Talking Kenpo – The Language Of Motion

By Dennis Lawson
Published on Apr 20th, 2016

I recently delivered a speech to a group of non-Martial Artists. The theme was “The Body Speaks”. Since I took the opportunity to educate my audience about the Martial Arts and Ed Parker’s Kenpo in particular, I decided to publish this presentation as an article. Whenever I use (illustrate) in the text, my body was speaking.

Ladies and gentlemen – I salute you (Scholar and Warrior)

I’ve spent over 40 years studying the Martial Arts and I have come to one startling conclusion – all of you – each person in this room - you’ve been doing the basic movements of the Martial Arts your entire lives! Don’t take my word for it – stand up with me and try this …

Studying the Martial Arts is as easy as opening a door.

You’ve knocked on a door – knock with me – go ahead – really bang on it! That hammering motion can block an incoming blow (illustrate) or hammer an assailant’s jaw or temple (illustrate).

Now pull on a sliding door to open it – or throw a Frisbee – A whipping motion can be used to strike the throat (illustrate) or whip your fingertips to the eyes or groin (illustrate) – Do you think that might get your aggressor’s attention???

Use your hand to push open a swinging door. Just as easily as you pushed that door you can thrust to an attacker’s chin (illustrate) with the heel of your palm or break his nose and claw his face with your fingertips (illustrate)

I know you’re all excited – but your physical lesson is complete – Please be seated.

The history of the Martial Arts reaches back thousands of years, but we won’t go back that far. Instead we’ll reach back to the year – 1956. That year, the Father of American Karate, Edmund Kealoha Parker, a native Hawaiian, open the first commercial karate studio in the United States in Pasadena, California. Imagine it, finally, anyone could walk in and sign up for karate lessons just as easily as you could learn to dance at Arthur Murray’s studios (illustrate).

Ed Parker made numerous contributions to modernizing the study of Martial Arts. Tonight, I’ll discuss only one of them. Mr. Parker began the process of translating the movements and principles of the Martial Art into English.

Prior to Mr. Parker’s work, this movement, (illustrate) was Mawashi Geri in Japanese or Dolo Chagi in Korean. Today, it’s simply a roundhouse kick. And, the movement we practiced (illustrate) was called Wu Tzu Shan Ying in Chinese. Now, I can teach a five year old a heel of palm strike or a five finger claw.

The art I teach, Kenpo Karate, is all in English. Many books and manuals have been published on Kenpo – including this one – (show copy of Talking Kenpo). I’ve done my best to continue Mr. Parker’s work making this ancient form of self-defense accessible to modern students in the 21st century. Why – you may ask? Why spend more than half your life training for something - you hope will Never Happen.

That is easily explained by the salute I started with tonight ---

Kenpo is the Law of the Fist (illustrate) – the fist symbolizing the warrior, hard, strong, and unrelenting in conflict

Karate – is the empty hand (illustrate) – covering the fist – controlling the warrior- representing the scholar – our thinking, caring nature – the best in all of us

After so many years of training and disciplining the body as a weapon, I’ve come to understand the body as an instrument – a device that a spiritual being uses to embody (illustrate)a complete human experience. 

For the eyes (illustrate) that are trained to spot a potential threat, are also able to notice an eagle on the wing or the first blossoms in springtime

The heart (illustrate) tempered by years of Stoic discipline can allow itself – unhesitatingly – to open up to true compassion

The body (illustrate – low deep stance) flexible from years of training, also yields a mind flexible enough to tolerate, and perhaps, even empathize with, an opposing point of view

As a child, I dreamt of being a Black Belt. I say, “Hold fast to your dreams!”

There is only a single difference between you – beginners after your first lesson – and any black belt,

A black belt is nothing more than a beginner who never, ever, gave up.

Ladies and gentlemen, I salute you (illustrate)!


Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

Other Articles by Dennis Lawson

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