My training lineage:
T-shirt of Mr. Simpson's lineage: Ed Parker's American Kenpo (top of triangle);
Skip Hancock's Kenpo 2000 (left); Mr. Simpson's Pacific Northwest Karate Center.
T-Shirt of Alpha Martial Arts' logo. Black belt including my name and Alpha
Martial Arts' logo. Photograph by Evan Robinson. Click to embiggen.
Sara wrote to an email list we're on:
Evan's been doing Kenpo karate for as long as I've known him. Longer, actually: when I met him, he was a 25-year-old four-night-a-week dojo rat with six-pac abs and an appetite for esoteric books on management of violent conflict. Kenpo is a big guy's art, a very technical kind of karate that's favored by bouncers, bodyguards, and other people for whom self-defense is a serious business. In fact, Kenpo was founded by Elvis's Hawaiian bodyguard, Ed Parker; and Elvis himself had a Kenpo black belt. Evan took some workshops with Ed Parker back in the day, and has always sought out teachers who were directly Parker-trained.
But Evan quit Kenpo at 28, just a few months shy of getting his black belt...though he's never stopped training on his own through all the years that followed.
Fast forward to four years ago. We're in Vancouver, and Evan's been piddling around with a local dojo that (ahem) lacks the rigor of the far more serious one he'd trained with in Santa Clara. But he finds a really great one over the border in Bellingham, which is closely affiliated with Parker's most respected remaining student. We're making weekly trips there anyway, so he joins up, digs out his brown belt, and gets back into training.
When he moved to Seattle last year, he asked the Bham dojo for a referral to another school in the city. We bought our house, in part, because it's a 10-minute drive from this one.
Long story short: Tonight, Evan finally received his long-delayed black belt, after a seven-hour marathon test that started at 9 am this morning and ran until 4 pm. I was there for the last couple hours of it, and was amazed at both the rigor, and the fact that my 50-year-old guy was holding up under it. He was probably the oldest person testing -- and also the biggest, and also one of the two or three most skilled. (They call him "Po" -- the Kung Fu panda.)
One of the universal rituals of martial arts is that when you're given your black belt, your instructor gives you a ceremonial kick in the gut. Usually, one or two other instructors stand behind you to catch you if you should get knocked over.
Evan was the last candidate kicked. When his turn came, nine instructors got off the bench to come and stand behind him to support him. Pretty sweet. When I came down to the mat to hug him afterward, his heavy canvas gi was completely drenched with sweat -- not a dry spot on him anywhere. He's resting now, after a hot shower, a steak dinner, and a stiff dose of ibuprofen....
Half a lifetime. And about time, too.
I blush :-).
I have trained at: John Sepulveda's Santa Clara Kenpo Karate in Santa Clara, CA (an IKKA school) in the late '80s and early '90s; Shayne Simpson's Pacific Northwest Karate Center in Bellingham, WA (Kenpo 2000 under Professor Hancock); with Professor Skip Hancock in Spokane, WA (Kenpo 2000); and now with Mr. Chris Herrman of Alpha Martial Arts in Seattle, WA (under Mr. Brian MacDonald of Boston, MA). Each of them (and my individual instructors, including Jesse Guel, Marcus Buonfiglio, Jeff Buda, Howard Tabb, Master John Sepulveda, Tom Graves, Greg Moench, Penny Simpson, and Shayne Simpson) have contributed greatly to my understanding of the art and ability to perform.
Without going into details (and thus providing spoilers for other students of Mr. Herrman's), I will say that the two part blackbelt test (90+ minutes Wednesday night of conditioning and sparring and about six hours of running/biking; pad & bag work; sets; self-defense techniques; and forms on Saturday) was certainly the most difficult physical challenge I have ever faced in a non-survival situation, and possibly the most difficult physical challenge ever.
Yes, it was worse than the Grouse Grind :-).
But deeply satisfying to have completed.
My thanks for the congratulations I have received.