The United Kenpo ~ Arnis Assn. Est. 1986

Self Defense in empty hand, stick and edged weapons - Private Instruction - No Belt Testing Fee's - No Contracts


Why Are Kenpo Masters So  Out Of Shape?

     I have pondered this question for a number of years.  Now and then I have Kenpo practitioners  around the country  contact me personally and they have asked me that question from time to time.  Just recently a very high Ranking Kenpo Instructor called me who had been at the Last Man Standing seminar in Dallas called me on the phone and asked me the question once again.  That was the catalyst that brought me to the key board so I could pound out this essay. The fact is that we have way to many Kenpo Masters that are way over weight.  It is not my intent to disrespect these fine men and women of which many are higher Ranked then I am.  I only want to address this subject at an angle that will elevate the consciousness of the reader in hopes that they will alter their current diet and exercise regimen in such as way that their percent body fat will drop to levels that they will not be carrying so much additional weight on their frames, thus reducing stress on their hearts and skeletal  structure.

      A little history on me is needed so the reader  can understand why  I have the perspective or point of view that I do.   May I ask you to take the time and let me continue.  Currently I am 65 years old and soon to be 66 have been training in the Kenpo Art for 44 years.  Before  I  started training in Kenpo,  as a young man I worked very hard on our  family  farm.  I was very active as a child playing Baseball and any sport that was in season at the time.   I began doing sit ups,  pushups, dips  and weights on a daily basis in my beginning teenage years.  While in High School, I attended Physical Education classes every day.  Back in those days all students  were strength and fitness tested in Physical Education Classes  a couple times each year.  Personally I always wanted to break my own fitness and strength records.  In P.E. class we always warmed up with sit ups, pushups, jumping jacks and other calisthenics.  In the 60s there was maybe only one fat kid in our graduating class.  Today most of the youth are over- weight and their strength to their body weight  is quantitatively very low.  Many schools no longer require students to attend P.E. classes or don't even have P.E. classes  any longer.

     When I entered Salisbury State College in 1970, during the fall semester of my freshmen year I broke the current standing freshman strength and fitness level tests that existed at that time.  I spent the next two years in College studying Science and  Physical Education focusing on a Bachelor Degree in Science  but dropped out because I was  feeling guilty that I was wasting my time in college classes while some of my friends were dying over in Vietnam. 

 The early Kenpo years :

     I studied Kenpo at the Denver Kenpo Karate Academy owned the late  John Cockran who had managed the TRACO - PAR  studio down on Colfax avenue for Master Tomas Connor. 

     Group classes were tough.  We did  push up on the knuckles, sit ups and other exercises.  Floor stretching was done for 20-30 minutes straight.    I was able to do complete splits and lay my chest on the floor after many months of training day in day out .  George Stumpf,  currently a 2nd degree Black Belt under me can attest to this fact because he was a teenager training at the same time and in the same school as I.   I ended up being a good kicker,  head high hook kicks, wheel kicks  to the head were easy to do,  only because I forced myself to develop flexibility.  My instructor led by example.

       Early on Sifu Cochran would mention Master Tomas Connor and how fast and powerful he was.  In  my mind he became what a Kenpo Karate Master should look like.  He was fast and was very strong for his weight, he only stood about 5'8".  Even today over 40 years later in my own little dojo here in Pine Grove, Colorado   I have a photo of Master Tomas Connor in his early 50s hanging on the wall.  His body was like a Creek God.   Every time I walk inside the Pine Grove dojo, I see his photo and I think to myself I need to train today. 

       After obtaining my Black Belt in Kenpo in 1976,  I went back to college spending another 3 1/2 years obtaining a degree in Physical Education, education and 25-30 hours of sciences.  I studied sports medicine, learned how calculate percent body fat of an individual.  I was trained in teaching the skills and methods of many sports and life time activities.  My opinion in this essay is founded on a College Education dedicated to the study the  physical body.

      A few days ago in early October of this year 2016,  I attended an Last Man Standing Seminar honoring Grand Master Al Tracy held at Master Willie Pinedas Kenpo School in Rock Springs, Wyo.  I was able to watch his kids class, ages averaged 10 years of age.  Willie put them though a calisthenics workout before the kids did their Kenpo Karate training.  The kids could all do real push ups  and the girls were as strong or stronger then the boys.  At that age this is common.  His kids were not over weight and reminded me of the way kids were back in the 60s. They had a good cardiovascular fitness level also. I met Willie Pinedas Black belts and they all were in fine physical condition.  These men were taught by Willie and had been immersed in the philosophy that a good mind needs a good body to operate within.  This reminds me of  early Creek philosophy that I studied as a young man.  Willie is a 10th Degree Black belt and I am a 9th degree Black Belt and we both  wear  the size 4 uniforms we did when we started Kenpo in the early 70s.  We both feel that we should demonstrate to our students that healthy exercise and proper diet is part of the Kenpo Harmony that are students should strive for.  Young people today need to see their instructors in good condition because most of the American society is so over weight and in very poor physical condition.   Being fat has become "Status Quo"

     Let me say this about George Stumpf , when George started training in Kenpo with me about 3 years ago he was carrying 35 extra pounds.  He receives  1.5 hours or 2 hours of private instruction from me each week.  I have put him on a very steep learning curve for the past 3 years.   He now trains 6-7 days per week.  I promoted George to 3rd Degree Black a few months ago.  Losing that 35 pounds was a form of Self Defense.       

Let's take a  look  at The Over Weight  Kenpo Master

    Many years ago in the mid 80s  my Kenpo instructor told me, "now that I was a 3rd degree Black Belt,  I should start growing a little pot belly".  I thought this to be a very strange  comment to say to me who happened to in peak condition.  I knew Master Connor would never tell one of his Black Belts such a thing.  I was left wondering  where such poor logic and that type of  thinking came from.  

     I was taught "True Self Defense Is Defending Against Ones Own Self".  Therefore it follows that a student of Kenpo should look in the mirror and attempt to work on his weaknesses. 

     There are many Kenpo Masters carrying a lot of extra weight and all of them know how to shift that weight into their strikes etc. and hit with devastating force.  The fact that Kenpo is basically a multiple strike system utilizing 90 percent hands and 10 percent low kicks  offers the overweight  Kenpo Master a system that he can move effectively within.  That said, perhaps congestive heart disease, Diabetes, extra stress on the knees and other joints and last but not least  high blood pressure which is an effective killer should be realized by the Kenpo Instructor long before these killers present themselves.  There have been  Kenpo Masters that have lost their feet and hands do to carrying way to much weight  and getting Diabetes.  Heart Attacks have taken them out also.

      There is nothing unusual about the Kenpo Master gaining weight around the mid section as he or she enters the middle age and into the Golden Years of life.  As we age our Basal Metabolic Rate slows down and if we are only walking around teaching seminars, not actually training in the Art  the weight comes on.  As Grand Master  Neito said the other day  to me on the telephone when we were discussing this topic , you have to develop the "push away technique" leave the table before you are stuffed.  How many of the Kenpo Masters can still perform the Katas from short 1 though Long 7?  I suspect many of them have forgot them simply because they have become lazy and no longer practice them. Carrying 100 extra pounds makes it very difficult to train.

     Personally,  I like to crank out 100 sit ups at night right before I go to bed, it ramps up my heart rate and I burn up more of that peach pie I ate earlier in the day.   I find walking, hiking, fly fishing  and practicing the Kenpo Katas and the Self Defense techniques keep me moving in a fashion that is not damaging to my body because I can control the degree of stress and  the work load of my workouts though these " life " activities.  It is important that I stay active every day.  

     There is nothing magical about losing weight.  The formula is simple:

If you take in more calories than  you burn up in a days time you will gain weight, if you take in less calories then you burn up in a days time you will lose weight.

As Kenpo instructors we owe it to our students to be physically fit and therefore lead by example.