the Kenpo community but I wouldn't want to cause trouble for anyone I chose to teach.

    As I have aged, I believe the level of importance I once assigned to a lack belt has fallen into a more realistic perspective. As I had indicated in my OP, my desire to train started innocently enough but I allowed mitigating circumstances to taint my accomplishment so many years ago. I'm past those issues now but still wish I had carried myself in a more mature fashion.

    My lineage, bottom to top so far as I know is Me > C > Mike Morawski > after that, who knows. I heard the name Greg Silva bandied about a time or two but honestly, I don't know where he fits in in all of this. I know that C mentioned Mr. Parker quite a bit but usually when he was talking about a concept behind a technique more so than individual techniques.

    What I have found so far online is Casa de Kenpo has very good breakdowns of all the forms, sets and techniques by belt. As it pertains to building speed and power, I have checked out Paul Mills and Larry Tatum. Both have REALLY great explanations of both continuity and economy of movement and power generation through strikes. So far as I remember, CDK has what feels the most familiar as far as techniques, sets and forms go.

    Once again, thank you so much for your kind words. They absolutely mean a lot.
     
  11. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    In some ways you and I have a similar story. I began with Tracy lineage kenpo when I was thirteen (looks like I’m a year or so older than you) in a school that was not really “officially” recognized by the Tracy organization. We trained their curriculum, one teacher was officially part of the organization but he left and his student took over, but that man was not registered with Tracy’s. And he taught out of a garage.

    I earned my shodan before graduating from high school, and in hindsight often doubted my own legitimacy.

    Over the years I drifted away from kenpo into other things. Then as an adult living in California, I discovered a very senior instructor in the Tracy lineage not too far from me, so I retrained and retested for shodan. He would not have required me to retest, but I wanted to.

    Ultimately I left kenpo again, and found some other things that simply speak to me and connect with me better than kenpo does.

    But I understand what you are saying about figuring out the value of the rank, if any. I am officially registered as a shodan with Tracy’s. I both care, and don’t care at the same time. I don’t really claim the rank anymore as I do not train kenpo at all. But the rank is still mine. Once given, it is forever.

    And I’ve come to realize that my legitimacy was always there, even before i retrained. Sometimes we just need a couple more decades of life experience to put it all into perspective.
     
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  12. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I also wanted to say that I am sorry to hear about the concussions you suffered during your Service. I hope they are not creating ongoing difficulties. Those things can really change your life, and not generally in a good way.

    Welcome to the forum, and keep at it.
     
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  13. oldsoldier2006

    oldsoldier2006 White Belt

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    Central Florida.
     
  14. oldsoldier2006

    oldsoldier2006 White Belt

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    Yeah, it's affected short and long term memory to the point of only remembering snapshots here and there of life. It has also affected coordination (a big reason why I looked to Kenpo again - lots to help with coordination) and I now have a much flatter affect. I get overwhelmed pretty easily by things I didn't used to. I almost didn't take on this challenge because I didn't think my brain would allow me to chain movements together. Stuff like that.
     
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  15. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Senior Master

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    Welcome mate :)

    Wow... what a story, I really enjoyed reading that, and must have been some really challenging times...

    I truly sense such a genuineness about you, and a real integrity. And such a respect for the art and people, and I admire that so much. I say absolutely go for it, watching and practicing from the videos I reckon will be sure to jog your memory, and relight that fire of what you loved in Kenpo, and for sure will help coordination and recovery. This feels like a nice coming home story :)

    Best of luck to you mate, let us know how you go if you do :)
     
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  16. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    My teacher in San Jose California had a program going where he was using kenpo as a form of therapy for wounded veterans, including those with pretty serious head traumas. I was no longer training with him at this time so I don’t know much about the details.

    He retired to Austin Texas and I’ve not been in touch with him since and do not know if he has a similar program going again, but it’s an interesting point.
     
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  17. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple MT Moderator Staff Member

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    If Flying Crane says go for it, then go for it. Hes normally the one on here telling everyone who asks to never do video learning. I agree though, in your circumstance I see no reason why you shouldnt. And I consider your bb as valid as anyone else's (although if you were to start in a school of mine I'd give you the option of starting as a white belt until you remembered all your material).
     
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  18. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Will some folks think it's disrespectful? Definitely. Of course, some folks think it's disrespectful to ask questions, to stand when the instructor is talking, and a bunch of other stuff that only matters if it matters to the people in the room. You showed reasonable respect (from your story) to C. Picking up and trying to relearn what he once taught you wouldn't be disrespectful, no matter how you chose to do it, so far as I can see.

    As others have pointed out, solo training will leave gaps. You won't have anyone to point out errors you don't see (and there will be a lot of them - even students sometimes see things in my movement I don't notice). But, as others have also said, if you're just looking to learn/relearn for your personal satisfaction, then do what you can, brother.

    To get the best out of it, you'll need someone to help eventually, so decide if that's something you want to add. Even training in another art that has similarities would improve what you do on your own in Kempo. Or, just train what you can find, entirely for yourself, and do your best not to worry about what anyone else thinks.
     
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  19. spawn2031

    spawn2031 Yellow Belt

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    Kenpo is by far my favorite MA so far that i have been exposed to so I can certainly understand your desire to reclaim it. As others have said, if this is just for you, who cares what anyone else thinks besides yourself. Obviously, you care enough to want to get it right and practice things in the "right" way otherwise you wouldn't be here asking. My old school, Tracy's Kenpo, made a manual that can be bought as well as DVDs of every kata and I just looked, they are still all available online for purchase. They may help you on your journey. Tracy's Kenpo was Chinese, not American. You dont mention which version you studied, I had the chance to compare / contrast a couple times with another dojo and it seemed that they are VERY similar with the American version having a few less moves per technique.

    http://www.tracyskarateworldwide.com/store/product/53

    I'd still be training with these guys if it wasn't for the fact that I live in the middle of nowhere now, lol.
     
  20. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    I agree. Effectiveness is going to require actual use. You'll also need to be able reach out to some who can help you understand the techniques. Video doesn't evaluate if you are doing something correctly.

    You may do a kick and not realize that you are pivoting on your knee I stead of turning the foot. A knowledgeable instructor would see that and make you aware of it.

    Sometimes techniques look one way but are actually another. For example a kick may look like the person is striking the side of the foot but in reality the are hitting with the bottom of the foot. Having some one to highlight those thing is critical to learning martial arts in general.123
     

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