So, when I started this blog I, kinda sorta knew, that I was going to have to share my past a bit. In discussing my journey and in discussing the future, indeed, MY future with regards to both Haastyle Martial Arts Academy (HMAA) and the Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS), I must write about my martial arts upbringing. Over time, I will get to all of it, but today, the focus is on my days as a student of Ed Parker’s American Kenpo Karate.
I had trained before in another style (for another article), and that did not work out at all. Kenpo is what started me on the road to CTS. Kenpo had all the right things, at the time, to set my proverbial ball rolling. As I trained later, in Jeet Kune Do (JKD) and Pekiti Tirsia Kali (PTK) systems, it was with teachers that had a strong Kenpo background. This training completes the grand ‘Spar Wars’ trilogy that has left me on the CTS dark side swinging a (relatively) light saber made of rattan…
Episode I: “Kenpo Genesis”
One thing that I always loved about EP’s Kenpo was the structure. Most specifically, the depth of the structure. Kenpo is set up with a form/kata (a series of preset movements designed to illuminate and instill certain principles of motion) and/or a set (a series of preset motions design to educate the foundation of basics) and a set number of techniques (a series of preset responses to a specific attack). In addition, the forms had a wonderful progression from linear to circular style that caught my eye right away, and the techniques had a consistent modus operendi that was designed to help you find your place on a six count rotation. All of these things fit my sensibility and a need for order in a world surrounded by three girls (my wife and two daughters). Where I trained, there were an unusually small group of requirements for each belt level as compared to the average Kenpo Karate school, probably the smallest curriculum that I have ever seen for an adult program. This never phased me because I was there to learn as much as I could, not just a bit so I could achieve a belt and my instructor never held me back. Soon after I began training in West Boca, my instructor had exhausted what he had to offer me, so I began traveling an hour to Hialeiah, one of the worst parts of Miami, to train with Manny Reyes Sr.; time I will always cherish. He taught from a “street fighting” perspective and I learned a lot. Thus, I fell in love with martial arts thanks to American Kenpo Karate.
“(more like) Jeet Kune Don’t”
Early on in my Kenpo training I was introduced to the art of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. Long story short (Episode II), my JKD instructor was a former Kenpo guy, so he also had a solid structure to his curriculum and teachings, which makes sense as, Dan Inosanto, the current Senior Instructor/ Practitioner of JKD, ALSO came from a Kenpo background. Forms and techniques were still there, but the introduction of Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) concepts and a less rigid training model began to expand my horizons. The problem was that my JKD instructor wanted me to quit Kenpo, he said “…Kenpo training is wrong…” and, let’s just say, I wasn’t ready to hear that (whether he was right or wrong is a nuanced discussion). So, as a Kenpo guy, having started my FMA training in a JKD school, I find myself in a seminar with a man, that has since become a great friend and mentor, Professor* Zach Whitson. Zach was teaching his earliest innovation Kenpo Counterpoint. Get this, Kenpo Counterpoint was at it’s essence, Kenpo Karate that uses the FMA training model of countering and re-countering. So, rather than denigrating, discounting or deleting the, somewhat flawed, Kenpo training model, he took strides to upgrade it. Seeing this breakthrough made me understand a couple of simple things.
- As Bruce Lee said: “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely you own.” I feel this is one of his most misunderstood quotes. So many discard what, they feel, is not useful BEFORE training it thoroughly. Mr. Whitson showed me there was more to learn inside the context of American Kenpo Karate by adding something that was his own and encouraging me to do the same.
- Martial arts skills were not going to come to me in the mail. I had to go out and find what I needed to grow. So, a short while later, when I opened my first school, I gave Mataas na Guro** Zach Whitson a call.
Pekiti Gone Wild”
For several years thereafter Master Z.*** would come to visit annually, I would visit him in the Tennessee, and sometimes, at other schools with which he became affiliated. We would train Kenpo Counterpoint and the Pekiti Tirsia Kali system which Master Z. acquired from Tuhon Bill McGrath and Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje. PTK had a massive curriculum which I was willing to go through, but the wheels were spinning in the mind of my guide. Over time, Master Whitson was able to accrue considerable ‘hands on’ with Supreme Grandmaster Ciriaco “Cacoy” Canete and, through the revelations attained in that time, COUNTERPOINT TACTICAL SYSTEM WAS BORN! And my transition was complete… Other than the successful development of two strong, independent daughters, and my long, beautiful relationship with my wife of almost 30 years, there is NOTHING that I take more pride in than having been there at the genesis of CTS. Kenpo was good to me, I ultimately made it to 3rd degree black belt. CTS has become the foundation of my days.
See you on the mat. RH
PS – If you want to know that there are other avenues to the same end, please read Eric Primm’s
*due to his rank at the time of 6th black in Kenpo, that is how he would be titled.
**I came to find that Master Z. was also a master instructor in Pekiti Tirsia Kali an art that I had asked my JKD instructor to teach me and he chose not to.
*** Zach does not dig on extreme formalities so the familiar Master Z., Mr. Whitson or plain Zach became the preferred titles over Professor or Mataas na Guro.