Master Planas at the 12th Annual Seminar in Paradise, CA
I have had the chance to attend quite a few seminars with Master Planas, and it never disappoints. Now, I may not have attended as many as a lot of people, but I have been to enough of them to have a pretty good feel of how they flow and understand what they are like. Every seminar is a unique in its presentation. It is not that each one is entirely different, but each seminar is a moment in time with someone I believe that is incredibly detailed and knowledgeable about the art of Kenpo and has very specific standards and expectations of what it should look like, as well as how it should be trained.
I cannot speak about other seminars with other people because I have been following Master Planas's line of teaching pretty exclusively. However, what I can say is that he has a very technical and practical way of looking at the art and he asks us to have the same high expectations that he has. Given that, I kind of view a seminar with Master Planas like a training session with a mast coach. I am looking at the Olympics as I write this out, and the parallels seem very appropriate between the world of sport and martial arts. I played sports in college, and most of my counterparts that have played sports and do Kenpo would probably would agree with this analogy.
In sports, one strives for excellence and studies the absolute best and most efficient way to move and perform in order to excel at whatever sport he or she practices. It is the same with Kenpo Karate. The only things is, when Master Planas frames the concept of whatever it is we are doing, it is critical that we understand that the real test won't be in the dojo, but in off chance we have a moment in the world outside the dojo where it becomes necessary to exercise what we have worked so hard to train. Until then we simply strive for excellence and perfection. Excellence is a high standard, while perfection is an ideal that we have to keep in mind as we strive for excellence.
Scott Halsey and David Garcia training at the seminar in Paradise
One of the things I really love about seminars is that Master Planas has stories to help teach his concepts. He talked about this student he had in a seminar where he could do a front flip (or maybe a back flip, I can't quite remember which at the moment). He essentially told us that Kenpo is not hard. It is a set of rules and principles that are to be followed, but beyond that, it is pretty simple, especially when compared to the young man doing flips in class. There are no flips expected in Kenpo. Flips are hard he acknowledged. He said Kenpo is a series of basics put together in a certain way following rules and principles to make sense. (In case Master Planas is reading this, I had to summarize his message from the seminar, that is not verbatim, but I believe it is accurate with the spirit of what he was explaining to us).
Video from the seminar
I believe when he tries to explain things simply he is really trying to get us to understand how efficient and beautiful Kenpo is in its practicality and efficiency in its job of defending us. However, Kenpo can look more than simple to the casual observer because it is sophisticated in its movements. I mean, after all, if we are to continue the analogy with sports and the Olympics, how difficult is it really for a person to run a straight line? Yet, running the 100 meter dash is incredibly intimidating to most people because of the level of intensity and sophistication employed when athletes at the Olympics compete. Most movements, however, are pretty straight-forward. Most of us understand how to move naturally, it just takes some time and thinking about what we are doing.
Bruce Epperson and a brown belt practicing a technique
Kenpo is so many things in so many ways, depending on the point of view of each person and practitioner. This is what my instructor, Chuck Epperson, explains to me. Each person is going to have their own interpretation of the movements and what works for him or her. Also, the experience and journey of Kenpo is going to look different for each person as well. However, what I find so comforting and refreshing at these seminars is the camaraderie and feeling of family that you experience when we all get together to share and learn about Kenpo. A seminar is a celebration of Kenpo for us, I think. For me, also, I always extremely appreciate being able to hear and learn from Master Planas. He explains things in ways that are very understandable, but it also helps if you have been to a seminar before. What I notice about our seminars here in northern California is that we have a lot of regulars...and I think just about all of us were regulars at this last seminar. When this happens, it becomes a little easier to expand on some of the information that we built upon previously. It makes for a lot of layers of learning that are built upon through the year as we go from seminar to seminar.
For me, there is a level of excellence and expectation that we have and try to hold ourselves to. It is not easy, but it is comforting to know that it is there as a standard for us to strive for. We all feel it and try to strive for it. We may interpret it differently, but it is there and it reminds me a great deal of when I was competing in college in track and field. Only what makes this so much more special for me, is that Kenpo is a an art form as much as it is a sport. There are so many aspects to embrace that every time I step on the mat or into the dojo, it is an adventure that embraces the very best of what it means to train toward an ideal of something. These diverse aspects of training and practicing martial arts embraces artistic expression, academic thinking, athletic performance, camaraderie and brotherhood, and the sense of family. It is diverse and beautiful, and the seminars are a great celebration and reminder of what we have when we come together to learn and train.
Chuck Epperson and his brother Bruce Epperson at the seminar in Paradise, CA 2016
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