We Remember Black Heritage in Kenpo Karate

This month, we remember the inspirational life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His words and deed inspire men and women across the nation. He saw the good in every person. He saw a way to undo the injustice found in our great nation, to make it a greater nation. Dr. King’s message inspired those in the early Kenpo community too.

Steve Muhammed (formerly Steve Sanders): A talented athlete and Vietnam Veteran, Muhammed knew about effective combat measures. Mr. Muhammed earned his Black Belt under Dan Inosanto and Chuck Sullivan in Ed Parker’s American Kenpo. Muhammed ‟…established a reputation early on as one of the fiercest competitors ever.[1]” In 1969, he co-founded the Black Karate Federation (BKF) which is ‟…dedicated to promoting fairness on the martial arts tournament circuit.[2]”

Donnie Williams: Originally began training in Karate, later after his tour in the Marine Corp, Williams took up Tae Kwon Do. In the tournament circuit, he was known for high superior kicking and aggressive fighting. Williams met up with Muhammed and began training with the Kenpo artist’s deceptive fighting style. After retiring from competition, he began a film career.[3]

Grandmasters Steve Muhammad and Donnie Williams

Jim Kelly: A talented athlete and Shorin-Ryu Karate practitioner, Kelly had an illustrious career in the tournament circuit. Kelly then opened a Karate school in Los Angeles and starred in numerous films including Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee. Kelly was an inspiration for many Black martial artist through his films and fights.[4]

In the movie Enter the Dragon, starring Bruce Lee, Jim Kelly played the role of Williams. After Bruce Lee, Williams was my next favorite character. Williams was confident, talented, and honorable. Williams didn’t take any guff. He was a very good fighter. I was sad to see his character die in the movie, but it did mean I was a fan of Jim Kelly.

Goldie Mack, 10th degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate

Goldie Mack: He began his martial arts career in the late 1960s. Mack was an avid tournament competitor, instructor, and stunt double for Walker Texas Ranger. “Mack has served as a Police Officer in Texas and as a Deputy Sheriff in Kansas. He has conducted over 200-300 anti-rape seminars across the nation annually for the past 20 plus years. He is the author of The Technical training Instructor’s Course, a methods text for martial arts, and…a number of training courses.[5]” I had the great pleasure of working with Grandmaster Mack in 2018.

These individuals worked hard to improve their martial arts and pass the character development qualities of martial arts training to the young men and women of their community. They helped their neighborhoods, inspired the youth to be strong dedicated, fierce, and hardworking. They knew the benefits of Kenpo transcend the harsh realities of everyday life of the 1950s and 1960s.

During this holiday, take a moment to remember that all Americans contribute to this tapestry we call the United States of America. We are strong because of our diversity. We are strong because of our education. We are strong because we are free.

[1] Sanders, Steve and Williams, Donnie; Championship Kenpo; Ohara Publications; 1983; Book.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Kelly_(martial_artist)

[5] http://universalmartialartsacademyandtrainingcenter.org

Why is There a New Animal Every Lunar New Year?

Year of the Pig? Year of the Rat? Year of the Ox? Why is there a new animal every lunar new year? It has to do with Chinese astrology. In China and many other countries share similar calendars assign an animal to each year. There are 12 animals, and they have characteristics and traits that people born in those years display.[1] Western Astrology is similar, where your birth month links to a zodiac sign and signals particular characteristics. Instead of assigning an animal to a specific month, the Lunar system assigns the animal to a year.[2] What is the origin of animal years?

The Great Race

It all began many, many years ago, when the Jade Emperor of the Celestial Kingdom (Heaven) held a contest. The Emperor declared the winners of the Great Race would have years named after them. Cat and Rat were friends. Cat asked Rat to wake him up in the morning so they could run together. Unfortunately, in the morning, Rat was so eager to get started, he forgot to wake up the Cat. When Rat reached the end of the race, he found a wide river blocking his path. ‟How will I get across such a wide river?” though the Rat.

Luckily, Ox was also in the race and came upon the river too. Rat asked Ox if he could ride on ox’s back across the river. Ox agreed, and together they swam across the river. As Ox approached the far shore, Rat quickly ran across Ox and jumped to the shore. Rat continued running and won the race. Thus the first year is named for Rat. Ox climbed out of the river and finished second.[3]

Tiger arrived next. Though Tiger was a strong swimmer, the tide had fought his progress and delayed his arrival. Rabbit soon followed, hopping from rock to rock across the wide river. Rabbit did falter when he slipped off a rock. Luckily, a log floated by, and Rabbit rode it to the shore. The Jade Emperor named the third and fourth year after Tiger and Rabbit.

When Dragon arrived at the finish line, the Jade Emperor asked why Dragon took so long to race. After all, the Dragon can fly. Dragon explained that as he flew by, a small village suffered from a drought, so Dragon gave them rain. Then Dragon spotted a rabbit drowning in the river, so Dragon sent a log to aid him. The Emperor was impressed by Dragon’s good nature and named him the fifth year.

A wet horse galloped towards the finish line, fresh from swimming across the river. Unbeknownst to the Horse, Snake attached himself to Horse’s leg. Once Horse noticed the rider, he reared up in shock. Snake jumped off the leg and crossed the finish line. The Horse followed across to become the seventh winner.

Sometime later, Goat, Monkey, and Rooster arrived at the finish line. They teamed up to overcome the challenges of the race. Rooster found a raft so all three could ride on the raft. Monkey and Goat paddled to the far side. The Jade Emperor was impressed by the teamwork of these three animals and assigned them to the next years – eight, nine, and ten.

In eleventh place was Dog. Though a good swimmer and fast runner, Dog got distracted in the river. Dog played and swam for quite some time before remembering he was in a race. The Jade Emperor decided to end the event and was starting to close down. ‟Oink.”

The Jade Emperor looked down and saw that Pig had crossed the finish line. ‟Why did you take so long to arrive?” asked the Emperor. Pig was hungry and stopped to eat. After eating, Pig grew sleepy and took a nap. Pig woke up and hurried to the finish.[4]

Sadly much later, Cat woke up and missed the whole race. Furious, Cat hates Rat and will chase him any chance he gets.

Here’s the recap of the story. ‟The 12 animals in order are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep (Goat), Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.” [5] This cycle repeats every twelve years.

What’s Your Zodiac Animal

Zodiac Animal Recent Years Personality Traits
Rat 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020 Quick-witted, resourceful, versatile, kind
Ox 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021 Diligent, dependable, strong, determined
Tiger 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022 Brave, confident, competitive
Rabbit 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023 Quiet, elegant, kind, responsible
Dragon 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024 Confident, intelligent, enthusiastic
Snake 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025 Enigmatic, intelligent, wise
Horse 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026 Animated, active, energetic
Goat 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027 Calm, gentle, sympathetic
Monkey 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028 Sharp, smart, curiosity
Rooster 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029 Observant, hardworking, courageous
Dog 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030 Lovely, honest, prudent
Pig 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031 Compassionate, generous, diligent

(Table is taken from China Highlight [6])

Chinese Alchemy Has Five Elements

In Europe, Greek Philosophy gave us four elements. They are fire, water, earth, and wind. Chinese alchemy has five elements. These elements describe how things interact and relate to each other. They are ‟…wood, fire, earth, metal, and water — are believed to be the fundamental elements of everything in the universe between which interactions occur.”[7]

Often you’ll hear someone say Metal Pig or Earth Rooster. Each year has an elemental yang aspect, the next year, an elemental yin aspect. This pattern repeats six times in a 60-year cycle. Each animal has an elemental aspect of both yin and yang versions. These aspects color the trait for the animal during the year. Again, this mirrors how Western Zodiac behaves with the Greek elements.

What is Your Birth Year and Element?

Confused? Here’s the Wikipedia table to clear up the confusion. Use it to find your Animal and Element. [8]

 YearAssociated
element
Associated
animal
Year
 1924–1983  1984–2043
1Feb 05 1924–Jan 23 1925Yang WoodRatFeb 02 1984–Feb 19 1985
2Jan 24 1925–Feb 12 1926Yin WoodOxFeb 20 1985–Feb 08 1986
3Feb 13 1926–Feb 01 1927Yang FireTigerFeb 09 1986–Jan 28 1987
4Feb 02 1927–Jan 22 1928Yin FireRabbitJan 29 1987–Feb 16 1988
5Jan 23 1928–Feb 09 1929Yang EarthDragonFeb 17 1988–Feb 05 1989
6Feb 10 1929–Jan 29 1930Yin EarthSnakeFeb 06 1989–Jan 26 1990
7Jan 30 1930–Feb 16 1931Yang MetalHorseJan 27 1990–Feb 14 1991
8Feb 17 1931–Feb 05 1932Yin MetalGoatFeb 15 1991–Feb 03 1992
9Feb 06 1932–Jan 25 1933Yang WaterMonkeyFeb 04 1992–Jan 22 1993
10Jan 26 1933–Feb 13 1934Yin WaterRoosterJan 23 1993– Feb 09 1994
11Feb 14 1934–Feb 03 1935Yang WoodDogFeb 10 1994–Jan 30 1995
12Feb 04 1935–Jan 23 1936Yin WoodPigJan 31 1995–Feb 18 1996
13Jan 24 1936–Feb 10 1937Yang FireRatFeb 19 1996–Feb 06 1997
14Feb 11 1937–Jan 30 1938Yin FireOxFeb 07 1997–Jan 27 1998
15Jan 31 1938–Feb 18 1939Yang EarthTigerJan 28 1998–Feb 15 1999
16Feb 19 1939–Feb 07 1940Yin EarthRabbitFeb 16 1999–Feb 04 2000
17Feb 08 1940–Jan 26 1941Yang MetalDragonFeb 05 2000–Jan 23 2001
18Jan 27 1941–Feb 14 1942Yin MetalSnakeJan 24 2001–Feb 11 2002
19Feb 15 1942–Feb 04 1943Yang WaterHorseFeb 12 2002–Jan 31 2003
20Feb 05 1943–Jan 24 1944Yin WaterGoatFeb 01 2003–Jan 21 2004
21Jan 25 1944–Feb 12 1945Yang WoodMonkeyJan 22 2004–Feb 08 2005
22Feb 13 1945–Feb 01 1946Yin WoodRoosterFeb 09 2005–Jan 28 2006
23Feb 02 1946–Jan 21 1947Yang FireDogJan 29 2006–Feb 17 2007
24Jan 22 1947–Feb 09 1948Yin FirePigFeb 18 2007–Feb 06 2008
25Feb 10 1948–Jan 28 1949Yang EarthRatFeb 07 2008–Jan 25 2009
26Jan 29 1949–Feb 16 1950Yin EarthOxJan 26 2009–Feb 13 2010
27Feb 17 1950–Feb 05 1951Yang MetalTigerFeb 14 2010–Feb 02 2011
28Feb 06 1951–Jan 26 1952Yin MetalRabbitFeb 03 2011–Jan 22 2012
29Jan 27 1952–Feb 13 1953Yang WaterDragonJan 23 2012–Feb 09 2013
30Feb 14 1953–Feb 02 1954Yin WaterSnakeFeb 10 2013–Jan 30 2014
31Feb 03 1954–Jan 23 1955Yang WoodHorseJan 31 2014–Feb 18 2015
32Jan 24 1955–Feb 11 1956Yin WoodGoatFeb 19 2015–Feb 07 2016
33Feb 12 1956–Jan 30 1957Yang FireMonkeyFeb 08 2016–Jan 27 2017
34Jan 31 1957–Feb 17 1958Yin FireRoosterJan 28 2017–Feb 15 2018
35Feb 18 1958–Feb 07 1959Yang EarthDogFeb 16 2018–Feb 04 2019
36Feb 08 1959–Jan 27 1960Yin EarthPigFeb 05 2019–Jan 24 2020
37Jan 28 1960–Feb 14 1961Yang MetalRatJan 25 2020–Feb. 11 2021
38Feb 15 1961–Feb 04 1962Yin MetalOxFeb 12 2021–Jan 31 2022
39Feb 05 1962–Jan 24 1963Yang WaterTigerFeb 01 2022–Jan 21 2023
40Jan 25 1963–Feb 12 1964Yin WaterRabbitJan 22 2023–Feb 09 2024
41Feb 13 1964–Feb 01 1965Yang WoodDragonFeb 10 2024–Jan 28 2025
42Feb 02 1965–Jan 20 1966Yin WoodSnakeJan 29 2025–Feb 16 2026
43Jan 21 1966–Feb 08 1967Yang FireHorseFeb 17 2026–Feb 05 2027
44Feb 09 1967–Jan 29 1968Yin FireGoatFeb 06 2027–Jan 25 2028
45Jan 30 1968–Feb 16 1969Yang EarthMonkeyJan 26 2028–Feb 12 2029
46Feb 17 1969–Feb 05 1970Yin EarthRoosterFeb 13 2029–Feb 02 2030
47Feb 06 1970–Jan 26 1971Yang MetalDogFeb 03 2030–Jan 22 2031
48Jan 27 1971–Feb 14 1972Yin MetalPigJan 23 2031–Feb 10 2032
49Feb 15 1972–Feb 02 1973Yang WaterRatFeb 11 2032–Jan 30 2033
50Feb 03 1973–Jan 22 1974Yin WaterOxJan 31 2033–Feb 18 2034
51Jan 23 1974–Feb 10 1975Yang WoodTigerFeb 19 2034–Feb 07 2035
52Feb 11 1975–Jan 30 1976Yin WoodRabbitFeb 08 2035–Jan 27 2036
53Jan 31 1976–Feb 17 1977Yang FireDragonJan 28 2036–Feb 14 2037
54Feb 18 1977–Feb 06 1978Yin FireSnakeFeb 15 2037–Feb 03 2038
55Feb 07 1978–Jan 27 1979Yang EarthHorseFeb 04 2038–Jan 23 2039
56Jan 28 1979–Feb 15 1980Yin EarthGoatJan 24 2039–Feb 11 2040
57Feb 16 1980–Feb 04 1981Yang MetalMonkeyFeb 12 2040–Jan 31 2041
58Feb 05 1981–Jan 24 1982Yin MetalRoosterFeb 01 2041–Jan 21 2042
59Jan 25 1982–Feb 12 1983Yang WaterDogJan 22 2042–Feb 09 2043
60Feb 13 1983–Feb 01 1984Yin WaterPigFeb 10 2043–Jan 29 2044

What does it all mean?

Once you know what your zodiac animal is and your yin or yang element, you can look up the traits you possess and display to others. For instance, if you were a Rat, you would be intelligent and ambitious. You are good at socializing and keep your personal life private. You may have difficulty trusting others, and you are very bright. If you were a Water Rat, you would express wisdom and display an agile mind. If you were an Earth Rat, you would show nurturing traits and honesty.[9] The possible combinations are immense. Layer in the theory that months have assigned animals, solar terms (two-week segments), and hours.[10] This quagmire of influences is just as obscure as Western Zodiac, which does the same thing with zodiac houses and hours.

By now, you can fully appreciate the Lunar New Year. In my previous article, I explain what the Lunar New Year is and what to expect. My other article discusses the Lantern Festival, which caps the Lunar New Year celebration, dragon and lion dance. These festive activities are the highlight of young and old alike. Until next time, Gong Hay Fat Choi.

[1] China Highlights, https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/
[2] Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_zodiac
[3] China Highlights, https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/
[4] Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_zodiac
[5] Your Chinese Astrology, https://www.yourchineseastrology.com/zodiac/
[6] China Highlights, https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/
[7] China Highlights, https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/china-five-elements-philosophy.htm
[8] Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_zodiac
[9] Zodiac Signs, https://www.zodiacsigns-horoscope.com/chinese-zodiac/
[10] Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_zodiac

The Difference Between the Dragon Dance and the Lion Dance

The Lunar New Year ends with the lantern festival, signaled by the arrival of dancers. The most impressive is the Dragon Dance featuring a long serpentine dragon hoisted by many people. The other dance featured at the Lunar New Year is the Lion Dance, in which two acrobatic or martial arts trained people to delight the audience with their antics. These beasts, the dragon, and the lion are representations of the creatures. To an untrained eye, they are difficult to distinguish apart.

What is the difference? I’m here to help you know the difference.

The Dragon Dance ‟…is performed by a team of experienced dancers who manipulate a long flexible figure of a dragon using poles positioned at regular intervals along the length of the dragon. The dance team simulates the imagined movements of this river spirit in a sinuous, undulating manner.[1]” The dragon must be very long and have an odd number of poles or segments for good luck. The fabricated dragon body is very long, writhing up, down, left, and right by the dancers. This is the most distinguishing feature of the two creatures. If there are many dancers hoisting poles, it’s a dragon.

Dragons represent wisdom, wealth, and power. They also drive away evil spirits and bad luck. Other performers play instruments such as drums, gongs, and horns. Colors are generally green or gold representing the harvest or the Chinese Empire respectively. Sometimes, the dragon will follow a man with a ball representing the pearl of wisdom.[2] I’ve been told it is very auspicious to watch a dragon dance, so take every opportunity to observe its presentation.

The Lion Dance is a much shorter animal. ‟[L]ions have two performers inside a costume (one controlling the front legs, head, and mouth and the other controlling the hindquarters)[4]” These performers must be even more acrobatic and playful because the lion is ‟…curious creatures with a penchant for mischief…[5]” and should be very playful in its dance. The lion performers are hidden by the costume while the dragon performers are visible beneath the dragon’s body.

When the Lion bats its large eyes at your, that signals your participation in the dance. Feed the lion’s mouth a red envelope for good luck. The lion chases away evil spirits and acts as a guardian of the local community.[6] Martial arts schools gain prestige by providing dancers for the Lion Dance. We should create a team in our school to dance around town.

I hope you enjoyed our second article about the Lunar New Year and the Dances. The next article will cover the Chinese Zodiac Animals and how they play into the cycles of the years.

[1] Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_dance

[2] The Chinese Dragon Dance, https://www.china-family-adventure.com/dragon-dance.html

[3] China Highlights, https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/special-report/chinese-new-year/new-year-dragon-dance.htm

[4] Trip Savvy, https://www.tripsavvy.com/chinese-lion-dance-or-dragon-dance-1458310

[5] Ibid.

[6] Quick Concepts, http://quickconcepts.org/

What is the Lunar New Year?

launching a balloon

What is the Lunar New Year? It is the start of the year for calendars that use the lunar cycle, from new moon to dark moon, as their months which form a year. Some countries such as China use a combination of lunar months and solar cycles known as the lunisolar calendar[1]. In Vietnamese communities, the new year is known as Tet. For Korean communities, it is Seollal. In Chinese cultures, it is often called the Spring Festival.

The Lunar New Year is‟… [the] festival typically celebrated in China and other Asian countries that begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later.[2]” In San Diego, where we have many people from various Asian cultures, it is a big city-wide event celebrated over the weekend. From my experience with corporate life, in China and elsewhere, the whole community shuts down for the 15 days to celebrate. This is akin to how the US shuts down for two weeks between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

It is traditional to clean your house before the Spring Festival to ensure good luck for the coming year by sweeping out the bad luck. ‟Also on New Year’s day, family members receive red envelopes (lai see) containing small amounts of money. Dragon dances and fireworks are prevalent throughout the holidays, culminating in the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated on the last day of the New Year’s celebrations.[2]”

The red envelopes contain money, usually in the form of coins. This represents having a prosperous new year when you start with money in hand. The envelopes are given you children from their parents and other family members. The festival is filled with sweets and favorite foods, which means you’ll have sweetness in the new year. The celebration is about starting off the new year on the right step, setting up your luck and prosperity.

The tradition of celebrating the New Year on the lunar cycle is thousands of years old. There is a story told of a monstrous beast who eats humans every New Year’s Day. People figured out that the beast feared the color red, fire, and loud noises. This is the mythical reason for the firecrackers, red decorations, and lanterns. They drive off evil spirits and bad luck.[2]

Here are some things you should know about the Lunar New Year celebration.

  • It’s not called Chinese New Year, even in China.
  • It’s not one day. It lasts for 15 days.
  • It’s the season for superstitions.
  • There are words to avoid because they sound like things which are bad luck.
  • Firecrackers scare away monsters.
  • Wear red for good luck.
  • It’s time for sweets, so take a break from your diet or no-sweets resolution.
  • It has its own movie genre in China and Hong Kong.
  • The customs and traditions vary from country to country, and region to region.
  • Enjoy the celebration!

Look for your local celebration of Lunar New Year. In San Diego, there is a big celebration in the City Heights area every year. As they say in Cantonese, ‟Gong Hay Fat Choi” or Happy New Year!

[1] Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_New_Year
[2] Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Lunar-New-Year
[3] CNN, https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/lunar-new-year-things-to-know/index.html

Americanization of the Martial Arts

On guard position

On guard position

It is no secret that Asian martial arts are incredibly popular in the United States. Any given town may have two or three Korean Tae Kwon Do schools, a few Okinawan karate schools, a Chinese kung fu school or two, and a handful of Judo, Aikido, Jiu Jitsu, and other schools scattered about. The prospective martial arts student can pick and choose which style appeals to him or her most and is even free to combine elements from multiple styles. Such was not the case in the founding days of the martial arts, when arts were passed on from student to teacher in a direct lineage. It was not always easy to find a teacher, and the student had to spend a lifetime mastering the art. There was no “picking and choosing”, no shopping for styles and masters. So how have the martial arts integrated into western consumer culture? Quite well, actually. The freedom to pick and choose has allowed the blending of styles that have been separated for centuries. In the end, we are seeing the emergence of a truly American class of fighting styles. This conglomeration of fighting arts is a melting pot, much as America itself is.

It should be pointed out early on that this article makes many sweeping generalizations that are not true of many particular martial arts schools and styles. Some schools proved to be adaptable to local influences almost immediately, while others have retained their traditional characteristics for decades. This article is not intended to say that one way is better than another. It is just an observation of how the martial arts scene, overall, in America is changing.

The first wave of the martial arts boom in the United States occurred in the years directly following World War II. American servicemen stationed in the east discovered the strange, effective fighting arts of Japan while based in the region as part of the post war occupational force. The primary martial art that was introduced at this time was Judo, which was popular in mainland Japan, along with some forms of empty hand martial arts from the island of Okinawa. These Okinawan arts are collectively known by their Japanese name–the words “kara” meaning “empty” and “te” meaning “hand” combine to form the now common word “karate” or “empty hand.” The second wave was an interest in Chinese forms of martial arts (kung fu), largely popularized by the demonstrations and movie and TV roles of Bruce Lee in the nineteen-sixties. The martial arts enthusiasts of generation X can largely trace their martial arts influences to the Karate Kid movies.

Yet, through all of the decades of martial arts practice in America, martial arts remained firmly rooted in its oriental culture and tradition. Classes began with salutations in Japanese or Chinese, and the same languages were used to count out punches and kicks during drills. The more closely the American martial arts schools held to the traditions of their forbearers, the more the art was respected. Schools that integrated oriental martial arts with American boxing and wrestling were often viewed as having somehow “watered down” the traditional nature of their art.

Those views have been slowly changing over time, and mixed martial arts (MMA), which combines striking arts with wrestling and grappling arts, has become an accepted class of martial arts in its own right. This has been particularly highlighted by the success of the Ultimate Fighting circuit, which is as close to no holds barred fighting as you’ll find in modern sports. The early Ultimate Fighting Championships featured competitors who were essentially one dimensional. Someone might be a boxer, a grappler, a karate practitioner, or something else, but rarely did you see true mixed martial artists. However, the one dimensional fighters soon found themselves outmatched by the more versatile MMA competitors. This was most stunningly highlighted recently when Royce Gracie, Jiu Jitsu master and the winner of three of the first four Ultimate Fighting Championships, was defeated soundly in his return match by Matt Hughes, a modern MMA fighter.

Does this mean that traditional martial arts have been supplanted by the new breed of MMA styles? Absolutely not. Rather, it just goes to show that, even in the martial arts, there is not one size that fits all. Clearly, if you are fighting three five minute rounds in a chain link octagon, then MMA might be the way to go. However, who can say what would work best in a real world confrontation? Besides, as any true martial arts practitioner knows, the true value of studying the martial arts comes not in finding ways to beat your opponent–rather, the real challenge is to face down your own failings and become the best person you can be.

Guest Writer bio: Gary Russell is a freelance writer, martial arts practitioner, and software engineer. He is the founder of TopSearch Consulting, a full service web content and keyword article provider.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/220456

Yes, you too could be a guest writer on my blog. Email me your article idea and we’ll talk. I’ve used guest writers for my monthly newsletter years ago and I’ll do it again.

Grandmaster Michael Fugate

Last Saturday, I got to reconnect with a long time friend, student and teacher Michael Fugate at his dojo in Santee. It was great to see his students work on their Tai Chi and see how he continues to propagate the true arts. After all these years, I realized that when we don’t take care to make time for our friends life will sweep you away.

To all my former students, please take a moment to send me a message if I haven’t reached out to you. It only takes one person to start a conversation and I tend not to be that individual. Each of you have made my life a little richer just by knowing you. As for GM Fugate, I think I learned more from him than I ever taught him. Martial arts training always attracts the best kinds of people.

Train hard. Train often. Train with intent.

First anniversary of my blog

Golden Leopard Kempo logoToday I have written in this blog for a complete year. It is a milestone in of itself. Last year, I hoped I could maintain the momentum of writing a few times every week. Before I started, I padded my quiver with several articles that I either updated from previous publication in the Leopard Pause, or wrote but never published.

The first six months went well, but then real life intruded. There are about two separate months where I never made it back to post an article — like last month. Oops. Anyway, I’d like to review some of the plans and how well I did against them.

Goals I was able to meet

  • I’m still writing in the blog. Woohoo!
  • I got a lot of article ideas turned into actual articles.
  • Attracted a few of my friends to follow this blog.

Goals that I failed to meet

  • I really wanted to have a single post weekly, ideally every other day except weekends. Close but no cigar.
  • I wanted to remain active on various martial arts forums and blogs. But that is a lot of work. I couldn’t keep it up and still teach and parent.
  • I wanted to post more news items and special events. Like above, I just didn’t have the time.
  • The mysterious cash prize contest.

Ideas that I hoped would happen

  • I hoped my blog would become the pride and joy of the independent Shaolin Kempo community. Yeah, that’s dreaming big but if you don’t dream big then why did you do all the work?
  • I also hoped my blog would be spotted by Hollywood (or even Bollywood — I’m not picky) and they loved me so much they hired me to star in my own movie. Now this is a bit silly but it could happen in some alternate universe of good luck.


Things that did happen

  • I finally got on Twitter (@bagnas) but without a Twitter capable phone and service, it didn’t work out so well. Besides, I have a hard time thinking of things to tweet. You’d never guess that by how much I talk in person.
  • I created a Facebook fan page. That attracted a lot of people I don’t know. Either I’m secretly famous somewhere or they just liked the logo and became a fan.

I’m still interested in getting ideas for topics or concepts you’d like me to discuss. Also, if you have any videos or articles you’d like to share, send them to me. I’d be happy to review them or take on a guest blogger for a day or two. I’ll even post Kempo art and G-rated photos of other martial artists.

See you next year.

The Hawaiian Blessing and Other Customs

In traditional Karazenpo go Shinjutsu  (KGS), you bring your new belt and new uniform to the ocean. Soak them in the ocean water. Let the water saturate the belt and uniform. This blesses them with the spirit of the ocean and provides you with the strength of the seas. This is called the Hawaiian Blessing. It’s a wonderful custom that was forgotten by many schools and instructors.

Black belt takes time

Black belt takes time

Another custom of KGS is twisting the belt. Twisting of the newly awarded belt takes some of the newness out of it. Usually, they come out of the wrapper and into the hands of the recently advanced student. The belts are stiff and nearly untieable. The twisting or breaking-in of the belt signifies the efforts you put into training. It also represents the fact that you are not new even though you have a new rank.

During Black Belt ceremonies, there is a custom of breathing into belts. Breathing into the belt transmits the spirit of the Testing Board into the new belt. The master or grandmaster put a bit of their knowledge into your belt. The belt (also known as obi) represents your knowledge of the art and loyalty to the school. This custom links you spiritually to the lineage of your ancestral teachers.

Black Belts also have another custom issued by the master. Getting hit by the belt signifies the combat element of the art. It demonstrates you can take punishment and hardship. The ceremonial hit also symbolically tempers the spirit, forging your perseverance and reminding you of humility.

Finally, newly ranked Black Belts drink a shot of saki when the Testing Board presents it. This ceremonial drink represents camaraderie–sharing a drink with your fellow students. You are now a member of the Yudansha, the Black Belts of the school. You have earned the right to represent the school because of your diligence in training and skill in techniques.

These are some of the more interesting customs found in Karazenpo go Shinjutsu. There are undoubtedly more. Does your school have a custom? Tell us about it in the comments.

Kempo in Action 5

Here is a real life example of how one of my students actually used a technique in an actual bully situation. “James” vs. the BB Gun.

Several weeks ago, one of my junior students (a nine-year old Brown Belt) said he performed a variant on Gun #7 on a neighbor. His opponent had a BB gun — not a real gun. According to him, that kind of gun still hurts and his friend was
Shoot the other kids on the block.

James said he zigzagged up to the guy, quickly disarmed the gun, backed up and aimed the gun at the guy. The kid said he was sorry to everyone.

James said “Sifu, it really works!” His mom (also a Brown Belt) was proud of him.

I thought to myself, “You shouldn’t be doing gun defenses in real life.” But ended up telling him, “Good job. Keep calm in those situations and train hard. By the way, beware of real guns, please.”

Our little student here, James was able to stop a confrontation without breaking bones or causing blood to spurt out of a nose. He disarmed and cooled the situation down. Hope this inspires you to train.

Do you have any stories about a marital art move that really worked as taught? Post it here in the comments.