Posted by sensei on May 1, 2018

Programs for Children Under 6

      Kenpo Academy has programs designed for all ages, starting as young as 2 years old.  Master Melanie Demers uses her early childhood education to create the perfect classes for our young martial artists in the making.  These classes are designed to prepare the children to join the older kids while adapting to the attention spans of the very young.  We try to accommodate each stage of development so we have broken ages 2 to 5 into three different classes. Tiny Tigers, Lil’ Dragons, Lil’ Ninjas all offered on Saturdays.

     The Tiny Tigers class is for the 2 year old karate students.  This class is a short 15 minutes for parents and their children.  Many of the younger siblings of our other students have come to look forward to Saturday and their chance to enter the dojo. They jump into class and punch or kick a bag, try to shoulder roll, and learn basics while they think they are just playing a game.

     The Lil’ Dragons (3 and 4 year olds) and the Lil’ Ninjas (4 and 5 year olds) are both 30 minute classes.  These children play games, practice balance, work on basics, and learn the discipline, patience, and focus required to join the older kids.

     Master Melanie has used her knowledge and skill to show many children the love of the Martial Arts and we are always ready to show others the way as well.

Posted by sensei on April 20, 2018

Our School Lineage

       Martial disciplines have a history as long as humans have been fighting each other, but they did not start to form into martial arts until around 500 a.d.  This is when it is generally agreed that the spiritual side and the “art” were introduced.  There are many stories as to how this came to pass and how each version of the art was developed, but (as the title suggests) we are only going to focus on the origins of Kenpo Karate and the lineage that brought us Kenpo Academy.

       Our story starts with William K.S. Chow who is credited with starting Kenpo Karate.  As Chow grew up his father taught him the Chinese art of Shaolin Kung Fu.  Living in Hawaii he met and began working with James Mitose, who taught William Chow Japanese style karate.  After receiving his black belt from Mitose, Chow combined the two styles to create Kenpo Karate and opened his own dojo in Hawaii, often choosing to teach in the public park.  The most notable of his students were Adriano Emperado and William (Bill) Chun Sr.

      The next important figure in our lineage is Grandmaster S. George Pesare who learned the art from Grandmaster Victor (Sonny) Gascon, a student of Adriano Emperado.  Pesare is the one that brought Kenpo Karate to New England when he started his school in Rohde Island.  It is said that if you learn Kenpo Karate in New England than you either learned it from Grandmaster Pasare, one of his students, or one of there students. All paths lead back to him.

     Shihan Lenny learned his style from Shihan Robert Nohelty.  Nohelty, like most others, learned from multiple teachers.  His teachers include Grandmaster Pesare, Professor Nick Cerio (who also learned from Pesare and eventually created Nick Cerio Kenpo), and Fred Villari (a student of Cerio’s who went on to start another new style named Shaolin Kenpo).

It is important to understand the lineage of your style because whether it is a lot or a little every martial artist adapts the style to fit their personality and body type.  These adaptations change what is being taught over time.  Much of the lineage, especially before Chow, is passed down by word of mouth and is an oral history.  In this same way, the style that is taught is only passed from Sensei to student relying on memory and practice to carry it forward.  We as martial artists do our best to remember even the smallest details but over this long game of telephone, it would be impossible for the message to be the same with every new link.

Posted by sensei on April 20, 2018

The Beginning of the Alliance Tournament

       We at Kenpo Academy in partnership with Dragon Phoenix Martial Arts have been running the Alliance Tournament for 13 plus years now and with another one just around the corner, we thought we would get nostalgic and tell you about why we started it.

The story starts with two instructors that had left a … coalition of schools so they could choose how to teach their students without a governing body managing them.  Leaving came with perks and drawbacks just as any decision of magnitude does.

Shihan Lenny Demers and Shihan Jesse Dwire both believe that attending tournaments is an important part of a martial artist’s instruction but they had some problems.

     First, the tournaments they had been attending would consistently run for an impossibly long 12 hour day. The Shihans did not want to be there for that long so how could they continue to have students who were already nervous about competing, stay that long too.

Second these tournaments would run out of trophies.  Students that had won would go home with only the promise of a trophy instead of the actual thing.  To make things worse those promised trophies often never came forcing Shihan Lenny and Shihan Jesse to buy their students trophies instead.  Something had to change, but luckily buying those trophies sparked an idea.

      “We can start our own tournament!” Shihan Lenny probably said.

“And we can call it the Alliance Tournament!”  might have been Shihan Jesse’s response.

They went out, bought trophies, picked up ring supplies from Staples, had a craft day to assemble sign and such, and held an in-house test tournament.  It went AMAZING!  No hitches, smooth, plenty of trophies In-Out-Done

Soon after Kenpo Academy and Dragon Phoenix Martial Arts rented the West Running Brook gym and the Alliance Tournament was born.

“Tournaments build character” It is because of this that we have run 2 per year since that 1st one in 2004.  The Alliance Tournament grew a lot in that time but we always have plenty of trophies and are still In-Out-Done.

Posted by sensei on April 20, 2018

The Role of Sensei

      Sensei roughly translates to “One who has come before”, this does not suggest that we know all there is to know about our art.  Instead, the meaning points at the truth. We are just a little farther down the pathand are here to help you navigate it.  We, a Sensei, cannot and do not want to just give you the answers. Our goal is to guide you to the revelations you are ready to understand.  Parents do not choose how their children act, they can only provide example and guidance. This is what the Sensei does for the student.

     Imagine learning a Martial Art as a path through the woods.  This path has many entrances, exits, splits, cliffs, and dead ends.  You know where you want to end but are not sure how to get there.  The Sensei is your guide, showing you where to turn, letting you go the wrong way every once and a while to learn an important lesson, but always around to bring you back to the right path.  Your Sensei provides a light when you can’t see the way ahead and keeps you grounded. We slow you down when needed. Push you harder when you’re being lazy. We show you new material, introduce different concepts and remind how much you still have to learn when your ego gets ahead of you.  Over time your Sensei becomes a role model, a symbol of what you hope to become, and we hope you become better than we are.

     At some of the splits on your path, there are cliffs, steep walls of intimidating height looming up in front of you.  They are climbable, but just barely and you are more likely to fall and have to go backward than you are to make it to the top.  Your Sensei can guide you past these dangerous cliffs, walk you to the top to enjoy the same view without the same danger. We could show you how to catch a punch and roll it into an arm lock on your first day but you certainly get punched in the face many times and probably never figure out how to do it well.  So instead we teach you to move out of the way and block the first day.  Then you learn to circle our arms. We show you the easiest way to catch the punch next.  Over time you learn to flow from move to move until, finally, you are able to roll their punch into the arm lock.

      Martial Arts movies have enjoyed a long history of turning the Sensei, Sifu, or mast into something mystical, a person with knowledge and power beyond that of normal humans. Mr. Myagi from the Karate Kid, healed his student’s leg, IP Mann from any of the various IP Mann movies fought what seemed like hundreds of foes without breaking a sweat, and Oogway from Kung Fu Panda hand an impressive control over chi.  Sensei’s have a high standard to be measured against but we accept the challenge gratefully because our role is an important one.  We are not mystical, just PRACTICED.

Posted by sensei on April 20, 2018

The Art of NOT Fighting

      “The only reason men fight is because they are insecure; one man needs to prove that he is better or stronger than another. The man who is secure within himself has no need to prove anything with force, so he can walk away from a fight with dignity and pride. He is the true martial artist – a man so strong inside that he has no need to demonstrate his power.” – Ed Parker

       The concept that this quote, pulled from Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams, presents is a hard one for those that are looking in on the martial arts from the outside to understand.  Many cannot imagine this being the case when the instructors are usually heard saying things along the lines of “if he doesn’t let go hit him for real and he will”  when talking to a pair working on grab defenses.  Or when advanced classes spend an hour learning different ways to kill their attacker with the attacker’s own knife.  So how does something that is so violent on the face of it turn into a deterrent from fighting? The quote to the left continues below

      “The point of achieving proficiency in any martial art is to be able to walk away from a fight rather than to win it. But you will walk with shoulders erect, pride in you bearing, knowing inside what the outcome of the battle would have been had you wished to precipitate it. And this attitude of confidence will be communicated to your antagonist, who will realize that he narrowly escaped defeat” – Ed Parker
       This second part hints at the mindset of someone as they walk away from a fight and what brought them to a point that allowed them to do so.  When you spend years, decades training to respond to a fight situation you become very aware of your abilities.  The need to test yourself against others lessens over time.  When this happens you start to question the motives driving the attacker and weigh the threat to your life, allowing you to more easily choose a response that equals the situation.  If walking away will end the conflict then you should walk away though this is not always easy.

      In the first part of this quote Parker says “a man so strong inside he has no need to demonstrate power”.  His use of the word “strong” is important because many consider backing down from a fight to show weakness but in fact, it takes courage when done for the right reasons.

      When I started training in the year 2000 my teacher, Shihan George Thibault, told me something that I have been trying to understand since “As a white belt you work towards a black belt and as a black belt you work back to white”.  This has a literal translation because as the layers of your black belt are worn away it turns white again, but there are far more layers to this thought.  In the confines of this article, I believe it suggests that one must remain humble enough to appear week no matter how strong you actually are.