When accomplished martial artists open their own studios, or dojos, the best not only impart their physical skills to their students, but they also share their passion—opening up their hearts, minds, and even souls. The true sensei ("one who has gone before") is the individual who makes the student realize—through his or her example and instruction—that the martial arts is a way of life; not just a hobby, a sport, or a casual exercise plan.
A way of life is what began behind the walls of China’s Shaolin Temple centuries ago. It remains strong today—within those who seek it. Whether one has trained for many years or for a relatively short period of time, those special seekers share a common bond of dedication. That bond of dedication transcends chronology, and becomes that way of life.
Bill Hayes began his martial arts training in 1974, spending five years in the Japanese Shotokan system before discovering the Chinese Kenpo style of Ed Parker—the style he has practiced ever since.
Jennifer Thomas discovered Kenpo 30 years later, training and earning her black belt under John Barnett and Tony Glorioso of the IKCA (International Karate Connection Association): an organization formed by Ed Parker’s protÈgÈ Chuck Sullivan and his student Vic LeRoux.
But 30 years—or even 30 centuries—is irrelevant when dedicated minds become one.
Bill Hayes and Jennifer Thomas combined their talents, passion, and dedication and opened Old School Kenpo Karate in 2005. Their minds—and indeed their lives—became one as they sought to expose students to the unique experience that comes when age is coupled with youthful talent; wisdom infused with the fresh excitement and exuberance that is the essence of a new seeker.
The name itself—Old School Kenpo—is an expression of tough attitude, driven instructors, powerful training, and sincere dedication; yet with the desire to continually improve, advance, and expand.
Old School’s affiliation with the IKCA has proved to be another beneficial chronological bridge of knowledge for their students. The traditional Kenpo of Ed Parker was fine-tuned when Mr. Sullivan and Mr. LeRoux established the IKCA. The training at Old School Kenpo combines the timelessness of traditional Kenpo with the refined techniques of the IKCA.
The logo of Old School Kenpo is also indicative of the martial arts way of life. The pagoda-like roof gives the feeling of a home; and a home is where you find a family. We consider our students our family—a close-knit group where respect, love, and loyalty guides us forward.
The snake used in the Old School logo is one of the five animals of Chinese martial arts, the other four being the crane, the tiger, the leopard, and the dragon (or the mantis is sometimes included in this grouping instead of the dragon).
“Adopting the fluidity of snakes allows one to entwine opponents in defense
and strike them from angles they wouldn't expect in offense.”
This is the theory that makes the snake such a prominent—and physically imitated—image in the martial arts. The cobra in particular was chosen for the logo because of its exceptional strength and deadliness when confronted.
Just as training in Kenpo is far more than an exercise in self-defense, the instruction at Old School Kenpo Karate is far more than just an imparting of fancy moves and techniques. Whether each student ultimately adopts Kenpo as a way of life is something that is certainly up to the individual. But we—as senseis—will always strive to make this experience something more.
Something Old School.