CHUNKY 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.
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.
and 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
i really love the art of kenpo. i started with it very late in life compared to most with any type of martial art experience. almost every fellow kenpoist i have spoken with started in their teens or twenties with some sort of martial art. they may be somewhat new to kenpo, but they have taekwondo, jujitsu, karate, or something. not me. i waited until i was incredibly out of shape (still am) and in my mid 40’s. i’m a rare breed. kind of like being the last dodo bird.
i was discussing with my beautiful mrs over the weekend that it’s quite possible many don’t think i take kenpo seriously because of this blog. truth is i really do take it seriously in spite of myself. this site is to poke fun at me, not the art.
i have a very high and deep respect for the art of american kenpo. my amazement of the enormity of insight and development by mr ed parker grows daily. those that have followed in his footsteps and specifically those that have an innate ability to teach the art well deserve every bit of my respect.
my instructor, who doubles as my pastor, mr jenkins is one of the finest people i’ve ever had the honor of meeting. i cannot overstate enough how much he has meant to me personally. i hold him in such high regard for his integrity, spiritual walk, and vast knowledge of martial arts that i think it makes him uncomfortable when i speak of him to others. i almost started this paragraph reversing the order: “my pastor, who doubles as my instructor”.
i’ve been a christian for over thirty years. my faith is very important and an integral part of my life. i will never shy away from discussing my personal belief in the merciful, loving work of the cross and the impact Jesus Christ has made and continues to make in my life. in my years of being a christian, mr jenkins is, by far, the best at exemplifying a genuine godly life. he walks the walk. he talks the talk. he’s the real deal. he was my pastor long before he became my kenpo instructor (though he did try to get me started a decade ago).
my opinion of him in a spiritual sense is as deep and genuine within martial arts. he grew up in one of the hardest areas of dallas. fighting was a way of life. in his teens he began to do training in boxing. later he moved into a filipino art (name is unknown to me) and eventually earned a black belt. he switched to taekwondo and earned a 2nd degree black in that art before discovering kenpo. he holds a 5th degree in kenpo. he’s been doing martial arts for over forty years and i have heard it said that mr burks (his instructor) referred to mr jenkins as the best fighter he’s ever seen. he is extremely humble and has a tremendous ability to teach. i could not have found someone better to learn from than mr jenkins and i’m indebted to him in so very many ways.
it was through mr jenkins that i met his instructor, mr tommy burks. i’ve only had the opportunity to work out with mr burks a couple of times, but the wealth of his knowledge is astounding. he’s a 7th degree and is highly regarded in kenpo circles. i’m always hoping he’ll make a surprise visit to our class to impart some of his knowledge. one story i’ve been told of him goes something like this:
at a kenpo demo a particularly well known multiple degreed black belt performed a technique on mr burks. it was harder than it needed to be. some higher ranks like to “show off” even more than they like to teach and this was the case at mr burks expense. it wasn’t appreciated and mr burks said to the gentleman, “if you hit me like that again, i’ll park your rear on this mat. do you understand me?” he did understand and backed off. butchering people to prove you know something is not effective teaching.
over the last 18 months that i’ve started this journey i’ve had the privilege of “hanging out” with a great group of people that have become my friends. other than the rare one or two people, every fellow kenpoist has been encouraging, understanding, and done what they can to help me learn. i cannot begin to express my gratitude because saying thank you really isn’t enough. but i will still say thank you to those in order of belt level without specificity.
to mr john guzman and mr damian wilson, whom i met in mckinney for sparring, thank you for your input. since i know as much about fighting as an ant does about brain surgery, your help was greatly beneficial. i really think i understand the concepts you both laid out. your pointers after sparring with me are incredibly helpful. now that i have your advice, i need to learn how to incorporate them. i do realize that i need to let time be the measurement to my skill and experience. i truly appreciated the extra time after class that you both (along with mr bowley) took to talk, share, and teach. going the extra mile is admirable and you all did that without hesitance.
to mr sam bowley, of bowley kenpo karate, my deepest and sincerest thank you for giving me the opportunity to come and work out with your group once a month. you’ve given me pointers every time i’ve been there. while my body doesn’t show it, i really am listening and trying to apply your instruction. and as much as i hate sparring i always do everything i can to make it to mckinney when i can. you’ve demonstrated skill, knowledge, ability to teach, and one of the most important things to me, your friendship. thank you.
to my KG compadres, vince and john. you two know me best in regards to my innermost thoughts and feelings on kenpo and my inability to make my body follow my mind’s commands. you’ve listened, shared, worked out, and befriended me. i can’t begin to tell you how important our extra workout sessions outside of class have benefited. while we are all peers in the classroom, i do value your knowledge. i love that you guys are one belt level ahead of me and so what i’m learning, you just passed. i have a lot of fun learning with you guys and i hope i push you as much as you push me.
specifically to vince, thanks for pushing me. you do. i mention you often in my blogs and use you as a version of comic relief. you’re blunt, straight to the point, and sometimes it’s difficult to hear those things (i.e. “dude, your kicks suck”). i wouldn’t want you to be any other way. it’s that honesty, sometimes brutally so, that i admire. we live in a world where most try to sugar coat things so much that the truth isn’t really heard. without you being there to push me and being honest about my skill (or lack thereof), i’d never have made it this far. do not change. keep pushing. keep telling me the truth just like you have been. we’ve been doing this for 18 months together and my admiration of your skill and insight grows.
to john, thank you for always reminding me that i’m not the only old guy on the mat that is learning this. your friendship and generosity are immeasurable. you can’t understand how much it means to me every time you remind me that i’ve improved or that you struggled learning something and then it finally clicked. i’m following the path you’ve already been down and that is encouraging to me. it let’s me know that i can do this. you inspire me.
in future blog posts, i hope that everyone realizes that while i may poke fun and use self-deprecating humor, it really has nothing to do with this fantastic art of kenpo. this site is fully designed to make fun of me and the painful yet humorous way i’m learning.
i love doing this art. i love working with the great people within this art. i have a deep respect for those that have built carefully on the foundation work for what mr parker envisioned. and some day, Lord willing, i’ll pass on whatever i learn to others with the same humility and friendliness everyone has expressed towards me.
— chunky ninja
it’s the second saturday of the month and that means sparring time. my friend and fellow kenpoist, mr bowley, invited me up again to work out with his students. this time i took my KG buddy, vince. my sister went along, too, but her reason was so she could watch the 10 year olds kick my derriere. what she REALLY said was, “hanging out with my big brother will be nice, but getting to watch kids kick your butt is a bonus.” family. gotta love them.
flailing wings is my “kenpo explanation” for what i call sparring. its generally quickly followed by the techniques: snapping skull and leaking eyeballs. i’m doing the flailing and they’re making me do the other two. i like to think i’ve improved over the last few months and am told by most that its noticeable (i hate you vince). but i’m sure my abilities against the upper belts still brings much laughter to their day. (you’re welcome gentlemen. i do what i can for your amusement.)
but i did not give up. i did not quit. and while i hate sparring, i always come away from these sessions feeling proud of what i was able to learn and do. i can tell a difference from one month to the next and for me, that means i’m learning. i never want to quit learning.
mr bowley’s instructor, mr wilson, came to today’s session. it was an honor to meet mr wilson (black belt). though truth be told my initial response when it was announced he had just pulled up in front of mr bowley’s dojo, was to groan inwardly and sneak back into my car.
he was just another upper belt person to kick my, and i’ll use the official term here, rotundus butticus. and he did. but honestly, we talked a lot after sparring class was over and he’s one of the nicest kenpoists i’ve met. mr bowley hangs with a very good group — mr gonzalez (black belt) last month then mr wilson this month.
between last month and this month i did my best sponge impression. BESIDES soaking in the punches and kicks, i tried to soak in the knowledge that they freely offered. it’s one thing when upper belts have the knowledge. it’s an entirely different aspect when they have the skill to articulate their knowledge in a way that’s understandable and applicable to what i’m trying to learn. these guys are the future old guys of kenpo and they serve their wisdom with a humble friendliness that just made me want to push myself harder. so a special thank you to all three of them.
so now i’m home and my muscles are more tired than my mind. sometimes that’s not saying much, but today it really is. i’m ready to hit the shower, do some light stretching, then take an 8 hour power nap. since it’s mother’s day weekend, i’ll probably have to limit that to an hour or so.
i hate sparring. i’m not sure i’ll ever like it. but i am getting better and i’m glad i went.
— chunky ninja