David and Jakki Garcia: The Husband and Wife Team Teaching Kenpo Karate in Grass Valley, California
Article by: Jesse Brown
Image on the left, courtesy of the author. Image on the right, courtesy of David and Jakki Garcia.
On June 25 of this year, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting with David and Jakki at their home in Grass Valley, California. One of the great pleasures of this project that I am on, the interviewing of Kenpo black belts and school owners in the Parker/Planas lineage, is that I get to know these individuals who have dedicated huge amounts of their time and lives to a wonderful and diverse art like Kenpo Karate. I have known David and Jakki for some time through my training and participation in seminars that occur up and down northern California each year. I think my first exposure to them was when we were all in a seminar together and I had the pleasure of working with them in executing Long Form 4 techniques on the body. I could see that they were knowledgeable and very friendly by the way they worked with me and explained their experience with these techniques and forms. I instantly liked them both as people and practitioners of the art. That had been my first seminar after being away for some years, and they went a long way in making me feel more comfortable with everything that we were doing that day, which in turn made my training and that day so much more interesting and enjoyable.
I have argued that while Kenpo is made up of principles and concepts that guide our practice, it is also made up of people. People like David and Jakki training and teaching the art of Kenpo are examples of exceptional additions to the Kenpo family and do it justice by the way they teach and train the art. I know from our conversations, as well as understanding the goals and standards they set for themselves, that they have a high standard of excellence every day that they teach and train. It is clearly evident in the passion with which they speak about Kenpo and their school and their students. This is the passion that helps create good martial artists and Kenpo practitioners. However, this is not surprising since under the Parker/Planas lineage that gold standard of excellence is an expectation.
Prior to my visit, David had recently tested for the patch that Master Planas has for his lineage instructors. The test is not easy and takes many hours to complete. Video of this test is intense and if you have an opportunity, you might ask to see a clip of it if you have the chance to see David or Jakki. There is an extensive testing of knowledge, principles and concepts. Anyone who holds the patch is asked to meet the high standards Master Planas has for understanding the system and explaining why it is what it is. However, it is more than that, it is a test of physical performance as well. I remember seeing in the video clip how David had to run off a series of techniques, one after the other, with no break from the attacks and had to execute the given techniques with precision each time. One thing that I can share here is a link to a video of the presentation. A video of the patch presentation can be seen here. What I like about this video is how accomplishments are celebrated as an extended family, and that came across in the video that the Garcias shared with everyone on Facebook.
Image courtesy of the author, Jesse Brown.
We also had the opportunity to talk about some Kenpo history. I really enjoyed the fact that David and Jakki are into the history of Kenpo. I had been reading about it and asking others about it before, but we were able to have a pretty long conversation on the subject. He brought up something I had not heard about before. He said he had a copy of a “red binder.” I had the opportunity to look through it and it was a descriptive account, in writing, of what seemed to be all of the original techniques in the system. The history of these binders goes back a long way and are part of the early days of Kenpo Karate. Personally, I found it fascinating to see the early thinking on so many of the techniques put into writing. I think having a good understanding of where Kenpo has come from on a historical level, both at the formational level and during its development, helps give perspective when teaching. It is clear that David and Jakki really value this knowledge and it helps form a basis in their teaching, whether they explicitly share Kenpo historical knowledge when they teach, I cannot say. However, just from my own experience, knowing where something comes from and how it is now is very helpful in gaining perspective and when sharing just general information when I teach. It provides me context, as I am sure it provides them context. Their enthusiasm about the art, its history, and teaching Kenpo is exciting for me and made my time with them for this interview even more interesting and comprehensive.
I had the opportunity to discuss with them what it was like being a husband and wife team owning a dojo and teaching. They clearly enjoyed it and listed as one of the top advantages as always having someone to help cover a class if the other is busy or ill. I know other instructors who do not have that help feel the pressure to be there every day even when they are sick. I can also tell that they very much have a family atmosphere and Jakki has said it is great when she teaches and she has many parents willing to look after little Tony (their son) when she is teaching one of the classes.
They took me to their dojo and gave me a tour and it is a wonderful set-up where they have their beautiful and very unique crest on display on a wall where there is the Kenpo universal symbol with a bull in the bottom left of the image and a bird of prey in the top right of the image. David explained to me that this crest is in reference to his Portuguese background, as well as Kenpo Karate.Jakki explained to me that the eagle is fast, clever, and calculating while the bull is strong and reactionary. I could sense the strong sense of personal identity that they both shared in their school and how they had taken it and molded it to express both what Kenpo is, as well as to reflect who they are as people.
School Crest: Courtesy of David and Jakki Garcia.
I remember discussing with Jakki about some of her memorable moments teaching at her school and she recounted a couple of different situations where she has seen students, kids in particular, push beyond their comfort zones and grow as people. She feels that this is a particularly important aspect of what her students gain from their training. I could tell in her response that thinking deeply and critically about what they teach, how they teach, and the particular outcomes that they get, are important, and that they are always contemplating how to improve and grow and become better as teachers, and as a school. I did not get to meet any of their students on this particular day, but my sense is that the students would feel like they are coming into a second home where they get to learn and train with people who care and understand what they think and feel. It is clear David and Jakki empathize with their students and families on a day-to-day basis. The word dojo means training hall, for martial arts in particular. It originates from Japanese, but if you go back further (according to dictionary.com: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/dojo ) it means “seat of wisdom in Sanskrit. This definition has religious roots, but in addition to religion, where is another place that we find wisdom, knowledge, and skill? I would argue that it is within places that most closely resemble the look and feel of a place that could be called home. I definitely got that feel from spending time with David and Jakki and seeing where they train and how they approach this passion of Kenpo Karate in their lives. Their dojo makes you feel at home, through the environment that they have set-up and the character of their personalities.
What has become clear to me, both through my interview with them, as well as following them over time on Facebook and through our discussions when we train together at seminars, there is no question as to their commitment to the training and art of Kenpo Karate. They are enthusiastic and ready to make things happen for themselves, their students, and their community. They seek constantly to have a positive influence and great effect on all those with whom they interact with.
One case in point is having their school do a demonstration at the local fair in Grass Valley. They had some of their advanced youth students perform Short Form 3 in the air and on each other. A clip of it can be seen here. Community events are great for introducing a school and an art to the community, as well as the strength of student understanding and performance.
Their Facebook page and web page are amazing and user friendly resources that share a great deal about both of them and their school. Their web page, http://grassvalleykenpofamilykarate.com/ , has multiple resrouces, an event caldendar, and bios that speak directly to the reader. They have a blog to keep people posted on new and upcoming events, such They fas women self defense classes and karate tournaments. Their Facebook page, found here, has a plethora of photos and videos that show what life is like at their school and conveys the high level of energy that permeates everything that they do. Their sites are very user-friendly and easy to navigate while having a great deal of information to inform current and potential students alike.
The best part of David’s and Jakki’s story is how they have trained over the years and taken advantage of the journey that martial arts has taken them on. It is a journey that took time through their college careers and knowing each other and growing together both as people and martial artists. Their ideas, energy, and they way they do things complement each other and help each other to grow as a team in both the journey of martial arts and of life. They push for excellence through persistence and seek to share that with others in whatever they do. They create opportunities for others to share in by putting Kenpo Karate out there and showing its amazing potential through demonstrations, tournaments, programs at their school, and the online pages. They have put themselves out there to become more integrated into their communities. Their friendly style of making others feel important and understood is something that truly enhances our Kenpo family here in northern California.
The Passion and Drive of a True Competitor and Martial Artist: An Interview with Brandon Hubbard of Brandon Hubbard Kenpo Karate
A sunny October morning is a great thing, for sure. On October 3rd I had the equally outstanding opportunity to interview Brandon Hubbard of Brandon Hubbard Kenpo Karate. When I pull up, Brandon is just opening his relatively new dojo. (It has been open 3 years now). The sun is streaming in through the beautiful windows and a beautiful, open space is clearly revealed through walls of glass that surround the mat. He greets me with a smile and enthusiasm that underscores his vibrant personality.
I have had the opportunity to get to know Brandon through the Kenpo seminars that I see him at and through our communication on Facebook and through our cell phones. There are some people that are really just easy to connect and communicate with despite not living next door to them, and I would classify Brandon as one of those people who is easy to get to know because he is so positive. Like most Kenpo martial artists that I know, he is pretty straight-forward and practical and a lot of fun to hang out with, and talk with, as well.
His background comes from a humble start in martial arts. He tells me of his experience moving to Round Mountain to work as a ranch hand with Joe Covington, a black belt in Lima Lama. Joe took a liking to Brandon and offered to teach him martial arts. The respect and gratitude for Joe’s effort to reach out to Brandon is clear as he recounts the story. After working for Joe for awhile, Joe offered to connect him to with another martial artist in Redding, California. That was Kenpo black belt Scott Halsey. So, the 18 year old Hubbard was working as a ranch hand and training in two martial arts, all at the same time.
This might sound a little surprising and overwhelming for the average person, unless you take into consideration the fact that Brandon is fiercely competitive and connected with Mr. Covington through a drive to compete in tournaments. Brandon and Joe shared this competitiveness and it propelled Hubbard forcefully into his martial arts career.
Brandon’s martial arts background ranges through a few different arts. He practiced Tae Kwon-do, Aikido, Lima Lama, and Kenpo. Today, he is the proud and extremely dedicated owner of a Kenpo dojo under the Parker/Planas Lineage for the area of Folsom, California. He recounts to me how he gravitated towards Kenpo because of its enormous potential, the opportunity to train under such a great lineage, its structure and sophistication, and because of its modernity. He was just recently promoted to 3rd degree black belt, something that is not easily achieved and comes with a great deal of hard work. His base art is Kenpo, which is the base for both his training and teaching.
He notes to me that now that he owns a dojo, it has changed his priorities with training and competition. Both are still important, but teaching is the first priority, because that is what comes first when you choose to own a school. He tells me with enthusiasm how it is such a privilege to shape the lives of kids and their families. He also recounts how starting a school from scratch, after uprooting from your home for so many years (in the Redding area of California) was a bit nerve-wracking. He moved to the Sacramento area and scouted out the city of Folsom for a potential area for a Kenpo school. One of the ways he scouted out the potential of the area was by running some trial Kenpo programs as after school programs at some of the local schools. Once he determined it was a good location, he shopped for a location and opened his school.
Opening a school has its challenges and Brandon recounts it with a bit of a smile, but his school is running well and gaining more and more traction, so there is a lot to smile about for him now. He truly likes the community of Folsom and enjoys the opportunity of teaching there. He also just does not run a school, but he clearly provides opportunities for his students. He has his annual tournament coming up on October 24, 2015. He also is connected with Visions in Education, a charter school that operates in the area and allows him to have their students go to his dojo to earn PE credit. His drive and motivation to teach, to compete, to provide opportunities for growth for his students, clearly set him apart and make martial arts more than just knowledge to learn, but an all-encompassing experience where students can grow and thrive. When you enjoy your work, as he does, it stops being work and becomes a way of life and making a difference. Without question, he takes a great sense of pride in having his own school. He is putting in his dues and making a Kenpo school work on his own. The business world can be cruel, but for those that are determined, dedicated, and have a sense of pride in their work, as he does, it shows. He has the freedom to create a school, help others, and teach Kenpo, and instill the ideals of positive competition in the students he has. Brandon says he enjoys not having to answer to anyone person when he goes to work each day. However, he makes it clear, his dedication to making life better for the people who attend his school and interact with him in the community is the measuring stick by which he gauges his progress. If he slips, then he feels that he is not meeting the expectation that he has for himself. He does not want to fail others. So, in a way, your are your own toughest critic and boss, but it is a positive situation and he enjoys it.
As you may have figured out by this point, when you spend so much time running a school, it is difficult to get in your own training. It becomes a matter of discipline and dedication. I ask him how he focuses his training, and he replies with a definite answer. He said he trains during the day, but he is quick to separate training from teaching. For him, they are two disciplines. They are related, but represent different aspects in a martial artist’s life. For him, training for fights takes a backseat to his school. It comes across that owning and running a school is special and unique dedication that you have to honor. One cannot be selfish. He also makes sure to make all the seminars with GM Planas. He also enjoys working and training with the people from the other schools in the Parker/Planas Lineage here in northern California.
I would say, as a fellow martial artist, and also as a Kenpo practitioner, training is not the same for every person. It is unique and individual. From what I have observed and shared with Brandon, he is true to himself and trains in a way that works well for him. Training, like Kenpo, is a matter of choice and self expression. Kenpo is a matter of principles of motion that serve as a guide when creating motion in self defense, but the expression around those principles is unique for each of us. His training is true. His dedication for the art and for his his students is supremely evident.
I think what makes Brandon unique for him is the fierce competitiveness that goes with him and the school he is creating. He believes in leading from the front and leading by example. He still competes about 4 times per year and tries to include at least one national or international level competition among his tournaments that he participates in. With competing only 4 times per year, it is a challenge to keep an edge. Before, he would compete several times each month, and it was more of a constant maintenance of his edge and it was easier. Now, with his school, he is teaching and training others while he tries to train himself.
His own personal training is pretty straight-forward. He trains at the dojo. He does not cross-train, as I asked him in one of the questions. He runs himself through what he calls a “mock tournament training,” which consists of doing multiple empty hand and weapons forms back to back, as well going hard on the heavy bag for an extended period of time. He does it this way because he competes in all the categories for a tournament, which are empty handed forms, weapons, and fighting. He always pushes for more in his training. It’s not enough to do sit-ups, or 200 hundred sit-ups, like the day before. He needs to exceed what he did before. When we talk, I can hear the steel and determination in his voice to excel and succeed at whatever he puts his mind to.
His advice for training for his students comes down to consistency. When a person is tired, that is when they need to be on the mat. A student should be at the school at least twice a week. There is no starting and finishing point. It is a process, a way of life. When one reaches black belt, that is finally the beginning stage. That is when the real knowledge starts to come.
When it comes to the art of Kenpo itself, Brandon isn’t quite sure where to begin with what is his favorite belt. I can sympathize with his initial hesitation at choosing, because there are so many ways to approach even just one Kenpo belt and all the knowledge it contains. Kenpo has endless possibilities even within just one belt, let alone the whole system. After some consideration, Brandon talks about brown belt, green belt, and blue belt having some of his favorite material. He says “meat” techniques that work for him, ones that he can default to, are his favorites. We also talk about how Kenpo with one person does not look the same with someone else. Each person brings their own individual stamp to Kenpo, depending on how they interpret it. Again, it is a set of principles that guide the motion that you do. Some of his favorite techniques are Snaking Talon and Unfurling Crane because they defend against left/right combos. He also favors techniques that strike on the first beat, like Triggered Salute and Calming the Storm.
One of the reasons Kenpo is so appealing for him is that practicality of it. Kenpo does not need high kicks and it is very modern. Anyone has the potential to do it and it is adaptable. Those are key survival skills when walking around in today’s modern world. But, it is also appealing, in my opinion, to someone who is a fighter. It is direct. It is a good reference and starting point from where to adapt your fighting skills.
When someone walks into his dojo for the first time, he has a couple of responses. It depends on the type of customer the person might be. He may talk about the more traditional end of it, how it comes from traditional Chinese and Japanese arts and it was modernized by Ed Parker in the United States. He also might talk about how it centers on self defense, sparring, and forms. He might further go into what types of attacks it can defend against and talk about how it is the ultimate self defense art.
One of the things that I gather as I speak to more Kenpo practitioners as I see them at seminars and do interviews with them is how Kenpo is an art that is defined more by the individual doing it than the art itself. Kenpo can be used for tournaments, for defense, for athletic achievement, or for finding camaraderie and peace of mind. The expression of it depends on the principles and how each person interprets those principles.
Before we finish the interview, Brandon talks about his upcoming tournament some more. He has had competitors come from as far north as Oregon and as far south as the Sacramento area. He likes giving the students the chance to train for an event like this and he has a full range of age groups and categories to accommodate all types of competitors. This year it is happening on October 24. Be sure to check out his website, http://www.hubbardkarate.com/ .
He also wanted to make sure that he gave credit to his teachers, Joe Covington and Scott Halsey for training him and teaching him about martial arts, as well as for all the support and instruction over the years. Brandon is also quick to thank the other black belts over at Halsey’s Kenpo dojo in Redding, CA. Also, he gives big thanks to his wife for helping him attain this goal of opening a dojo and for everything else.
Brandon Hubbard is one of those individuals, and artists, that people want to find and meet, because he is not only very good at what he does, but he is a people person who can relate and communicate with people. In doing so, he is able to share his art of Kenpo Karate so other people can be exposed to it and share in it and appreciate what it has to offer. That is what these interviews are about. These interviews are designed to bring the readers and viewers closer to artists so they can know their story and something about their art. If you do have any questions, be sure to contact Brandon at his website, http://www.hubbardkarate.com/ , or at his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/brandonhubbard.kenpokarate .
An Interview with Scott Halsey: American Kenpo Karate Black Belt from Redding, CA
March 22, 2015
While I met Scott Halsey years ago, in the early 1990’s, I had not had the chance to sit down and talk with him about Kenpo or much of anything else. However, I was always impressed with his vibe and the way he came across. I have to say, he is even more positive and friendly than my limited interactions indicated to me. Scott’s interview was easy going, with a very friendly air to it. The first thing that comes across to me when I talk with him is his good nature.
Scott has an extremely long history in the martial arts. He first started when he was four years old. His father was in the military and he ended up taking Tae Kwon Do at one of the places they had lived when he was four. He studied that for about a year. Then, when he was 8 years old, he took up Kenpo Karate. By the time he was 12 or 13 he had started teaching Kenpo. In 1986, when he was a junior black belt, he opened up his current school with a partner and he has had that school ever since. Originally, he thought that this school was going to be a temporary thing before entering the military, but plans changed. He did not go into the military and saw that the school could help create a way of life for him. He was running his karate school while he attended Shasta College. It was around that time that he realized that the school had become a more permanent way of life than he first anticipated.
In addition to Kenpo and a little Tae Kwon Do, Scott earned a brown belt when he traveled to Okinawa, Japan. He liked studying the hard style karate for himself because he said it helped him emphasize power. Scott is not a heavyweight individual, so he does not have as much mass as some of the bigger guys might. He said the Shorin Ryu karate helped him develop that.
When asked to describe the essence of his experience in Kenpo Karate, Scott has many things to share that capture that essence. One does not do something for most of your life without some level of enthusiasm, and his enthusiasm clearly came through when answering this particular question.
Self confidence was the first thing that Scott talked about. He was quick to link martial arts to the development of other sports skills, as well as strong mental and spiritual link for kids to grab onto when those aspects seemed to be missing or lacking with a child. For myself included, the development of confidence has been a huge benefit as well. Self confidence is one of the most important benefits when thinking about how martial arts can affect a person. However, it does not stop there. Scott continued to praise his experience in meeting some really great people through martial arts. It has become a vehicle for developing extended family. When you go through the training and trials that you experience in martial arts, it is hard not to find that comradery. There were many people Scott listed off that he had known for years who had become like family for him, both students and instructors, within his school and from neighboring schools. Throughout the interview, Scott mentioned the relationships that he had developed as a recurring theme. Lastly, the art itself has a strong essence and importance because it is all-encompassing. Nothing really compares to it, because it becomes a way of life. It is way of living, like a philosophy of how to carry yourself. This way of life, or philosophy of thinking in terms of Kenpo and martial arts, is something that Scott has strongly embraced. As I spoke to him, Scott explained how Kenpo was a part of his life, but that he used it as a vehicle to enrich his life as well. With him, I saw martial arts as a living philosophy in the way he spoke about himself, family, community, and life in general. It is no surprise that he chose to make this part of the essence of martial arts for him.
I discussed the aspect of creativity with Scott and he took the position that creativity in Kenpo is best exercised when there is a strong foundation of the basics. Martial arts is a little different than something like the visual arts. There are arguments that art is about expression, and it should not be stifled by something like rules. However, especially from the point of view of Kenpo Karate, if there is no knowledge of the rules, that could be disastrous. Kenpo principles of motion become something like the paintbrush. Once you understand the paintbrush, you can paint your picture. Scott also talked about trusting your instructor. Good instructors are always helpful, if not necessary, in any art. This is especially so in martial arts.
Scott noted strong connections for him personally between sports and martial arts. I also pointed out that there are many martial artists who have an additional creative skill that they use along with the martial arts. Sports, art, and martial arts all go together and take creative thinking, as well as kinesthetic skills. If you look around and ask some questions, you can probably find that many of your martial artists have these additional skills in other areas. We both noted how Huk Planas (10th degree black belt in Kenpo Karate) and Chuck Epperson (an 8th degree black belt in Kenpo Karate) are very talented guitarists along with being excellent Kenpoists. I think there is an argument to be made that creativity and discipline go hand-in-hand, and practicing the martial arts only makes these two traits stronger.
I asked Scott what he thought his biggest success was with regard to his school. Scott was quick to point out that being able to make a decent living as a martial arts instructor was one success he was proud of. Clearly Scott has had to learn a lot and use a lot of trial and error to get to the successful stage he is at today. One of his former students, Brandon Hubbard, opened a school and Folsom. Scott recounted telling him to be prepared for a hard first two years of business. But being successful in making a living is not the best accomplishment for Scott. The best thing for him is being a help to others, especially when they are students and families who have grown through the years with him. He embraced the feeling of being able to help people through his teaching of martial arts. This also goes back to the relationships built in martial arts. Truly, if you look at the relationships you build in any business, how can you go wrong. When people come first, then things seem to fall into place. Scott made no hesitation when talking about how important that aspect of what he does is so important to him. The word Scott used was “gratifying.” I would have to agree with him on this as well.
Kenpo, and martial arts in general, is exciting. Naturally, I had to ask Scott what he found most exciting about teaching his classes. He expounded on the excitement of teaching new techniques and the possibilities that there are in teaching new techniques, as well as in just teaching Kenpo in general. Scott also expressed his enthusiasm at being able to participate in a Las Vegas camp where he was able to teach Kenpo and meet the Kenpo artists out there. I can tell when I interview Scott that sharing knowledge and sharing it with people is important. That is true to form for any teacher. Knowledge is great, but the relationships that are built with people as knowledge is shared are even better. That comes through very strongly with Scott as he speaks of what excites him about Kenpo.
In terms of pure Kenpo knowledge, Orange belt is the belt of choice if Scott is asked to perform it in some way. He said it is the belt that is freshest in his mind simply because he teaches it so much. Of course, there are always going to be the techniques from each list that are favored. But, to add on to that, he also noted that Kenpo is an ongoing process. There is always a need to keep oneself motivated. His higher ranking black belts help to motivate him as well. Scott made several references to how much he enjoyed sports overall and how active he has been through his life. He mentioned that one of his students had tried P90X and that he had been doing it as well. Youth keeps you motivated. Teaching younger students drives you to be better. One of the things I really I like about Scott is his ability to be really empathetic with his students and how he is so positive about every aspect of teaching of Kenpo.
Something Scott is known for is sponsoring a Kenpo Camp each year. However, last year was the last year of the camp. It went off successfully and was a hit. However, Scott noted that it is not a simple task to have so many days and classes of Kenpo and still run all of the logistics as well. So, he will move from that model to the more simplified model of a seminar. Grandmaster Huk Planas usually makes several trips each year to northern California, and Scott’s reference to the seminar format is about hosting seminars for GM Huk Planas. Humorously, Scott pointed out that it became easier to say no (to hosting a camp) once you get into your 40s. Of course, since there is only about a year separating myself in age from Scott, I quickly understood and appreciated that statement! While the camps offer an incredible experience, it is easy to imagine how tiring it could be to host such a complex event. The seminars with GM Planas will take place September 12th and 13th this year up at Scott’s dojo in Redding, CA. I have been to a few of these seminars with Grand Master Planas, and they are wonderfully educational and social events where you see friends and learn and practice some great Kenpo. This seminar will be no different!
In addition to hosting a seminar for GM Planas, Scott will be giving a seminar at his student’s school in Folsom, CA. Scott clearly spoke with enthusiasm for this event. He is excited to work with people he knows and teaching what he loves. He mentioned Brandon Hubbard, the owner of the school, as one of his students. He also projects that David and Jakki Garcia of Grass Valley Kenpo Karate, as well as Chris Davison (who teaches Kenpo in Auburn, CA), will all be there. They have all become friends and part of the extended Kenpo family for Scott. He even says it himself that his favorite part of giving seminars and workshops is how he is able to hang out with people and share in the social aspect of the event. For more information about the seminar, visit this link: http://www.hubbardkarate.com/
The following Sunday, on May 17, Scott will host his tournament up in Redding, CA. One of the things that motivates him to put on tournaments is to help others step out of their shells and address their nerves and fears. These come into play if you have to face something in the street and use what you have learned. A tournament can replicate some of that nervous anticipation and help students and veterans alike learn how to use their nerves to their advantage in a competitive format. He has been doing tournaments a long time and has used the process of trial and error to make things run smoothly, like a well-oiled machine. One of the key things in making a tournament run smoothly is being able to be flexible. Things can happen and change, so he has had to be ready to adjust for that over the years of hosting his tournaments. He holds 3 tournaments each year, with the one in February being the biggest of the three. Scott still makes it a point to compete at tournaments as well, but he mentioned that he will compete at a venue like the Internationals in Long Beach, CA. I liked how he said he wants to compete so he can set an example for his students. He wants to show his students that he wants to lead by example. I think this is a great idea and philosophy for all teachers and it keeps us humble, as well as sharpens our skills. For more information about the upcoming tournament, go to this link: http://www.halseykarate.com/
Throughout this whole interview process with Scott Halsey, it has become clear to me that Scott is one of those individuals who really values people and he wants to use Karate to help establish relationships that can grow throughout the course of teaching and training with others. He speaks with great enthusiasm about those he has trained and looks forward to the opportunities to get together with them again at the events that he either hosts or attends.
I asked Scott, as I usually do when I interview an artist of any discipline, if he wanted to add anything. He wanted me to add that he thought it was the time for Kenpoists to come together and become more unified. He wants to see all of us get past the politics and stop splintering. I have to say, I agree with this point of view with Scott. Kenpo is a great art, and just as in so many arts, whether it is musical, visual, martial, or some other form, there are going to be ways to interpret it. Not everyone will agree, but it really comes back to making quality relationships and bonds with other people to help make it a better community and world around us. Scott definitely shared this sentiment and feeling in so many ways throughout his interview. He is a person and instructor who is about people, as well as his art.
Thanks for reading!!
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An Interview with Kiyomi: Musician, Singer, and Songwriter
July 19, 2014
I have to say that I am very excited about this interview with Kiyomi. For those of you who are not familiar with Kiyomi, she is a singer, songwriter, and musician currently living on the east coast, in the state of New York. I have had the chance to make her acquaintance some 7-8 years ago. She has put out the album Child in Me and it can be found on Itunes. You can find it here. if you go to her webpage, http://kiyomimusic.com/ - you immediately pick up how passionate she is about her music. All of the pieces of information she includes in her page really share how much she puts her heart into her music. She has one of the best artistic blogs I have come across of any artist. Her blog really gives a window to her life and her way of thinking, and it is reflected so well in the album she put out in 2011. The following is my interview with her, as well as her answers, with additional commentary by me.
Jesse Brown: There is a quote from your biography, I believe, that says, "...Kiyomi has always known she was born to share her music." You seem to really sing from your heart. Do you feel that when you sing from your heart it creates the most authentic music? How important is authenticity today, in the music market at this time in the US? Does the personal nature of your music make it more difficult to share?
Kiyomi: “i think authenticity is extremely important in music. i think that people can really sense when something is real, and that’s the way it can leave an imprint. i think doing anything from your heart is the only way to make true art (art that touches). as for authenticity in the music market today, what’s authentic for me, may not be for somebody else. i think that many singers have their songs written for them in a universal way, however the songwriters had to come from somewhere authentic in order to compose a good song. and the delivery of the song (when it’s sung), comes from an authentic place as well. the personal nature of my music definitely makes it harder to share, as i’m generally a private person, and my music is just letting all of myself hang out for the listeners to see.”
Kiyomi’s album is truly lyrical and authentic. I sensed it from the moment that I heard her music. The lyrics come across as lyrical and coming from some place very close to her heart and home. At the same time, I think it is something that we all have shared at one point in our lives. But even beyond the lyrics, which are so exquisitely rich with a personal story that each of us can relate to, the melodies flow with the words flawlessly. The title track, “Child in Me,” is beautiful and has this quiet flow with soaring moments that transport the listener to another place and time. The melody here, as in all of her songs, transmits the authenticity of her music. That, more than anything, sets her music apart for me.
Kiyomi feels strongly about being who you are and sharing what is inside. I liked her answer to this next question because it really illustrates how much she believes in what she is doing.
Jesse Brown: Is there ever pressure to try to conform to popular trends (if you feel you are not within one of those trends already) in an effort to be heard by more people, even if it means going against your own preferences? Why or why not?
Kiyomi: - i personally have never felt pressure to conform. it’s not in my nature to do anything other than what my heart wants, or that defers from my character. not just in my music, but i’m like that in general. if somebody doesn’t like me or agree with my lifestyle for instance, that won’t stop me from being me, as i know nobody can please everyone. and accordingly, nobody’s music will appeal to everyone.
I have to agree with Kiyomi here. There are too many people in the world to try to please everyone, and the strongest expression of anyone’s art is going be one that comes from our truest and most relevant personal experience. I know from listening to Kiyomi’s music that her authenticity and passion for her work is very obvious. In art, music, or anything else, it is important to truly believe and feel what you are creating and doing. This could be said of the person that just goes to work at your day-to-day job that is not even involved in the arts. If there is not some level of personal commitment or connection to what a person does, it will show through in what a person produces.
Another song that captures my attention on her album is “And One Day You’ll Know.” If you listen to the lyrics, there is a hint of sadness there. But the melody of the song carries a very cheerful and wistful mood that moves a listener to hopeful images as they hear the music. From a listener’s point of view, one who has a chance to look at music from different angles, I have never really heard music quite like Kiyomi’s. She has definitely, in my humble opinion, successfully carved out a unique sound and place for herself with her music.
Jesse Brown: In a recent blog entry you talk about being passionate about goals, but not desperate. Do you feel your music falls into this category? How has making music a way of life made it easier, or harder, to achieve your goals?
Kiyomi: - oh, not being desperate is a constant battle. because it’s difficult to not feel that way over something you want and care about so much. but desperation can be felt a mile away, and it can be a turn off. also, it shows a sense of doubt and negativity, when you are that way. and i personally feel it’s hard to accomplish things that you don’t believe will happen, or if you don’t have a positive mindset.
Desperation in any art, especially if it is a way of life for you, is hard to avoid. Like Kiyomi so accurately says, when you care about something so much, it is hard not to feel desperate. Also, if money becomes a concern, at what point does that start making you feel uncomfortable or desperate? The reality is, even though there are some famous people in every art, there are countless others who hold up the art on their shoulders every day, but do not get the recognition they deserve. This holds true in any art form. It could be music, visual arts, martial arts, or any other art. There are those few that get lots of media attention, but who else is out there that is equally fantastic but goes without as much media attention. It would be responsible of us, the fans of the various arts, to make sure we explore who is out there that might be worth supporting. That is part of the reason I go through this process of interviewing artists from all different disciplines. It is important to give recognition to those who are so worthy of that time and effort of sharing their work. I also feel very strongly here that Kiyomi’s music deserves to be shared.
I can appreciate the battle to stay focused on the artistic goal ahead and stay true to the message and love of each art. I have a great deal of admiration for what Kiyomi does, because she is so dedicated to what she does, and the journey is never easy. But, the end products we get to share in are so special and create such a richer experience for our lives. That is how I feel whenever I get to listen to this particular album by Kiyomi, Child in Me.
Jesse Brown: How important is it to be yourself as a musician? Why so?
Kiyomi: - depends on the musician. if you’re a Broadway singer, for instance, you are supposed to turn into a character. if you are a songwriter for artists, you have to write in a way that is universal and not too personal, or it may not relate to the one singing it. i just say that whatever you do, it just needs to come from the heart.
Jesse Brown: I have been a fan of yours for about 7 years, I think. One of the things that stands out about you is that you come across as a true artist, and as a genuine person as well. If only all artists blogged about themselves and their work! I believe this has enhanced your image and music. Where did the journal and blog start for you? How would you compare them to the use of something like Twitter or Instagram? Also, how important are your journals and blog in your creative process?
Kiyomi: well, first of all thank you so much for calling yourself a fan. it means a lot. journaling started at age 12 before the songwriting started, unless you count silly kids songs i used to make up as a child :) the blogging started because it was a new way to get your thoughts out into the world, and of course that would appeal to me, after so many books of completed journals that nobody but i will ever read. i feel very limited by twitter, as i feel i could never adequately express much of anything in so few words. instagram is a little friendlier to me, as it emphasizes photos, and a picture can tell a lot. blogging is a great outlet for me, to feel less creatively congested. i always feel so much lighter and freer after i’ve written one. it’s a way easier form of creativity, when comparing it to writing a song! and journaling is essential to my songwriting. i always journal before trying to write a song, and if not, a song i create has always been written about before in a journal entry.
I don’t think we can ever separate ourselves from the very personal nature artists create their expressions for themselves to share with others. When we, the artists, go out there and create something new, it is putting ourselves out on display to share with the world. We hope, I think, that we can find someone to share that with and to make the connection. The way a singer, songwriter, and musician connects with her fans is a very different way that an artist connects with his or her fans. There are similarities in the connections, of course, but there are some key differences. The journaling and blogging is something that Kiyomi and I share together. It is a way for her to explore this artistic journey she is on when she creates her music. It is necessary to reflect. Clearly, it is an essential part of her artistic process. These processes are essential to any artist and this particular process Kiyomi has chosen to share with her fans,
One of the great things that I find in Kiyomi’s music is that every song, melodically and lyrically, reflects so closely her journaling and life journey that she shares with us online. Because of that, I feel that a listener really has an opportunity in a unique way, if they are willing, to spend a little time with her on her website and read through what she has to say.
As an artist, I just have to say that it is a rare opportunity for us who like music and art to have the chance to read someone’s thoughts and journey in such an intimate way as she has chosen to share with us. She says “…journaling is essential to my songwriting.” I have such great respect and admiration for Kiyomi and how she puts herself out there for her fans and the world to share with her. As an artist, I know it can be difficult to really put your inner thoughts and feelings about your work out there for the world to see. When we do, we use a lot of academic jargon and technical speak to cover some of the real emotions and directions. Child in Me is very emotional and comes from a place very close to Kiyomi’s heart. The more I have spoken with her, the more I listen to her music, the more I realize what a rare treat it is to listen to her music.
I think what is even more special is the way Kiyomi discusses her music and the journey she has taken with her music. She has so much humility and positivity. She is very likable and very easy to connect with.
Jesse Brown: When I listen to your lyrics and melodies, your music comes across as so lyrical and beautiful. How do you know when to move in which direction with a song?
Kiyomi: - i usually hear melodies and chords in my head. i don’t rely on music theory at all, although maybe sometimes i should. i know that i definitely don’t pull rules or theories that i may have learned in music class, to write. so far that’s what i’ve done, but that’s not to say i won’t try in another way as well. i guess i’ve mostly written when i’m inspired so far, but i realize it’s discipline as well. discipline sometimes brings about the creativity, instead of waiting for it to strike. and when i’m not inspired and hearing melodies in my head, then i will have to rely on music theory until the inspiration strikes.
Jesse Brown: "Child in Me" is one of my favorite songs of yours. It is also the title of your album. Can you give me one word that summarizes what you think and feel when you hear that song? Why choose that particular word?
Kiyomi: - i guess the word strength. i feel like we all have our stories, some good, some bad. the bad ones are the ones we wish we didn’t have to go through, but in the end that is what makes us who we are today. i also feel hardships are a mixed blessing because without them, we wouldn’t have as much opportunity to grow. i choose the word strength, because that’s what it takes to overcome obstacles. that’s what it takes to make something negative into a learning and growing experience. that’s also how you end up, strong, or stronger than before, once you’ve come out onto the other side okay.
It is not a surprise that Kiyomi chooses “strength” as her word to link to her song “Child in Me.” It is fitting too. The song reaches you on a very deep level, propelled through lyrics and melodies, but also through her soaring vocals. At moments, she absolutely takes your breath away. In these moments of her soaring vocals, you feel that word “strength” come through in a way that it is hard to pinpoint at first. I actually had to read her answer and listen for myself, and it is a truly beautiful description of how the song comes from a place of strength, and embodies strength, but it is in a deceptively quiet way as well.
The intricacies of her music are truly beautiful. If you do not stop to look at the little things that happen in every song, it is possible to miss so much. It is also important to understand the little things about Kiyomi that she chooses to share with the world on her website. The way she created her album, it flows like a story that is communicated to the world. Like any great story, its magnificence rests on so many of the little things that make the story so unique. But, then, the story is common enough for all of us to relate to, and it makes us want to hear more because of both of these things.
Jesse Brown: When you listen to your album, do you see it as one large piece of music with separate chapters defined by each song, or do you see every song as a work all by itself? What was the journey of making your first album like?
Kiyomi: - i think they are all separate songs, or works, as they each are written musically from beginning to end, as structured songs. they also embody a few genres, which make them even more separate. the songs lyrically do tell a story more like a book, however, with chapters. they are also in chronological order of my life, they all come together in that way. the journey of making this album was..wow, well it took everything. my whole being was put into creating it. there was a drive in me that i don’t know where it came from. and i’m still trying to figure out why i was given this particular drive to complete it! i do know that ever since i can remember, it’s been one of my dreams. so when i put it that way, it makes me feel pretty good :)
Jesse Brown: Do you have ideas for a 2nd album and when might we expect to hear a 2nd one from you?
Kiyomi: - i would love to create a 2nd album, it would be a dream come true. but as it requires much investment, i don’t know if i’m in the position to go forth with it. i do know that if ever i am able to create it, it will be more spiritual, maybe, and about something bigger.
One of the things I could sense with Kiyomi as we moved through our interview is how passionate she is about her music. With any endeavor that has great passion, it can be quite exhausting as well. The world is truly lucky to have her music as a part of it. Her dream of creating an album is an amazing artistic achievement that shares so much with us.
We can only hope that she has the opportunity to create that second album. From her preliminary ideas of where she wants to take it, it sounds absolutely amazing. It would be an amazing journey to share with her as well.
Jesse Brown: One of the great things about being an artist is being able to identify with other artists, no matter what their discipline is. Even though I am not a musician, I feel I really identify with your journey to get your music out there. Your artistic journey sounds similar to mine as I try to get myself, and my family, out there and noticed in the art world.
What advice would you give to any artist or musician starting out? Would you encourage them to try to make a living at what they do?
Kiyomi: - i guess i would say that it’s not an easy path to choose, so only do it if you truly love your art. there are many many more failures and disappointments than victories, so you have to have a tough skin. but the rewards are definitely worth it when they do come around.
This point of view about pursuing your art for a living is so true. There is nothing easy about making your life’s work your career. Passion and heart drive you, but you have to be able to have that “tough skin” like Kiyomi talks about. I have spoken with many people in so many forms of art, whether it is music, visual arts, martial arts, or anything else, and there has to be great love there for what you do so you can make it work. You feel every ounce of that love that Kiyomi has for her music and her musical journey when you hear her album and get to read her journals.
I write these interviews from the perspective, at least in part, as that of another artist, both a visual artist and martial artist. I truly understand and empathize with that journey we take as artists when we try to make our work relevant and share it with others. As fans, we should take the time to get to know the artists in whatever way possible, because it honors them and what they do and what they bring to us. Art and music are really essential cultural components of our life. For centuries we have identified with music and art to tell our story. The human story is richly reflected in what is produced by artists and musicians. It shares life’s philosophies and surroundings. It is a courageous effort to share an expression so personal with the world, and I truly appreciate what Kiyomi has done with her album Child in Me.
Jesse Brown: Do you have any performances coming up? If so, where?
Kiyomi: - right now i don’t have any performances coming up. i am hoping to license my music, actually, and that is my big dream right now!
Jesse Brown: Talk about your family and how they have influenced your music.
Kiyomi: - my whole family is extremely musical, on both sides. many music majors for college in my family as well. i was surrounded by classical musicians more, and was trained classically as well. but i learned through my family and through my life, to always find my own voice, and that is how i write my songs, from me.
Jesse Brown: What are your musical goals that are coming up? Both big and small.
Kiyomi: - as i said above, my big dream now is to license my music. i guess, i’m ready to see some gain from it, because i’ve put so much hard work into it. at first that didn’t matter to me so much, but now i realize that to continue with it, it’s kind of a must.
Jesse Brown: What would you like the title of your second album to be? Why so?
Kiyomi: - i definitely have not thought that far ahead yet! and for me, the title usually comes last, so is the last thing i’ll know ;)
Jesse Brown: What would like to leave the reader with before we finish?
Kiyomi: - it’s all about love :) love everyone, and we are all the same! nobody is “better” than anybody else. which doesn’t mean we have to LIKE everyone, though ;)
Kiyomi’s dedication and fortitude is truly inspiring. It would seem that she is not done, but only getting started on this musical journey of hers. Licensing would be a very big step in getting her music out there more, as well as helping her earn some more money from her music. Licensing would give her the chance to have her music heard in more widespread media, like in TV shows and movies.
Truly, music so unique and wonderful deserves to be shared with more of the world. But, as I have mentioned before, that is a battle that goes on constantly for any artist. When we figure out how to effectively and efficiently get the world to notice us more, that will be the topic of not just a blog entry, but a book as well! In the meantime, love for the art and hard work will propel Kiyomi and any other musicians and artists who choose to follow her advice.
I always ask my people that I interview what they would like to make sure to include in the interview, and Kiyomi asked me to make sure I included the following link:
This link goes to her website and her blog, but it also leads to a free download to her album. It does not get much better than that. Anything free from Kiyomi is a special gift and I would highly recommend giving her music a try since she has asked me to include this in her interview. Take a few minutes to look at her site and listen to her music. If nothing else, you will have a chance to share in the time and effort of a great artist with a lot of passion for what she does.
I might also suggest, if you the reader is so inclined, to leave her a note. She is very appreciative of people’s thoughts. Enjoy her music and take some time to consider her as an artist, as well as artists in general. Artists are important people in our society. You may not agree with all of them, or like them all, but Kiyomi has the right idea in focusing on love. We can use more positivity in our world. Every once in awhile there is an artist that does stand out for us, and Kiyomi is definitely one of those artists.
Thanks for reading!
An Interview with the Photographer Jon Klein: A Talented Nature Photographer from the Northern California Coast
Last summer, in August specifically, I had the most fortunate opportunity to interview Jon Klein. I got to know his work some in our family's favorite vacation spot of Fort Bragg/Mendocino, which is a hotspot for producing art, viewing art galleries, and creating great vacation memories.
I was extremely excited to interview Jon about his work. I was fresh off a trip to the town of Mendocino, California. This is area of California is where Jon has spent most of his life, and this is where his portfolio had its a great deal of its focus as of August, 2013.
Jon grew up in Willits and spent most of his career photographing Mendocino County and the Northern California Coast. His life growing up in this part of California has clearly influenced his photography, and the Mendocino area has been represented well by his efforts.
Jon described himself as a "hunter" type of person. This is not a surprise to me, because the images he has produced are so rare in exquisite beauty that it could only be through a process of diligent "hunting" that he has honed his skills to find such images. Jon described himself as having been self-taught, as well as learning through a mentor he had found in Willits, CA. There was a lot of trial and error with Jon as he learned his craft, and as he continues to try to satisfy his expectations of himself. He told me, as of August last year, that he had "got to a point where he's not making terrible errors." The very idea that Jon's photos contain any kind of obvious errors may seem quite far-fetched, but that is the level of expectation that he has for himself.
One of the images Jon graciously agreed to allow to be published with his interview. This is one of my favorites of his.
Jon talked at length about his expectations, and I expressed some degree of surprise when he spoke with more than some criticism of his work. He explained it to me it this way: when the outcome does not match his vision in general, he looks for ways to improve. Truly, that is the mark of a great artist. One cannot be satisfied with their work. One has to always push forward in trying to achieve that image that expresses exactly what the artist wants.
He went on to talk about the technical needs and parameters to get the picture that he wants. In particular he talked about a need for systems. What learned most about Jon were a couple of things. One, he is very technical and understands his tools extremely well. Two, he puts in a lot of research and has some incredible ideas about working with his tools in trying to get that perfect image. The level of detail that he spoke of when describing his process spoke volumes about the quality of his work. His work is very popular and sells well. When I spoke with people working the galleries where his work was, he was praised highly, and for good reason. He has high expectations of quality and it shows through the way he spoke of his process in my interview with him.
If anyone is familiar with Jon's work, they know his photos of waves. Personally, I have three of his waves hanging on my wall. Of course, I am not afraid to share my enthusiasm for his work. I believe it is well deserved. His waves are exquisite and unique. I have even seen other photographers try to duplicate these types of photos, but they do not compare.
I asked him to talk about the series on waves and he shared some great information with me. Some of the photos come from Mendocino Bay. Some of the wonderful colors are captured at that ideal time, about 1 hour before sunset. Many of his photos show great action and dynamism. This can be captured when the waves hit a rock, or rocks, just below the surface of the water and cause them to "twist" and "explode."
Another wave photo Jon graciously shared with us. Truly, you can see how he captures the moment when a wave will "explode."
How does one get photos of such dynamic photos? Well, he shared some of this with me. He uses telephoto lenses, as well as shooting through a lot of atmosphere. He also recounted how he tried to kayak out to a spot to get some photos, but the sea ended up being too rough. Jon's photographic excursions sound like incredible adventures for most people. The idea of me having to hike or kayak out into such a dynamic environment to complete my artistic vision is beyond what I envision for myself, but I think this is part of what makes Jon's work incredibly special. He searches out even the extreme possibilities to achieve his vision. Part of his reality was being around nature. He found a way to share it with all of us and inspire us, his viewers. He spoke specifically about how he liked seeing people's reactions to his work. The lighting, the dynamism of his photos, all contribute to that human emotion in response to a great work of art. He appreciates that and he made sure to articulate that to me in our conversation.
Jon had currently lives in the Fort Bragg area. He is always finding new things and places to photograph even though he has spent his whole life in the Mendocino County area. Jon has a beautiful website, http://www.jonkleinphoto.com/ - and you can see more of his photos there. He is also in galleries in Fort Bragg and Mendocino, CA.
45050 Albion St, Mendocino, CA 95460
Mendocino Coast Photographer Gallery
357 North Franklin Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
707 964 4706
Fine Art and Frame
160 Kentucky St., Petaluma, CA 94952
707 769 2700
I highly recommend you take a few minutes and look at his website or, even better go visit one of the galleries that represents him. He has a lot of variety and very reasonable prices for his work.
It was a great experience to interview Jon for my blog and he is a very approachable and real artist, who identifies with his viewers. He also has ideas and inspiration for those who are making art of their own.
Thanks for reading!
This is a third photo from the Big Sur area by Jon. He was very kind to share it with us.