Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Today my heart is broken and my eyes are frequently filled with tears. Early this morning I lost my favorite uncle in his battle with colon cancer. I have a hard time writing this, but I know that God wants me to and I am going to answer His call.

For the past 17 months, I have known that Carmen's time here on earth was limited. I knew how much he wanted to spend what limited time he had left with his wife and beautiful children. He did that. And while his pain is gone, he is still so deeply missed.

When terminal illness or tragic accidents occur in life, we often run through a varied amount of emotions. Why did this have to happen? Why didn't God intervene? How will I go on in life?

About a week ago, I had a one-on-one talk with Carmen as he lay in his bed in the hospital. I told him how much I love him, and that although I can't understand why some things happen in life, that I wanted him to know that he is so loved by God. I told him that I needed to know with certainty that he would be my neighbor in heaven. He told me how much he wanted that and how much he wanted to reunite with all of his other loved ones soon again. I told him that by putting his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, that God guarantees eternal life, and would remove all sins immediately. After asking me a few questions regarding faith, he did that! We then hugged me for what seemed like eternity and kissed me over and over on the cheek.

I want the world to know that cancer is not too great for God. No matter what you are going through, you don't have to go through it alone. The Bible states in Proverbs 18:24 that, "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother"; that friend is Jesus, who won't leave you nor forsake you.

Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.

- Notice that we are ALL on the same playing field…we are not good enough without Christ

Romans 5:8 - But God Commendeth His Love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us

Romans 10:9-10 - That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.

Romans 10:13 - For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved

Acts 4:12 - Neither is there Salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Should Junior Black Belts Be Able to Judge Adults in Tournaments?

Most martial arts schools have a Junior Black Belt program. That is, once a student has learned the appropriate amount of material in a children's curriculum, he/she is able to advance to a Junior Black Belt rank. From that time on, the student will have to continue to train persistently until one is physically and mentally prepared to earn a 1st Degree Black Belt, as subjectively determined by one's instructor. In my school, it typically takes another 2 years for a student to move from a Junior Black Belt rank to 1st Degree Black Belt. Such a student typically needs to be 16 years of age, be able to compete physically in sparring with an adult of any size, and have spent many years dedicated to the art of Kenpo Karate.

One of the key factors that differentiate a Junior Black Belt from a 1st Degree Black Belt is age. In my opinion, awarding a 1st Degree Black Belt or above to a child or a young adolescent gives children a false sense of security, which is often accompanied by a large ego. The child looks at his/her rank and assumes that because of the rank, they are in a position of authority over adults. The reality, however, is that virtually any adult with no martial arts experience could toss little Johnny like a beach ball if he ever decided to attack a child.

The commercialization of martial arts continues to explode. About a year ago, I showed up to judge at a local martial arts tournament. As soon as I stepped in the door, my body froze as I saw many kids running around with full black belts on. Some adolescents were as young as 13 with 3rd Degree Black Belts. Later that day, I saw a Junior Black Belt (probably around the age of 10 or 11) judging in the adult Brown Belt divisions. I truly feel that this is just so wrong. Adults should be taught and judged by adults. This is not a humility issue that I am struggling with here; this has to do with standards. Even if in a rare situation where I feel that a Junior Black Belt has acquired the appropriate amount of knowledge to judge in a tournament relative to his/her adult competitors, it still gives these Junior Black Belts the wrong message. It tells them that they are in positions of authority over adults because of the rank that is tied around their waste.

I recommend that Junior Black Belts that are interested in judging be allowed to evaluate the children's divisions. To judge the adult divisions, however, I strongly encourage one to be at least 16 years of age, and holding the rank of 1st Degree Black Belt or higher.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Matt Hughes

If you are a UFC fan, you know who I am talking about – the 9-time UFC Welterweight champion. But more impressive than a 43-5 win-loss record in mixed martial arts, with victories over the likes of such greats as BJ Penn, Royce Gracie, and Georges St. Pierre, is the fact that Matt has touched the lives of so many fans around the globe.

Every week Matt writes on his blog which is updated on his website. While one might expect blogs about his training regimen, and how he plans to knockout any of his upcoming opponents, in reality, you won’t find this. What you will find is Matt’s humility and open devotion to the Lord and how God has personally changed him. You will find a Matt who is not hesitant about sharing his vulnerabilities in life, and how he is devoted to overcome them with God’s help. You will find a Matt who takes the time to write about how important family is to him, and how God has richly blessed him in so many ways.

I highly recommend all of you to visit Matt’s blogs regularly at the following website address:

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Evading the Takedown Via Footwork and Zones of Sanctuary

As mixed martial arts continues to rise in its popularity, one question that many dedicated students are asking their instructors is, “What can I do to avoid someone from taking me to the ground”?

To keep this simple, we need to revisit our four key zones that you should be learning (especially in the intermediate and advanced levels of training) in American Kenpo Karate:

(1) Out of range control - when an opponent is far enough away where we cannot reach him with our hands or feet. There is still is an element of control, however, since a quick and deceptive feint could very well get the opponent to move and be caught off guard for a possible attack.

(2) Within range control - when we are close enough to be able to touch the opponent.

(3) Penetration control - we have passed the opponent's defense and are now able to effectively reach the opponent with punches or kicks to the body, legs, and head.

(4) Manipulation control - we are close enough to be able to apply joint locks, chokes, and so forth.

If our opponent is within range control, we are vulnerable for a potential takedown. And while it is possible to keep an effective distance from our attacker via good striking and footwork, the problem, of course, is that when we have reached penetration control, our opponent is, in turn, close enough to take us down.

In 2005, I had the opportunity of fighting full contact against a top-notch kick-boxer and jiu-jitsu black belt. I really didn’t know what to expect from my opponent until the fight had started, but one thing is for sure, I learned quickly what was so critical in the fight: (1) great footwork, especially moving off to a zone of sanctuary (2) endurance (3) perceptual speed. Perceptual speed allowed me to take quick steps off to a zone of sanctuary when my opponent attempted to lower his height, and reach for my hips. Sometimes it was close, in the sense that I had just barely avoided the takedown. I found, however, that stepping on the outside of his front leg was most effective because his forward motion when he committed the attack was still to 12 o’clock.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jeff Speakman Interview: His Comments on Rank

One week ago, a very interesting and controversial interview by Jeff Speakman hit you tube and got a plethora of feedback (positive and negative) from Kenpoists across the globe. I would like to comment on some of the points that he made in his interview.

Jeff commented that he had personally tested for every degree of black belt, all the way up to his current rank of 7th degree. For those that have not been in Kenpo for a long time, one must know that honorary promotions are not that uncommon, especially after 5th degree black belt since there is technically no new material beyond 5th degree. I admire his devotion to have to test for each rank, and to not get rank the easy way, which is often an honorary promotion at a Kenpo camp. To continue to get out there and demonstrate one’s abilities shows his commitment, both on a physical and courageous level. He also commented that after 5th degree black belt, one should wait a minimum of 5 years between each dan rank, and that that was Ed Parker’s standard. While I can’t comment on the latter guideline (other than to say that I am sure exceptions were made), I think the 5-year minimum timeframe is an effective standard since it teaches black belts patience and perseverance. By having a 5-year minimum, it will show who is truly in Kenpo for the long haul, and who is undoubtedly committed to spreading the art on a global scale.

As for the Kenpo seniors who refuse to put on a 10th Degree out of respect for Ed Parker, I think that is awesome and takes great humility. But at the same time, I see nothing wrong whatsoever of the likes of Larry Tatum, Huk Planas, Dave Hebler, Frank Trejo, and Mike Pick wearing the 10th degree. These guys are Kenpo legends who have spent their entire lives spreading and promoting this great art that we so love. Their rank should not be questioned by any of us.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kenpo Karate’s Elbow Strikes

As most of us are aware, Kenpo Karate uses elbow strikes throughout the entire system. We even have an entire set dedicated to their use, in Striking Set 2. But how many of us, for example, have actually executed a solid inward elbow to something solid to get a more realistic sense of how it might feel, and to ensure that we are hitting with the correct part of the elbow?

To become more familiar and proficient with their use, I highly recommend working the various elbow strikes on focus pads and heavy bags to get used to making solid contact. Once we have become more confident in our ability to execute the various elbow strikes while maximizing our potential power, try striking something more solid that will not break, but be sure to put on elbow pads before doing so to prevent injury. Some dedicated martial artists, for instance, will try using elbow strikes on a motorcycle helmet that someone is wearing. This, of course, will give us a more realistic sense of what it would be like to execute an elbow to an opponent’s head.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Black Belt As Role Model

The Internet is unbelievable. One quick Google search and we can pretty much find out whatever we would like about a specific instructor in the martial arts. Now with things like Myspace and Facebook, people are giving out a truckload of their personal information including home address, telephone number, email address, cell number and so forth.

As a school owner for the past 12 years, I am very much aware of the responsibility that I hold with regard to others. More important than the skills that I possess, is the moral conduct of my behavior and speech. I am astonished at the number of black belts representing this great art of American Kenpo that are constantly using vulgar and obscene language via the Internet. My question is this: what do the children that you have taught think of all of this? Surely, if they have not read any of its content, at least some of their parents have. Where is the joy in life by constantly spitting out every four-letter word to get your point across?

Here is another example. I am astonished at the number of high-ranking black belts out there that verbally let everyone know via the Internet how “smashed” they want to get on the weekend. Just a thought: Do you ever wonder why your not getting many phone calls from prospective students? Look, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with having a glass of wine or a beer (I actually hate beer, LOL). But when the aim is to constantly get “hammered”, there is a serious problem. What does that say about your acquired discipline? It says that you try to find satisfaction and peace in life via alcohol because you can't find it without it. And by letting everyone know via forums, Facebook, or what have you, people are not taking you as top martial artist seriously. Put simply, they don't think you are the real deal.

As black belts, we have a reputation to uphold. Let's not put on a mask and try to pretend we are something that we are not. Let's actually live it by treating everyone with respect.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Learning the Equation Formula

As Kenpo practitioners advance in their comprehension and proficiency in the system, they learn that there are eight actions that can be applied to any technique formulation. Ed Parker called it the equation formula (Seabrook 2006):

(1) PREFIX it, add a move or moves before it,
(2) SUFFIX it, add a move or moves after it,
(3) INSERT, add a simultaneous move with the already established sequence,
(4) REARRANGE, change the sequence of the moves,
(5) ALTER the weapon, the target, or both,
(6) ADJUST the range, the angle of execution, or both the angle of execution and the range,
(7) REGULATE the speed, the force, both speed and force, intent and speed,
(8) DELETE, exclude a move or moves from the sequence.

As a Kenpo Karate instructor, I believe that it is important for Kenpoists with considerable experience to work on the above 8 actions as they apply to self-defense. However, introducing the equation formula (or the what-if stage, rearrangement concept, ect) too early to students, in my opinion, confuses them and gives them less confidence in their ability to apply the ideal phase techniques in a street altercation.

There is more than enough material in American Kenpo (forms, sets, techniques, sparring) to learn in the beginner stages of learning; and because of the patience and discipline required to memorize all of that material, students want to be assured that they are learning techniques that will work. Teaching students the techniques in the ideal phase, and allowing them the opportunity to make those work will accomplish that goal. Bombarding them with the equation formula too early is counter-productive.