Questions are integral to learning. We always encourage students to present any and all concerns or queries to their instructors here at Old School Kenpo Karate—be they about the history of Kenpo, how various styles differ, or any aspect of our teachings or methodology.
The answers below should provide some guidance regarding our school, our protocol, our curriculum, and more. But if you need more information, please feel free to contact us!
How long does it take to get a black belt?
This is probably the most common question.
A black belt is portrayed in the media and legends as the most visible badge possible of being “a badass”—and it is. Because beyond physical toughness, this outward sign more deeply symbolizes a true inner strength. And that combination of mental and physical strength is what defines the martial artist.
How long it takes to earn this coveted rank varies for each individual. And at Old School Kenpo we don’t believe in shortcuts.
Years ago, the average length of time to achieve black belt level was four to five years. That is still a valid estimate. But students who attend all classes plus practice regularly on their own can advance much faster. Athleticism, previous training, and other factors also affect each individual’s progress.
Some facilities—for a price—will assure you that you earn this coveted rank in a set amount of time. But schools or instructors should never guarantee anyone a black belt. Only true dedication can lead to the mastery required for a black belt. Adhering to this principle is what genuinely defines us “Old School.”
How long does it take between each belt level?
While we maintain a formal policy of waiting at least one month between tests for yellow through brown belt, and a six-month wait between brown and black, it generally takes longer. Again, depending upon the individual student, rising from white to purple belt may be fairly rapid but going from blue to green to brown is a complex—yet extremely satisfying—journey.
What do I wear to class?
We wear a traditional karate uniform, called a gi (pronounced “ghee”). The gi is a loose-fitting garment that allows for freedom of movement, but also provides protection during grabs, blocks, and other motion required to learn the art. The gis we wear are black.
We also wear shoes. We recommend wrestling shoes or light athletic shoes with a smooth sole (to avoid injury while pivoting) with ample ankle support—again, preferably in black.
A gi can be ordered at a discounted rate through our school, and in the meantime you can attend the first few classes wearing regular gym clothes.
Why do you wear black uniforms?
One reason is purely practical: white gis get dirty and shabby-looking quickly! The other reason is aesthetics: black looks powerful and makes a statement.
The late great Johnny Cash, known as “The Man in Black,” once said, “I wore black because I liked it. I still do and wearing it still means something to me. It’s still my symbol of rebellion—against a stagnant status quo…” And there is nothing stagnant about the ever-vibrant world of Kenpo Karate.
And the black gi became the most common one worn by Kenpo founder Edmund Parker.
Why do you train in shoes?
1) Again, more practicality: training in shoes is more realistic. Unless you need to defend yourself or others at the beach, you generally have shoes on!
2) Training in shoes is more challenging. When you work out barefoot, your balance and stability is much easier to maintain. Wearing shoes during workouts increases your skill in those areas.
3) Wearing shoes reduces the risk of injury to the feet and toes.
Do most students come in with previous training? What if I don’t have any?
The majority of our students are not accomplished in other styles, although some had prior exposure to martial arts at a young age through a school, rec center, or other means.
In all honesty, to begin your journey in Kenpo without the burden of past habits is preferable.
One of Bruce Lee’s most famous quotes exemplifies this benefit: “In order to taste my cup of water, you must first empty your cup. My friend, drop all of your preconceived and fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is useful? Because it is empty.
Can I keep the rank I earned in another Kenpo studio?
Of course. That rank is yours, as you have earned it.
However, assuming our curriculum differs from your past experience, we will require you to learn our system from the beginning, progressing through each belt level, in order to attain further rank.
Can I keep my rank from another style?
In general, we request that a student coming from a completely different style begin Kenpo at white belt, to avoid confusion and to track their progress.
For example, Tae Kwon Do has red belts; we don’t. Many systems have various dual-colored belts and stripes that don’t align with our own. Even a black belt in a different karate style or a ground art who begins training in Kenpo won’t look like a black belt when they first begin learning our basics and techniques.
So while training in a new art, it’s more accurate to don the belt of the rank you hold within the new system.
Can I attend the advanced classes if I’ve had former training?
Perhaps. After a fair amount of classes to get up to speed on our techniques and training methods, that determination can be made by our instructors.
What if I’m a slow learner?
At Old School, you progress at your own pace. We don’t administer “mass testing” at specific intervals.
Each student advances according to his or her individual learning curve—and to the time dedicated to training and practice. We always encourage our students to focus solely on their own journey and avoid comparisons to others.
Am I too old to learn Kenpo? What if I’m not an athlete? Or I’m out of shape?
No problem! No problem! No problem! While many of us wish to be young and do back flips, neither is necessary to becoming a great Kenpoist.
Kenpo founder Ed Parker always wanted the art to become “your Kenpo.” The essence of the style is that it fits to each individual…It can be practiced by anyone regardless of height, weight, age, or gender.
Plus, our instructors are probably older than you are, and they’re still kicking, so to speak!
Why don’t you teach children younger than eight years old?
Kenpo Karate is an extremely practical art; it’s not just for fun or sport. Older children are better able to understand the benefits of what is being taught.
Also, while all children need to be entertained during training, those under eight have a very limited attention span, so it’s harder to keep them focused and engaged.
How do we know? Because we used to accept children as young as six. As a result, some of our instructors lost all their hair.
What if I have a physical limitation, or an injury?
Only you can decide which limitation should, or shouldn’t, hold you back.
If you’re willing to learn, we’re willing to help you overcome or work around whatever challenge you may face.
I can only come to one class a week. Can I get a discount?
Here’s the truth: For years, we have honored this request.
The reality? Students with sporadic attendance require more time and effort from our instructors, who must restart the process each time the student attends. More administrative maintenance is also needed, as we monitor the student to ensure proper coverage to provide personalized attention in class. Finally, inconsistency leads to quitting, in which case the extra effort doesn’t pay off on either end. It’s a frustrating cycle for all involved.
Therefore, we recommend enrolling when you are able to attend class at least twice a week, as consistent training is the best way to maximize your investment and the benefits of our teachings.
What if I’m lazy, whiny, rude, and never change my socks?
Well…in that case, Old School Kenpo may not be a good fit. You may want to try Dr. Phil.
Do you practice sparring?
We do spar, and this skill is assessed as part of every test from blue belt upward. Controlled sparring is not true street fighting, of course, but it develops stamina, the ability to quickly spot and hit target areas, efficiency in movement and defense, and many other physical and mental abilities.
Does the school participate in tournaments?
While some styles and schools stress the sport end of martial arts, we accentuate the practical, street-reality side of self-defense. That being said, we do collectively attend a select number of tournaments per year. Participation is not mandatory but the experience of competition and demonstrating acquired skills is encouraged!
And if students wish to attend additional tournaments, we do all we can to encourage and support their endeavors.
Do you teach ground fighting? (Because isn’t that important for a real fight?)
According to an old saying, “90% (or more) of physical altercations go to the ground.” That’s not exactly true, but some do.
And so much of what a Kenpoist does while standing upright can be applied on the ground. We don’t wrestle, we don’t practice Jiu-Jitsu, and we don’t use Judo, but we do teach you how to get your opponent on the ground and we do show you what to do if that happens to you.
Our techniques are effective whether you are vertical or horizontal!
Do people get hurt in class?
Well, this is Karate, not ballet. Accidents can happen. However, they are rare, as we always practice control, especially with beginners. Upper-level belts prefer to engage more intensely, but our students adjust to each individual’s tolerance for blocks and strikes.