In my recent probes into the history of certain aspects of Kenpo's history, I seemed to have poked the wounded beast again. I was looking into the history of Kenpo development using Mr John McSweeney as a marker in those events.
Whereas I got some interesting information, I also opened the door to the usual Kenpo 'b!tchiness" towards some of our Kenpo brethren.
That was not my intention. I have read much of the 'Histories' including the Tracy website and others and some of it makes sense to me, and some of it doesn't. The information is often presented in a way that leads you to believe it comes from anecdotal evidence and personal memories. The "I was there" approach. I could give it due credence for that reason but also will continue to seek out corroboration.
I'm sure everybody who WAS there will have their own version of events, whether it be from a more exact memory, a fuller knowledge of the background or even some agenda or other. It is only by collating these and putting the pieces together will I ever get close to the truth.
McSweeney's brand of Ed Parker's Kenpo is still very much alive and kicking here in the Emerald Isle of Ireland. I personally know some of it's supporters and have much respect for a small few of them for their efforts and indeed prowess.
I also don't want to read disparaging remarks about Mr X or Prof Z. I do not air my own opinions on people publicly, either anonymously or otherwise. Ever.
It is my opinion that we should have moral values that put us above making public comment on other individuals, no matter how divergent from the mainstream view they seem to be.
Like it or not, they are part of the greater Kenpo community. Be they black sheep or long lost brothers, us voicing our opinions on them on public platforms says more about ourselves than about the object of our venom.
If someone feels that they have to put some stripes on their belt to get respect, it may cheapen our system, somewhat, but all it really shows is that it is belt colour that gets the attention of the general public. Those who are in the art and have developed discernment can recognise the quality of s/he who wears that belt. Or lack of it. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there.
At the end of the day, Kenpo is a cover all for the plethora of variations in the art that came from Okinawa in the late 1800's. American Kenpo is what Mr Parker initiated. Others may claim prior use of that name but I think it disingenuous. Chuan Fa is the same name with Chinese pronunciation. People seem to be using it to differentiate between Chow and Mitose origins. Regardless, the roots all stem from a certain Buddhist monk many centuries ago.
We can all argue till the sun goes down on an Alaskan summer about who deserves what rank and why. We can also decide to vilify some people because of how they got their rank. What we should avoid doing is openly ridicule these people. It cheapens us as individuals. Those that wear a rank that is undeserved do so knowingly, even if only on an unconscious level. We all know stories of people who paid a wad of cash or who accepted a rank in a car park against their own instructor's express wishes. We even know who some of these individuals are. So do they.
When you receive your rank in bonafide, sanctioned circumstances, from recognised masters of the art, that, to me, is when the rank should be recognised. Even if it is bestowed to firm up some business relationship. Even if money has changed hands. Recognition is not the same as respect. That has to be earned, and that is where the honourable earning of rank is more important.
There are a few Seniors out there who are rightly revered and respected. There are others who have the respect of some but not all of the Kenpo community. Without doubt, most of these "were there back when". There are some I would love an opportunity to learn from, there are others I might avail of an opportunity should it arise and didn't clash with something else. Then there are some I wouldn't have the slightest interest in even talking to.
It is these latter individuals who I wouldn't waste breath on. Honour can't be bought, neither can respect. Rank is not about how many people bow or offer salute to you, it is about the responsibility you assume for those you teach. Rank is an honour, not a right due to time spent. You should be honoured to receive it and should accept it with honour and respect to those who bestow it. This is true for those of us who tested arduously for rank, but even more so for the higher, more senior belts. There's a reason why anything above 6th in Kenpo is considered an 'Honorary' rank.
It is for this reason that some have declined the highest rank, that of 10th Degree. They feel, in all honesty and humility, that they aren't worthy of the rank their teacher died wearing. It doesn't mean they aren't as good as those who accept the rank. Their understanding of the art now may even exceed their teacher's at the point of his death (blasphemy, I know). It means that they don't need the rank to feel at ease with themselves. It may also be just their way of respecting their teacher. I really respect that.
I think that when you earn a rank, you have to keep trying to earn the right to wear it. Lapsed 2nd Degrees, who have taken time out of the art, can still wear the rank, but they have to try to earn the 'right' to wear it. Same goes for higher ranks.
The best thing we can all do to those of questionable bonafides is to offer no disrespect but offer no respect beyond common courtesy, avoid them if possible and certainly ignore any rants they publish. They are not worth a response. They are not worthy of your time.
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