What's real, what isn't?

Martlet

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I'm not a spring chicken, but ran into a guy in his 60's that started Kenpo a few years ago. He said a few things that got me interested and started me down the online research rabbit hole. There aren't many places to train that are close enough to me that that I could consistently get there. I've narrowed it down to 2, maybe three, and have spoken to the two that are close enough. Both were very different.

One essentially worked out of his garage, was very out of shape, said he had good lineage to Parker and talked a lot about weapons training. I'll sit in on a class, but our discussion seemed odd and not like he had a structured training plan. He didn't seem interested in the mental or emotional aspects of Kenpo at all. Much of what I researched online spoke quite a bit about this.

The other was a young guy who seemed to have a very structured training, didn't have a ton to say on the phone but I guess I wouldn't expect him to, invited me to watch a class, but seemed to really not be very deep spiritually. He had a marketer who answered his messages and booked people looking for information, but he wasn't really hard to get hold of when I expressed an interest in talking to him. He really didn't have much to say when I asked about lineage.

I've done a bunch of research online and it seems like there are a million different styles of Kenpo, lots of them throwing shade on the others, no real oversight, and that lineage is important. I've also seen the Tracy's have a virtual option. I don't see how that would be a good primary source of instruction for me, but it's inexpensive enough it may be worth signing up for as supplemental learning? Maybe that would just mess up my primary instruction? I really enjoy reading/researching/studying the "why" and philosophy of things, even if it's online, but I'd prefer direction from an expert.

I guess my question is how do you know? What questions should I ask? Does it even make a difference?
 

JowGaWolf

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I guess my question is how do you know? What questions should I ask? Does it even make a difference?
You really won't know until you start training or unless there are some really big red flags that cause concern. Some website marketing is done by people who don't take martial arts and I've often found that will cause a mismatch between what is said on the website and what is really happening in the class.

What questions should you ask? Depends on what you are trying to find out. What are you looking to get out of the classes and training? Base your questions around that.

Does it matter? Yes. it always matter. The more opportunity to give them toalk the more you'll be able to match up and compare with what you are getting.
 

Flying Crane

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You are having misgivings about both of them. Perhaps there is a reason for that. Spidey sense and all that.
 

Buka

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I'm not a spring chicken, but ran into a guy in his 60's that started Kenpo a few years ago. He said a few things that got me interested and started me down the online research rabbit hole. There aren't many places to train that are close enough to me that that I could consistently get there. I've narrowed it down to 2, maybe three, and have spoken to the two that are close enough. Both were very different.

One essentially worked out of his garage, was very out of shape, said he had good lineage to Parker and talked a lot about weapons training. I'll sit in on a class, but our discussion seemed odd and not like he had a structured training plan. He didn't seem interested in the mental or emotional aspects of Kenpo at all. Much of what I researched online spoke quite a bit about this.

The other was a young guy who seemed to have a very structured training, didn't have a ton to say on the phone but I guess I wouldn't expect him to, invited me to watch a class, but seemed to really not be very deep spiritually. He had a marketer who answered his messages and booked people looking for information, but he wasn't really hard to get hold of when I expressed an interest in talking to him. He really didn't have much to say when I asked about lineage.

I've done a bunch of research online and it seems like there are a million different styles of Kenpo, lots of them throwing shade on the others, no real oversight, and that lineage is important. I've also seen the Tracy's have a virtual option. I don't see how that would be a good primary source of instruction for me, but it's inexpensive enough it may be worth signing up for as supplemental learning? Maybe that would just mess up my primary instruction? I really enjoy reading/researching/studying the "why" and philosophy of things, even if it's online, but I'd prefer direction from an expert.

I guess my question is how do you know? What questions should I ask? Does it even make a difference?
Welcome to MartialTalk, Martlet, hope you enjoy it here.

Probably best to go check out what a workout would be like. Take a few classes, maybe you'll love them. If not, at least it will give you something to judge other classes you might try.

Good luck in your quest, let us know what you find. :)
 
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Martlet

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You are having misgivings about both of them. Perhaps there is a reason for that. Spidey sense and all that.

Yeah. To be fair, I should sit in on the second person's class before I pass judgement. The first gentleman could be a great instructor, who knows? Fairly or not, I'm biased against him, though. I just feel that if someone takes this seriously, they'd live it, no? At least to the point where they aren't grossly out of shape.
 

JowGaWolf

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I just feel that if someone takes this seriously, they'd live it, no? At least to the point where they aren't grossly out of shape.
Depends on why they train. Boxing coaches are often out of shape, it doesn't mean that they don't have valuable knowledge, it just means that they are out of shape and will probably have someone else demo certain techniques.

People get out of shape, gain interest and lose interest. I wouldn't use body shape as a way to determine skill level, knowledge, or teaching ability. Maybe they were extremely fit in their prime?
 
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Martlet

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Depends on why they train. Boxing coaches are often out of shape, it doesn't mean that they don't have valuable knowledge, it just means that they are out of shape and will probably have someone else demo certain techniques.

People get out of shape, gain interest and lose interest. I wouldn't use body shape as a way to determine skill level, knowledge, or teaching ability. Maybe they were extremely fit in their prime?

Perhaps he was. He's younger than I am, still. He's the only instructor, and he's not just a little out of shape. He's huge. I think I got the impression that he was knowledgeable, but didn't put a ton of seriousness into his training. He mentioned "building up his class again". Maybe I'll just sit in on another class.
 

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Perhaps he was. He's younger than I am, still. He's the only instructor, and he's not just a little out of shape. He's huge. I think I got the impression that he was knowledgeable, but didn't put a ton of seriousness into his training. He mentioned "building up his class again". Maybe I'll just sit in on another class.
Huge? Maybe that's a good thing. According to Master Ken, the more advanced a Kenpo practitioner is, the bigger his waistline.

 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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3 things to keep in mind.
1: You don't know why the first instructor is big. It could be if he's building his class up, that he stopped for a few years, seriously ballooned, and is still getting back into it. Or he could have a thyroid problem so no matter what he'll be big, or he could just have an atrocious diet. Or it could be your guesses. Ultimately, the shape he's in shouldn't affect your own training or development unless it affects your ability to spar.

2: Most young guys don't care about lineage. And most people talking to prospective students also know the students don't care about lineage. That's mostly an older people on forums thing, then anything, trying to puff themselves up/put others down. All it tells you in kenpo is what specific combos you'll be learning.

3: Regarding the spiritual aspect-that's not too present in most styles of kenpo. I've been to/trained with practitioners of quite a few styles, and the only time spirituality has come up is with the styles that incorporated an eastern art directly into their kenpo/cross-trained (kenpo does come from japan a while back, I'm talking about more recent incorporation). There is philosophy in kenpo, loads of that, but that's different than spirituality. And also not something I'd mention over the phone unless someone specifically asked me about it, since again, most potential students aren't looking to join for that reason.
 

punisher73

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Huge? Maybe that's a good thing. According to Master Ken, the more advanced a Kenpo practitioner is, the bigger his waistline.


Beat me to it. There used to be a lot of jokes about how many 10th degrees are in kenpo and also how big the waistlines are. Have to have all that "backup mass" remember? lol
 

punisher73

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Lineage is somewhat important in Kenpo, only because there is A LOT of it out there, and each one slightly different. For example, if you are looking at a Tracy's lineage, they have a different way of doing things physically/mechanically and a different belt curriculum than a Parker lineage does. Even within the Parker lineages, there are different instructors who do things differently based on when and who they studied with. For example, Larry Tatum sticks very closely to the system as it was laid out in the Infinite Insights books and how it was written in the "journals".
 
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Martlet

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3 things to keep in mind.
1: You don't know why the first instructor is big. It could be if he's building his class up, that he stopped for a few years, seriously ballooned, and is still getting back into it. Or he could have a thyroid problem so no matter what he'll be big, or he could just have an atrocious diet. Or it could be your guesses. Ultimately, the shape he's in shouldn't affect your own training or development unless it affects your ability to spar.

2: Most young guys don't care about lineage. And most people talking to prospective students also know the students don't care about lineage. That's mostly an older people on forums thing, then anything, trying to puff themselves up/put others down. All it tells you in kenpo is what specific combos you'll be learning.

3: Regarding the spiritual aspect-that's not too present in most styles of kenpo. I've been to/trained with practitioners of quite a few styles, and the only time spirituality has come up is with the styles that incorporated an eastern art directly into their kenpo/cross-trained (kenpo does come from japan a while back, I'm talking about more recent incorporation). There is philosophy in kenpo, loads of that, but that's different than spirituality. And also not something I'd mention over the phone unless someone specifically asked me about it, since again, most potential students aren't looking to join for that reason.
Thanks for the well-thought out response. It was honestly very helpful and gave me something to think about.

1. You're absolutely correct. I don't know at all. As someone who is older, I don't particularly buy into the "thyroid" type excuses. Some of us have things that that make it difficult to train or make weight, but that just means we have to try harder or alter our efforts. If we want to be in shape, we will be. To me it's really that simple. It's just harder for some than others. For me, it's important. It shows discipline and focus, even more so if there are other issues that hamper the effort.

2. That makes a TON of sense. Thus far, my personal experience has been 90% online. I've done quite a bit of reading and study because I enjoy it. However, it also only exposes me to people who are posting online for whatever reason, which is different than actually training.

3. Thanks again. Based on your explanation, I'd say I exchanged "philosophy" for "spiritual". I enjoy the philosophy as well. I like the how, why, and mechanics.

At the end of the day, I'd like to start training in something that is actually practical on the street, will complement real-life weapons training, and that I can incorporate into other aspects of my life (religion, family, philosophy). I thought Kenpo could be it based on my research. Maybe it isn't?
 

Flying Crane

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I've also seen the Tracy's have a virtual option. I don't see how that would be a good primary source of instruction for me, but it's inexpensive enough it may be worth signing up for as supplemental learning? Maybe that would just mess up my primary instruction?
I forgot to comment on this. My standard answer to this kind of question, regardless of the style or source of the information, is that video/online instruction is never a good idea as the primary source of your training. It is important to work face-to-face with an instructor because there are many nuances that cannot be spotted via video and especially for a beginner it is simply unrealistic to spot their own errors and then correct them. In order to transmit this information and build the skills properly, it really needs to be face-to-face.

If you are getting that kind of quality instruction, then videos or online sessions can be a good supplement to the training. But they should never take the place of live instruction.

You also hit on another important point: whether the online instruction might interfere with other instruction. The answer is yes, quite possibly, and it depends. Kenpo is a good example because there are a lot of different lineages descending from Ed Parker, of which Tracys is simply one. Al and Jim Tracy were early students of Parker starting in the 1950s and later split from him, establishing their own lineage and curriculum that is both very similar and even identical to, but also different from, what is found in later Parker lineages. But if you use videos or online training as a supplement, it needs to be consistent with the live instruction that you are receiving. These things can have a surprising amount of variety. Consistency is important.

For the sake of full disclosure, I am an ex-Tracy black belt.
 

Rich Parsons

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To add - not argue or disagree with the quoted material

3 things to keep in mind.
1: You don't know why the first instructor is big. It could be if he's building his class up, that he stopped for a few years, seriously ballooned, and is still getting back into it. Or he could have a thyroid problem so no matter what he'll be big, or he could just have an atrocious diet. Or it could be your guesses. Ultimately, the shape he's in shouldn't affect your own training or development unless it affects your ability to spar.
Still recovering from a Motorcycle accident 5 years ago, I have more weight than I should.
Yet, anyone totally new and even black belt level in another FMA would have something to learn from me.
If they so choose to learn it.

Garage and small class size means more instructor attention and direct contact.

2: Most young guys don't care about lineage. And most people talking to prospective students also know the students don't care about lineage. That's mostly an older people on forums thing, then anything, trying to puff themselves up/put others down. All it tells you in kenpo is what specific combos you'll be learning.

Schools have more people, either volunteers or paid people to answer the phone and get people through the generic classes.
As you stated you found two(2) classes you could get to regularly.
To me that range is an hour to hour and a quarter one way.
Most people this is 5 to 10 maybe 15 minutes.
Not to disparage those looking to train close to home, yet even you have given me red flags as a perspective student who will most likely just walk away when it becomes hard or they hit a training wall.

I hope I am wrong.

With the more people comes larger places.
Larger places comes with rent and energy bills and phone bills and advertisement and paid employees and training gear, from mats for the floor to pads and other school gear.

This costs money. Money that comes out of the money the business takes in.
After all the bills are paid the instructor is trying to pay themselves as well.
Gosh forbid a school owner can keep a relatively newer car running and even possible try to own a home.
I mean how dare they.

Sorry wrong topic.

With the larger classes also means getting high ranked students and same rank students being your training partner and contact with the instructor usually is less. Just because or the number of students to hours trained ratio.


3: Regarding the spiritual aspect-that's not too present in most styles of kenpo. I've been to/trained with practitioners of quite a few styles, and the only time spirituality has come up is with the styles that incorporated an eastern art directly into their kenpo/cross-trained (kenpo does come from japan a while back, I'm talking about more recent incorporation). There is philosophy in kenpo, loads of that, but that's different than spirituality. And also not something I'd mention over the phone unless someone specifically asked me about it, since again, most potential students aren't looking to join for that reason.

Spiritual - ??
Does one mean meditating?
Does one mean their own version of their already accepted religion?
Does it mean learning the religion of the instructor?
In the late 70's and thru the 80's many schools had a hard Christian content, with a prayer or saying from the bible on the wall or in their required learnings, well at least here in Mid Michigan.
Just think of those who believe a prayer is with an ordained religion person and not just some random dude trying to teach them self defense / physical activity to lose or maintain weight / to competition for medals and belts and trophies to what ever.
All of those reasons to train are good and valid.
So now you want to be some mystical monk as well or do you want to learn how to breath and calm oneself.
Who knows that could be part of their sparring classes. It could be part of the class for the end of class that is mentioned, it is just done.

Philosophy is good to learn to understand the system and also many times the founder.

***

High Rank versus Low rank instructors
Sometimes the higher ranks are so particular and are great to fine tune , yet seem over the top picky when they will not let a person pass a yellow belt test for some little maneuver being a millimeter off in position.
Sometimes Low ranks understand the colored ranks better and can relate and help teach / guide them better.

Yet each instructor is unique and even if they are great for many they might not be great for you.
So yes check them out and see which ones you feel the best or connect the best with.

***

That all being said,

Welcome to Martial Talk.

I hope you find a class and an instructor that you can train with and enjoy and accomplish your goals.
 
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Martlet

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To add - not argue or disagree with the quoted material


Still recovering from a Motorcycle accident 5 years ago, I have more weight than I should.
Yet, anyone totally new and even black belt level in another FMA would have something to learn from me.
If they so choose to learn it.

Garage and small class size means more instructor attention and direct contact.



Schools have more people, either volunteers or paid people to answer the phone and get people through the generic classes.
As you stated you found two(2) classes you could get to regularly.
To me that range is an hour to hour and a quarter one way.
Most people this is 5 to 10 maybe 15 minutes.
Not to disparage those looking to train close to home, yet even you have given me red flags as a perspective student who will most likely just walk away when it becomes hard or they hit a training wall.

I hope I am wrong.

With the more people comes larger places.
Larger places comes with rent and energy bills and phone bills and advertisement and paid employees and training gear, from mats for the floor to pads and other school gear.

This costs money. Money that comes out of the money the business takes in.
After all the bills are paid the instructor is trying to pay themselves as well.
Gosh forbid a school owner can keep a relatively newer car running and even possible try to own a home.
I mean how dare they.

Sorry wrong topic.

With the larger classes also means getting high ranked students and same rank students being your training partner and contact with the instructor usually is less. Just because or the number of students to hours trained ratio.




Spiritual - ??
Does one mean meditating?
Does one mean their own version of their already accepted religion?
Does it mean learning the religion of the instructor?
In the late 70's and thru the 80's many schools had a hard Christian content, with a prayer or saying from the bible on the wall or in their required learnings, well at least here in Mid Michigan.
Just think of those who believe a prayer is with an ordained religion person and not just some random dude trying to teach them self defense / physical activity to lose or maintain weight / to competition for medals and belts and trophies to what ever.
All of those reasons to train are good and valid.
So now you want to be some mystical monk as well or do you want to learn how to breath and calm oneself.
Who knows that could be part of their sparring classes. It could be part of the class for the end of class that is mentioned, it is just done.

Philosophy is good to learn to understand the system and also many times the founder.

***

High Rank versus Low rank instructors
Sometimes the higher ranks are so particular and are great to fine tune , yet seem over the top picky when they will not let a person pass a yellow belt test for some little maneuver being a millimeter off in position.
Sometimes Low ranks understand the colored ranks better and can relate and help teach / guide them better.

Yet each instructor is unique and even if they are great for many they might not be great for you.
So yes check them out and see which ones you feel the best or connect the best with.

***

That all being said,

Welcome to Martial Talk.

I hope you find a class and an instructor that you can train with and enjoy and accomplish your goals.
Good information, thanks. I answered some of those in a subsequent post.

ETA: Also, you're right. I don't know if this is for me. I won't know until I try it, so I'm attempting to do as much research as possible before jumping in. If it is for me, but I have a bad instructor, I may never realize it is for me. I have a lifelong history of not walking away because things get difficult or if I hit a wall.

By "convenient" and driving distance I meant anything close. I commute 90 minutes each way, so anything along that route is fine, probably out to 60 minutes. I don't even have a store close by. The closest ANY type of martial arts is 30 minutes. The three Kenpo studios I mentioned are all about 30-40 minutes. Two I've described, the third won't let someone observe a class. You have to buy a 3 class trial to walk through the door. That is the instructor I've put in the "probably not" category.
 
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Buka

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I've known a lot of guys who were heavy set from the git go, still heavy set now, still a force to be reckoned with.

Then there are guys who were fit like you read about - and have since put on over a hundred pounds and get winded going up stairs.

Big difference in my opinion.
 
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Martlet

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I've known a lot of guys who were heavy set from the git go, still heavy set now, still a force to be reckoned with.

Then there are guys who were fit like you read about - and have since put on over a hundred pounds and get winded going up stairs.

Big difference in my opinion.

I agree. Huge difference. It's hard to tell with this guy. He isn't heavy set or a little overweight. I haven't spent a ton of time with him, but he had difficulty getting up and down and spent most of his time sitting. He's really obese. I have not experience, but if the general consensus is that being obese doesn't hinder training, then I'll ignore it. As I stated earlier, it just struck me as odd because my pre-conceived notion of a "martial artist" was someone who cared about their body, their mind, and their art. Maybe I've just seen too may movies.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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1. You're absolutely correct. I don't know at all. As someone who is older, I don't particularly buy into the "thyroid" type excuses.
I didn't when I was a teen. But when I went to college, I had two friends, both super active, both college athletes. One was the captain of my fencing team, he was more athletic than most of us, had better stamina and strength, lead us through all the workouts, and would eat way less than he should given how active he was, but he was..rotund. I've seen pictures of him since and he's lost all the weight-turned out he had a thyroid issue and lost the weight when he got on medication.

The other was a roommate of mine, small, skinny, always at the weight room, used protein powder, but despite that (and the reason he went so often), he could never bulk up. Turned out he had an overactive thyroid, and went on medication for that, after that he was able to put on weight.

Both had great discipline and focus, but it wasn't til they learned the issue and got medication that it changed. That's the main reason I never judge anyone's athletic ability based on their weight. Outside of that though, I mentioned a couple different causes for it, which wouldn't be related to discipline/focus, and left out the big one Rich pointed out-injuries. If you end up with a severe leg/back injury and can't work out anymore, most people balloon up pretty quickly as they have to learn to change their eating habits. And that has nothing to do with their effectiveness as a teacher.

3. Thanks again. Based on your explanation, I'd say I exchanged "philosophy" for "spiritual". I enjoy the philosophy as well. I like the how, why, and mechanics.
That makes sense, and I had a feeling, but wasn't 100% as there are arts that focus a lot on spiritual/religious parts. I've yet to see a kenpo school that didn't go into the mechanics. Some would argue that most of them spend too much time on the 'intellectual' part and not enough on actually fighting.
At the end of the day, I'd like to start training in something that is actually practical on the street, will complement real-life weapons training, and that I can incorporate into other aspects of my life (religion, family, philosophy). I thought Kenpo could be it based on my research. Maybe it isn't?
So keep in mind that this is from experience with a couple different styles of kenpo/kempo, but all local to where I live. And each school is different, regardless of the art.

Now: Kenpo is sort of a jack of all trades master of none style. You'll learn weapons training, you'll learn striking, throwing, grappling. You'll most likely learn self-defense-specific scenarios. You'll learn the concepts and how to translate striking to weapons, and the core concepts behind what you're doing. BUT, if you really wanted to get good with weapons, learning a Filipino martial art would be better. If you really wanted to get good at throws, learning judo or sambo would be better. If you really wanted to get good at ground grappling, a Japanese jiu jitsu or BJJ would be a better option. If you really want to learn to be zen, reduce anxiety, improve yourself spiritually, some Chinese or even okinawan martial arts might be better.

So it really depends on your goals. If you want to learn everything, it's a good option for it, just don't think that you'll be better at weapons than a style focusing specifically on it, and same for the other stuff.
 

Olde Phart

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I may not be too politically correct here, but a school that won't let you watch a class without paying for it sounds silly. What are they doing, teaching CIA classes? You gonna watch one class and start your own school?

One thing you mentioned is that you wanted to be street ready. Then find a school that teaches street fighting. Then, you mention something about the spiritual side of things. Well, find a school that delves into that aspect. I doubt you'll find a school that has a 50-50 mix of both.

The dojang I attend is about an hour away from my house. Korean-based (TKD, Judo, Hapkido), it focuses on the "spiritual" aspects of knowing your own mind and body, striving for a mastery of certain techniques, and the ability to pass that on to newer students. The goal is not to be street ready, though it may be a side benefit. Your journey is your own, and there is no competition with another except within yourself.

I think you need to decide which of your goals is the most important and then find a dojang that focuses on that, too.
 
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