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Mr Sepulveda

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happy 2nd bloggy birthday!

2nd-birthdayCHUNKY NINJA turns two today.  it’s been a fun two years of blogging and seeing just how goofy it is for an old, fat guy to try to learn a martial art.  i’m sure the blog has amused a few, but not near as many as those who have actually seen my version of the “art”. i’m sure somewhere up above Mr Parker is slowly shaking his head and saying to the angels, “that’s not quite how i had intended American Kenpo to look … bless his heart.”

so what’s happened during the two years?  well, let’s take a brief look …

when i started this blog i was preparing for my yellow belt test. just a couple of weeks before that yellow belt test the famed Kenpo Garage began.  my classmate and KG cohort, Vince, asked if i wanted/needed to do some extra work outs prepping for the belt test.  he was being kind because he knew i needed help.  probably more than even he could supply, but he was willing to take on the challenge and see if there was any hope for me.  he quickly discovered there wasn’t, but didn’t give up on me either.

Kenpo Garage in 108 degrees

Kenpo Garage in 108 degrees

i somehow earned my yellow belt it in spite of my deathly fear of having to spar.  when i finally tested my instructor toyed with me like i was a four-year old on the mat reminding me time and again that my hands were down (yes, i still remember the kicks to the head).  that was the first time i heard him say, “my feets loves hair.”  that’s funny if you’re watching it or hearing it.  but i was on the receiving end, though.  it’s funny now, but i felt completely silly then.

i’ve gone from bull-rushing everyone in sparring (ironic that i hate sparring and yet rush in to get my brains beat in) to learning to stay back, pace myself, and pick my spots.  my kicks were described as tragically sucking.  they’ve been upgraded to bad and now to “not pretty, but useful”.  trust me, those are improvements.

over the last 18 months i’ve met lots of great people involved in Kenpo including Mr John Sepulveda, Mr Tommy Burks, Mr Damien Wilson, Mr John Guzman, Ms Oscar Steele, and Mr Sam Bowley.  there are many more, but those were the ones that stand out in my mind as having taken some time to teach and help me learn this great art.

blue-beltand lastly, during the last two years i’ve proceeded from white belt to yellow to orange to purple and finally to blue (last night’s promotion).  each level challenges me both mentally and physically.  i haven’t lost much weight since i very first began kenpo, but where i’ve lost fat i’ve gained muscle.  i’m more solid with some fluffy (viking fat, as vince calls it).

with each class, i feel my age more and more.  i’m closing in on my 48th birthday.  having never done any martial art training before in my life and then starting at 45 i’d say i’m doing pretty good for myself.

if you’re new to my blog, let me encourage you to go back into the archives and pull out some random posts.  a couple of great blogs to read would be the kenpo garage and ketchup, please, both from September 2011.  yes, i was that bad. i’ve try to be realistic with myself and keep it lighthearted along the way.

i’m hoping the next year of chunky ninja’s obtuse corner of the interweb is still entertaining the masses while demonstrating a continual progression of improvement for those who never give up on a dream.

— chunky ninja

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11,358 days

198211,358 days. i don’t know if that number is accurate, but it’s probably within 365 or so. it represents the number of days i went without being involved in a fight. that’s approximately 31 years.

three decades without a physical altercation. then came kenpo. i hadn’t planned on it. if you’ve read some of my very early posts, you can see i felt duped into it. but i’m here. i’ve been trying to learn kenpo karate for two-and-a-half years now. it’s not pretty. matter of fact, it’s downright ugly. i’m not good at this sparring thing either. i don’t like doing it, but i’m starting to get more comfortable on the mat even if my skill is only moderately improving.

our class has been working on various sparring drills. like the half-wit dog that you wonder how many beatings he’ll have to take before he learns his lesson, i don the gear and await my punishment. last night was a slice under my right eye. i knew it was coming. i knew exactly the attack: left jab, right cross. i knew i was supposed to pat the jab down and weave the cross, then counter the right cross with a left hook to the face. so jab, pat-down. cross, weave, oops! didn’t move in time. i was nicked under my right eye and the blood trickled.

every few minutes one of the other students in class would say, “hey, did you know your eye is bleeding?”

“um, yeah. i’m a slow, bumbling ox that can’t get out of the way of a known attack. thank you for noticing.” ugh.

at least i'm thinking about it.

at least i’m thinking about it.

but i’m thinking. sometimes in the office i’m thinking about sparring and how i would, could, or should counter an attack while sparring. i have great ideas. i have thought about various situations and how i would want to counter them while applying my own attack. and yet my body doesn’t react when i see it coming.

i’m a dinosaur. i think it takes 15-30 seconds for me to see the attack, and tell my hand to move. by that time, i’m bleeding.

so later during class i’m throwing the combinations. left jab, right cross. i know his counters. he’s going to pat-down the jab, move to my right and come across my jab with a hook. but since i’m inept at that, my instructor makes a change … instead of going over the arm, it’s now a shot to the arm, then a right hook to the liver. so now my job is to drop the elbow to block the ribs before the hook.

ridiculous. i looked absolutely ridiculous trying to get my elbow down in time to block the punch i know is coming. so it gets down there AFTER the shot and my KG buddy taps me with a left hook to my pumpkin for added effect. thanks, vince, for reminding me how slow i am.

i’m not good at this. i’m too slow. i’m too old. i’m too out of shape.

and yet i don’t quit. it’s like when you know you’re losing a grappling session, but you just won’t give up until you’ve tapped out. it’s like that. i don’t know how to just quit. so i continue pushing myself until i’m too exhausted to continue on.

allegedly, and i use that word very loosely, i’ve improved. my buddy and cohort no longer tells me my kicks suck. now they’re just not that good. believe it or not, that’s an improvement.

cheesecake-carnegie-deli

carnegie deli cheesecake … YUM!

i recently sparred my six-foot, 17-year-old athletic nephew with vince there to observe. his response after watching us? “dude, you’re getting better.” compliments don’t flow from him easily, so i take every one of them like a cherished piece of cheesecake from my favorite deli in NYC.

i’m careful not to let them go to my head. i realize that i’ll never be chuck norris, john sepulveda, david jenkins, or even vince siller. but i do want to be better than the idiot that thinks he can bully or victimize someone in my family if not me personally. i will want to show him how hard my elbow can hit his face or how painful my not-so-good kicks feel when his knee snaps backwards.

i’m working hard on developing the skills of a blue belt in kenpo. i know i can hit with power without trying (thanks to my “viking fat”). but i need to refine my abilities to not just be able to dish it out, but to defend myself. a charging bull can be dropped with a parry and a sword. defense is required.

a few minor tweaks last night for my techniques and now further refinement. i like the insight i receive from my instructor. i’m better for it. my movements, strikes, checks are all better for it. i can tell the difference. i can see the difference. and those that went through the technique line felt the difference.

i will not give up. and that itself is a victory.

— chunky ninja

its been awhile

the end of last year and the first quarter of 2013 has been busy.  it seems life never really slows down and just keeping up becomes a chore.  i’ve continued my trek towards becoming the next jackie chan — well, apart from being in shape, knocking the USA, and being able to perform anything that looks remotely close to karate.  so what does that leave?  comedy.  and if you’ve seen me on the mat, i’m sure your time would be filled with raucous laughter.

but i’ve been continuing my pursuit to learn the art of kenpo.  a couple of weeks ago i attended my first kenpo karate camp (or should i say, “kamp”?).  i was a bit intimidated.  i was not the lowest ranked belt there, but i did come in the bottom three and then about 25 brown and black belts.  my buddy vince was there, so i had someone to pair up when working techniques (more on that later).

akts-kenpo-campthe head of our association, mr john sepulveda, was in town.  this was my first chance to meet him and i was not disappointed in the least.  he completely lived up to the hype and then some.  i’m pretty much in awe of my own instructor and his abilities.  my instructor feels the same about mr sepulveda; with good reason.  the man knows his stuff.  but beyond that, he’s personable, likeable, and impressed me with his ability to captivate and teach.  i was impressed during lunch as he sat and ate with some of the lower belts and just told stories of his life in kenpo. it was very, very cool.  i didn’t say much.  i was too busy trying to make sure i didn’t make a complete fool of myself.  no need embarrassing myself or my instructor.

mr tommy burks was there as an instructor also.  mr burks is my instructor’s instructor.  i’ve had the opportunity to work with him a couple of times at his dojo.  he’s what some would call ‘nit-picky’.  truth be told, he just sees how some are sloppy with their art … even some of the upper ranks.  and it bothers him (as it bothered mr parker).  below is a story i’ve heard of mr parker sending out one of his black belts to teach at a karate seminar for upper belts:

the black belt asked him what they should teach and mr parker said, “start with the basics … work their stances”.

“but mr parker, this is a seminar with all black belts,” she replied.

“you’ll see what i mean when you get there,” said mr parker.  she did.  he was right.

well, mr burks is kind of like that.  and i like that about him.  sure it gets tiring working on the exact same thing for an hour, but at the end of that hour, you’ll be hard pressed to forget the lesson that has just been ingrained.

[L-R] mr sepulveda, myself, and mr burks

[L-R] mr sepulveda, myself, and mr burks

since i had last seen mr burks, he has been promoted to 8th degree black.  he seemed to be very relaxed and enjoying himself.  while he was teaching i noticed he was smiling at vince and i a couple of times while we worked our techniques.  (i told you my version of kenpo brings smiles and chuckles to people, even mr burks).  but my instructor, mr jenkins, said mr burks was impressed with his [mr jenkins] students (which means me!). it may be one of the coolest feelings to have your karate instructor be proud of your growth as a student.  i always tried to convey that to my players when i used to coach baseball.  now i’m on the flip side of it and i can’t begin to tell you how that makes me feel.  only those who’ve experienced it can understand.

i’m anxious for future camps.  i feel like i learned so much and yet it made me realize just how much more there is to learn.  the art seems endless which may explain why my instructor always considers himself a student.

mr hazelwood, a 5th degree from the colleyville school was the other instructor during the camp.  he had us working on several drills and then moving from those drills into techniques.  while i couldn’t attend the entire camp (missed the sunday portion), i was really impressed with the instructors and fellow students.

[L-R] mr sepulveda, mr burks, mr jenkins, mr waggoner, vince, myself

[L-R] mr sepulveda, mr burks, mr jenkins, mr waggoner, vince, myself

sunday after the final camp class completed, vince called to tell me some of the upper black belts were wondering where his “bruiser buddy” was and he told them i was at church.  for some reason, we earned some recognition because we were “banging on each other pretty good!”  so while i was watching all the black belts, it seems they were a bit surprised/impressed on what vince and i were doing (at our belt levels).  vince was told, “you guys were going at it pretty good” and “you guys were showing a lot of power”.  for vince and i, we weren’t doing anything different than we do at our school and KG.

after i heard what they had to say, i remembered mr burks smiles.  man, it just makes me feel good!  i first met him when i was a white belt.  so i have improved.

after my day at camp was over, i was toast.  in some of the hardest classes i’ve attended with my school, i come home drenched in sweat, physically wore out, and in desperate need of some kenpo kandy (ibuprofen or other pain ‘chillers’).  those are two hour classes.  my camp day was an all day even with seven hours of that same intensity.  i was sore for two days with meds in my system.  but it was so worth it.  i’m anxious for the next camp.

~ * ~ * ~

i’ve continued on with KG (kenpo garage for anyone new to this blog).  it’s something vince and i started nearly two years ago to supplement our thursday classes.  the extra workouts are also for two hours and we continue to work on our techniques, sets, and forms.  sometimes we’ll add some drills just to mix things up a bit.  while it started with just vince and i, we periodically see others join in.

i don’t have much more to add for now, but it had been a quarter of a year since i had given any updates.  this one was over due.

— chunky ninja

Read the old posts and see how this all started!