Agendas, Kenpo Associations, & Grandmasters

Michael Billings

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I wanted to express an unpopular opinion. Normally I tend to try to calm the waters, but after this weekend, I wanted to make a political comment regarding the numerous Associations and 10th Degree Black Belts.

First and formost, I attended John Sepulveda's 1st Annual Spirit Camp. It rocked! The thing that made it so good for me, was the lack of political agendas evidenced. Everyone was there to learn regardless of belt rank or affiliation. The bad mouthing other martial artists, their associations, history, or personal agendas was not there. In the course of my years in Kenpo, 24 this July, the nature of Associations, Kenpo, and Black Belts have changed. I was glad to be back at a camp where it genuinly felt like "family" again, and not just paying lip service to the "Kenpo Family." Kudos to John Sepulveda and his students for organizing an event that let go of some of the petty bickering that goes on behind the scenes.

Secondly, the new American Kenpo Training System (AKTS) allows dual affiliation. Geez man, I had no idea how nice this is. It removes a lot of the reason for contention. I am opting to be AKTS member only, but the door remains open to study where and with whoever else I want, up to and including affiliating with other organizations. This latitude is extraordinary.

And lastly, in my conversations with many other Black Belts, I think there were about 34 or 36 of us, one thing came out. To remain a student of Kenpo you always keep learning, following Mr. Parker's example to the end. He used to say that every day he learned one thing new about Kenpo. When you tout yourself as a Grandmaster, you cease being a student (yes, I know this is contraversial and argueable.) As a 10th Black GRANDMASTER you are the person that other's come looking to you ... for all the answers. It is what this rank implies. I was there when we collectively as a group decided the rank of 10th would be reserved for Mr. Parker. I realize that once the line broke, after all, not everyone attended that Pasadena camp the year after Mr. Parker's death, that more would have to follow. I would ask "Do you think you are a 10th Degree Black?" Would you be one if Mr. Parker was still alive? I am willing to make a strong guess that most would not.

I am not trying to besmirch anyone who is a Senior in the Art or a 10th degree, rather question the entire process and structure of upper ranks. Why do you have to be a 10th, what is left to work for, (Associations, students, etc.) that could not be done at 9th? Ah well, tis a brave new world in the 21st Century.

Respect to All, and thanks to John Sepulveda for creating an environment where I can continue to feel at home and grow,

-Michael Billings
 
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Rob_Broad

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Mr. Billings, excellent post. I hat is off to you for having the courage to make such a great post. I could not agree more with you.

P.S. if the heat gets really bad you can come up to Canada and hide in my bunker with me.
 
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jeffkyle

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Got to give you credit for the courage! That is for sure.
 
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Iron Dog

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Mr. Billings: Let me join the others in congratulating you on your post. Some will condemn you for it, that's fine I feel your shoulders are large enough to carry all that. Others, will learn from it and attempt to replicate the camp that Mr. Sepulveda gave. To hear that 35+ Black Belts came to learn and not to politic is heartwarming and proves that there are continuing students out there regardless of rank and affiliation. My original teacher has passed on, but left me and others with the permanent mark of "train forever". His teacher still lives and drilled it into him and still speaks of the honesty of working hard at something worthwhile.
I hope that those who reply with a contrasting opinion will at least give in to the need to be a student forever!
I.D.
 

kenpo3631

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Originally posted by Michael Billings
I wanted to express an unpopular opinion. Normally I tend to try to calm the waters, but after this weekend, I wanted to make a political comment regarding the numerous Associations and 10th Degree Black Belts.

First and formost, I attended John Sepulveda's 1st Annual Spirit Camp. It rocked! The thing that made it so good for me, was the lack of political agendas evidenced. Everyone was there to learn regardless of belt rank or affiliation. The bad mouthing other martial artists, their associations, history, or personal agendas was not there. In the course of my years in Kenpo, 24 this July, the nature of Associations, Kenpo, and Black Belts have changed. I was glad to be back at a camp where it genuinly felt like "family" again, and not just paying lip service to the "Kenpo Family." Kudos to John Sepulveda and his students for organizing an event that let go of some of the petty bickering that goes on behind the scenes.

Secondly, the new American Kenpo Training System (AKTS) allows dual affiliation. Geez man, I had no idea how nice this is. It removes a lot of the reason for contention. I am opting to be AKTS member only, but the door remains open to study where and with whoever else I want, up to and including affiliating with other organizations. This latitude is extraordinary.

And lastly, in my conversations with many other Black Belts, I think there were about 34 or 36 of us, one thing came out. To remain a student of Kenpo you always keep learning, following Mr. Parker's example to the end. He used to say that every day he learned one thing new about Kenpo. When you tout yourself as a Grandmaster, you cease being a student (yes, I know this is contraversial and argueable.) As a 10th Black GRANDMASTER you are the person that other's come looking to you ... for all the answers. It is what this rank implies. I was there when we collectively as a group decided the rank of 10th would be reserved for Mr. Parker. I realize that once the line broke, after all, not everyone attended that Pasadena camp the year after Mr. Parker's death, that more would have to follow. I would ask "Do you think you are a 10th Degree Black?" Would you be one if Mr. Parker was still alive? I am willing to make a strong guess that most would not.

I am not trying to besmirch anyone who is a Senior in the Art or a 10th degree, rather question the entire process and structure of upper ranks. Why do you have to be a 10th, what is left to work for, (Associations, students, etc.) that could not be done at 9th? Ah well, tis a brave new world in the 21st Century.

Respect to All, and thanks to John Sepulveda for creating an environment where I can continue to feel at home and grow,

-Michael Billings

Excellent post sir! However the AKTS is not the only association that allows you dual affiliation. It also allows you to as you said...

Everyone was there to learn regardless of belt rank or affiliation. The bad mouthing other martial artists, their associations, history, or personal agendas was not there. In the course of my years in Kenpo, 24 this July, the nature of Associations, Kenpo, and Black Belts have changed. I was glad to be back at a camp where it genuinly felt like "family" again, and not just paying lip service to the "Kenpo Family."

It is the Chinese Karate Federation, led by Sean Kelley.

:asian:
 
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Michael Billings

Michael Billings

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I am glad to hear other's also allow this. I think it removes one source of dissention from within and sends a strong message to the members.

Oss,
-Michael
 
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ProfessorKenpo

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Originally posted by Michael Billings
I wanted to express an unpopular opinion. Normally I tend to try to calm the waters, but after this weekend, I wanted to make a political comment regarding the numerous Associations and 10th Degree Black Belts.

Secondly, the new American Kenpo Training System (AKTS) allows dual affiliation. Geez man, I had no idea how nice this is. It removes a lot of the reason for contention. I am opting to be AKTS member only, but the door remains open to study where and with whoever else I want, up to and including affiliating with other organizations. This latitude is extraordinary.


-Michael Billings

I've had this latitude of associations since I started with Larry in 1990, it's nothing new to me. I was a member of 2 other Kenpo organizations at the time. I've gone strictly to the LTKKA because I've found no better place to get the Kenpo I want and choose not to spend the money to be in another. We have studios that are multi-affiliated with us as well.

Have a great Kenpo day

Clyde
 

Greggers69

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That was a great post Mr. Billings. I am new to American Kenpo I never knew that there was so much anger twards the different associations. It somwhat discourages some students who are really new their journey. Thanks again :asian:
 
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Michael Billings

Michael Billings

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This was the least part of my post. It was just one area of what I feel like is a systemic problem. I am aware of the "Homecoming" of the Gathering of Eagles, etc., but what remedies have they brought to Kenpo as a whole. Maybe a lowering of some of the territorial issues that were so rife in the '90's, but I am not certain of that. I was not slamming the LTKKA nor soliciting an opinion of anyone's choice of Associations. Don't get defensive Clyde. Yours was the second post saying "mine lets me do that too" or "mine is better than yours is." To heck with that!!! That just goes to prove my point regarding the factions within Kenpo itself.

It may be a weakness, or it may turn out to be our greatest strength. I am looking for a little more in depth analysis and opinions regarding why people try to assert things that keep the Kenpo cauldron stirred. Examples could be Wes Idol's resolute defense of Mr. Pick and his promotion, in the face of mass contradictions (note: Mr. Pick's Kenpo has never been the issue), or the recent Kanzen Kenpo threads and issues. Not to mention the 10th Degree Black Belt threads in every forum.

Everyone has a right to their opinion and a right to express that opinion; to stand in the face of adversity or public opinion. Likewise people can argue until their silly little heads pop! But why raise your blood pressure? What is the secondary gain? Assuming the primary gain is to win the argument, which seldom happens in a forum venue.

I would never bring this thread up in KenpoNet, due to the hostile or adverse reactions I would get. Here however, I would like to see some opinions, if not overt actions that have been taken to resolve some of the issues I see as primary to keeping Kenpo fractured and apart.

Just some thoughts, take 'em or leave 'em, but don't expect me to argue specifics. I am expressing a well thought out concern that has been voiced by some of the highest ranking belts I know, and debated hotly over coffee and doughnuts ... well, maybe no doughnuts given my diet.

Respect to All,
-Michael
 

sumdumguy

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EXCELLENT POST!!! Mr. Billings.
No longer being affiliated with any organization, I would have to say that the reason that people defend their Instructor or organization with such hostility is that often times they are afraid of being wrong. So is the case with some of the people who have gone to 10th I would imagine? But what are they gonna do, take it back? Well so now they are trapped in the messy little world that they created. When Mr. Parker died there was a huge organizational push to be in "my" org. or "we" are continuing the Parker way on and on and on.... Your right though, Mr. Sepulveda is a very Humble man, having just attended one of his classes at the Northwest Gathering. Which was not, I might add, any one association but actually had many reps from many different organizations all under one roof. Sorry I got lost, where was I? This was very refreshing for me to see after the sour taste I have in my mouth. Kudos to you Mr. Billings for such a bold and brave post.
 
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Rob_Broad

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After reading the first post by Mr Billings earlier I tried to go mending dome fences earlier tonight, and all I can say id Damn! if more people ran oragnizations the way Mr. Billings thought there wouldn't be much politics in Kenpo.

Mr Billings, I may be nothing more than a glorified white belr but my hat is still off to you,

Rob Broad
 
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Billy Lear

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Dear Mr. Billings,

I'd like to offer the following observation... I don't think there are many on this forum that would disagree with you on this topic, and I am certainly one of them to a point.

I totally agree with you on the fact that there does seem to be too many chiefs and not enough indians in American Kenpo these days. I also think that the political infighting within American Kenpo has to stop. The thing is, how do you measure weather or not somebody should be a tenth degree black belt?

I'm going to step out onto a limb here, and talk a little bit about my own instructor's promotion to tenth (Frank Trejo).

Mr. Trejo has been at the art for over 35 years. He lives, breathes, eats, craps, and pees Kenpo. The man was champion at the I.K.C. 19 times, the first and only man to win grand champion in both forms and sparring in one year at the I.K.C. (in 1984), 21 & 0 Pro Amatuer Kick Boxing Champion, and 14 & 1 Professional Kick Boxing Champion. He held his own Internationals Martial Arts Championships twice in the last two years (with very little to invest into the project), and continues to travel and teach seminars INTERNATIONALLY.

In my opinion Mr. Trejo is one of the few that should hold the rank of Senior Master in our art right now. Who else do you think should be on that list?

Just Curious... :asian:
 
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ProfessorKenpo

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Originally posted by Michael Billings
This was the least part of my post. It was just one area of what I feel like is a systemic problem. I am aware of the "Homecoming" of the Gathering of Eagles, etc., but what remedies have they brought to Kenpo as a whole. Maybe a lowering of some of the territorial issues that were so rife in the '90's, but I am not certain of that. I was not slamming the LTKKA nor soliciting an opinion of anyone's choice of Associations. Don't get defensive Clyde. Yours was the second post saying "mine lets me do that too" or "mine is better than yours is." To heck with that!!! That just goes to prove my point regarding the factions within Kenpo itself.

It may be a weakness, or it may turn out to be our greatest strength. I am looking for a little more in depth analysis and opinions regarding why people try to assert things that keep the Kenpo cauldron stirred. Examples could be Wes Idol's resolute defense of Mr. Pick and his promotion, in the face of mass contradictions (note: Mr. Pick's Kenpo has never been the issue), or the recent Kanzen Kenpo threads and issues. Not to mention the 10th Degree Black Belt threads in every forum.

Respect to All,
-Michael

Dude, get over yourself, I wasn't being self-righteous or playing one upmanship, just thought I'd drop a not to say there are other like minded Associations. If you've been repressed in your associations and it's left you bitter, damn your bad luck, not mine. I happen to have a very liberal minded instructor when it come to these issues, which is why I choose to stay with him. I've never had to do pushups in a resturaunt, or airplane because I said something to displease my instructor or didn't follow proper protocol. I've heard some of the horror stories.

Second) I go out of my way to promote harmony within the orgs. I don't go out and recruit, nor do I hound them to bring me or Larry in for seminars. I go out to see what everyone else is doing, maybe I can learn something, maybe I can teach something, either way, I'm good. Ask Andre Sims when I visited his studio, he was kind enough to let me teach class one night when he couldn't make it, I just happened to be there.

Have a great Kenpo day

Clyde

Clyde
 
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Michael Billings

Michael Billings

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Clyde said:
Dude, get over yourself, I wasn't being self-righteous or playing one upmanship,

That has never been my issue Clyde, nor is it now. Talk to Andre about me if you have any doubts. Nor is that the point of my post. I have been in some very good associations. I am not slamming those either. Read just a little deeper here. I am still addressing the Kenpo World, not the individual associations.

-Michael
 
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Michael Billings

Michael Billings

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Glad to hear you are still around Billy, and congrats on being on of Frank Trejo's students. That is awesome.

Nope, I did not say too many Chiefs and not enough Indians, although I have seen that said elsewhere ... and in not quite so polite terms. Nor did I mean to slam Clyde, or his assertion about how good or not he is as an instructor. That just is not my point, nor did it occur to me to question, until he brought it up as his issue in reading this.

Nor will I comment on whether Mr. Trejo deserves 10th. If anyone "deserves?" 10th, he is at the top of the heap. What I am asking is whether the frenzied scramble of the '90's, establishing organizations did more harm than good?

Your point is extremely good. What are they gonna do? Take it back?

Billy Lear said:
I totally agree with you on the fact that there does seem to be too many chiefs and not enough indians in American Kenpo these days. I also think that the political infighting within American Kenpo has to stop. The thing is, how do you measure weather or not somebody should be a tenth degree black belt?

I personally don't think anyone needs to be a "Senior Grandmaster," I just think it is saying I am Mr. Parker's equal. They may or may not think that, so where do we go from here? How do "Grandmasters" which is what 10th is, not "Senior Grandmaster" (Hopefully still reserved for Mr. Parker) put the issues aside and work together? They have not for years, why should they now?

A supposition could be, "it is worth it when your students and members of the various associations want it." But then we are back to secondary gains ... what reason do heads of associations have for working together and uniting the Art more? Is it money out of their pockets ... Maybe! Is it a loss of prestige ... unlikely? How about ego conflicts, etc. ... no telling? But we saw how the American Kenpo Senior Counsel went, and various other organizations.

This is intended as food for thought and a referendum for some ideas regarding the current state of Kenpo's Associations. How does this affect the Art? Individual Practitioners? Schools? etc.

Respect to All,
-Michael
 
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brianhunter

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I have a few questions I hope some of you guys who have been around awhile can hopefully answer......

1) How long was Mr Parker training before he earned his black belt?

2) How long was Mr Parker at the art when he decided to break off and impliment his own system of kenpo?

3) How long at the art was he when he donned a 10th?

These have probably been beat to death, but this would definately put some things in perspective for me :)

Thanks
Brian
 

cdhall

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Originally posted by Michael Billings
That has never been my issue Clyde, nor is it now.

God help me, I'm coming to Clyde's defense. Sirs, I just want to say that from my perspective at the bottom of the well, it did not read to me like Clyde was attacking you in any way Mr. Billings. I actually read his post just like he later went on to explain it. Just more info.
:)
 
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Michael Billings

Michael Billings

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Clyde has no problem defending himself, nor was I trying to attack, but rather to keep focused. It seemed like he was going the way of, "but mine lets me do it" or "I promote harmony within the art." Not to be insulting, but neither Clyde or I are "Seniors," I also try to promote harmony. That just was not my point. I am talking about higher than us, those who were 6th and 7ths at the time of Mr. Parker's death ... or who have their own organizations now.

Clyde said:
"Dude, get over yourself, I wasn't being self-righteous or playing one upmanship, just thought I'd drop a not to say there are other like minded Associations. If you've been repressed in your associations and it's left you bitter, damn your bad luck, not mine."

I responded to the "get over yourself" remark and the supposition that I was ever repressed. Humorous at best, if you know me. Although I have never been one of the "elite" in Kenpo, I do know where I stand generally, with my teachers, and those senior to me in the Art. I try never to be disrespectful of others, or appear arrogant or demeaning. Example, I would never tell anyone to "get over yourself."

Doug, see my point? I don't want this to get off on what I do as an individual practitioner to "promote harmony", because that is not the problem as I see it. Rather what has to shift intrensically to change the nature of the Kenpo community as it exist now.

An example is the increased seminars, people learning from seminars instead of teachers (yes I know unavoidable at times, but most still had "a teacher" in the past), the unwillingness of anyone to "give" a little bit in terms of Associations, etc. What do you think?

Oss,
-Michael
 

cdhall

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Originally posted by Michael Billings
Clyde has no problem defending himself,
Roger that!

What do you think?

Sir,

I'm at work so I'm hoping to wait and post a considered post tonight perhaps but I think that Mr. Parker's death/lack of a "successor" was like the fall of the Shaolin Temple. It could not be undone. Everyone spread to the winds. It may not have been good for "Shaolin Kung Fu" but it was probably good for "martial arts" in the long run.

Roughly, although I'm not sure that I yet fully understand your question particularly as it applies to me, I think that the cream will rise to the top.

There are a few guys out there who are 10ths that no one takes seriously, and there are a few 6ths and such that are in high demand on the seminar circuit. As Mr. Parker, Jr. said "People would not bring me back if I did not have something to offer." Or something like that. So the good instructors, who are not afraid to go out and be seen, will become known and people will gravitate to them. I think if Mr. Parker had stayed in Pasadena and not had the IKC or gone all over the world doing demos, that we'd all be here speculating about that "Magician of Motion" guy who taught Nick Adams and had a school in California somewhere. But Mr. Parker went out and others, many of which were skilled Black Belts, gravitated to him. Something like that may be happening now.

I'm going to go over this thread carefully and post something else later I think.
 
K

Kenpo Yahoo

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Why is it that Mr. Parker can be the only person to ever wear a 10th?

Essentially the highest goal of a teacher is to get his/her student to a level where their understanding, knowledge, and ability will surpass that of the teacher; It is an idea akin to stewardship.

Now if what you are saying is true, that no other person has the ability of a 10th, then essentially what you are saying is that Mr. Parker failed as a teacher.

Just my opinion
 
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