Sunday, October 18, 2015

Photography and Kenpo Karate: An Artistic Journey in Multiple Ways at a Huk Planas Seminar

"Huk" Digital Photo taken with a Nikon 5200, by Jesse Brown
Location: Bruce Epperson's Kenpo Karate Dojo in Paradise, CA
July, 2015

This photo is one in a series of photos that was taken this past summer at a Kenpo seminar hosted by Bruce Epperson, featuring Richard "Huk" Planas. I want to thank Bruce for granting me the permission to photograph this seminar. It was a lot of fun and it presented some unique photographic challenges that made my task very interesting. The challenges were good for thinking creatively about how to photograph the participants in a great and uniquely designed space. 

For those that may be reading my blog for the first time, I am a person of many interests. I take on many tasks and projects because I have so many interests. I hold BFA and MA degrees from CSU, Chico.  I studied studio art and history while I was attending classes there. At the same time, I studied Kenpo Karate for nearly the entire time I was enrolled at CSU, Chico. I studied painting, drawing, and printmaking while I was in the art program at Chico State. I picked up photography as a practical matter later because I needed to record my own images instead of paying someone extreme amounts of money to make a record the art that I produced. As such, I have dived into photography full force. 

In writing this article, I have a couple of intentions. One, I want to just share the experience of studying Kenpo Karate here in northern California under the Parker/Planas Lineage. Two, I want to share a photographic and creative message and journey I take as I photograph Kenpo artists around the northern half of California. One of the jobs of artists is to share a story with their work. Each piece of work relays something different. A single image conveys something different than what it might within an entire series of images. It is my job to figure out how to convey my thoughts and experiences. 

The image above is my favorite in a series of images that I took that day. It is my favorite for several reasons. The light and dark captured in the image adds a sense of mystery and solemness to the moment captured. Many martial artists are teachers and they understand the profound sense of importance teachers have in the role of molding their students. There is also a sense of peace that is captured. The expression on Master Planas's face conveys a sense of peace in that moment. It is a very "martial art moment" as I call it. It kind of captures the experience, and I think a great deal of that goes back to the lighting and expression that I was fortunate enough to record. 

In contrast, I have spent enough time at these seminars to know that that is not the prevailing mood. I know we try to mix in a good deal of fun and humor as we embark on the serious task of training ourselves. As I have been taught by my own instructor, Chuck Epperson, you have to keep it fun to you are motivated to keep training.As can be seen in the next photo, where Chris and Brandon are sharing an amusing moment during training.
"Amusing Moment" digital photos taken on a Nikon 5200
Location: Paradise, California
Time: July 2015
Copyrights belong to Jesse Brown
(Please contact Jesse Brown for permission to copy, reproduce, and/or share)

My experience in training with my school, from Chico, California, and in training at seminars featuring Master Planas here in northern California is there is a good dose of entertaining fun mixed in with some very serious knowledge regarding Kenpo and martial arts. The fun part comes in because we see so many of the same people many times each year. Many of the schools and practitioners live an hour or more apart, starting in Redding, California working all the way down to Alameda, California. (I would like to point out at this time there are other schools in California, but they fall out of the range of northern, so I am merely drawing a geographic distinction based on what I know. I have left anyone out, please accept my apology in advance). 

Telling any story, whether it is about a single person, organization, or a group of people, it can be extremely complicated and may miss parts and it can only be told from one perspective - which is the perspective of the one who writes it. No matter how hard an author or artist tries to convey a different perspective other than their own, it will still be their own perspective. It is like we learn in Kenpo. There are a set of rules and principles that make up the motion. Beyond that, the expression of those rules and principles will be unique to whoever is doing it. 

I simply want to get our story out there. Photos can help with that. Words and stories can help a little more. We have a very rich and valuable story to tell in the art of Kenpo within the Parker/Planas lineage. It is a humble one in my opinion as well. The time on the mat training is the ultimate measure of what we do and what we understand, and there is no finishing point for the training. It is an endeavor that continues, but only if each person continues to train what they have learned. 

"Scott and Bruce" digital photo taken with a Nikon 5200 by Jesse Brown
Location: Paradise, CA
Time: July 2015

Photography is a medium for creative expression, just as are many disciplines in the area of the arts. Kenpo is no exception to that either. Photography is also a means by which we can help preserve memories.  Kenpo is an experience where we can help create memories within the family of people that we train with. I think one of the things I have learned, along with some great Kenpo, over the last couple of years of going to so many seminars here in northern California is that the extended family of Kenpo artists are a valuable group of people who make training better and more enjoyable. As Master Planas says, Kenpo is a set of rules and principles that define motion in a certain way to make our movements efficient and useful in defending ourselves. But, beyond that, it is a group of people that make training interesting, valuable, and memorable. 

Art, like so many things in life, is defined by the perspective each person brings to the table when they express themselves. Kenpo and photography are no different. My experience at the July seminar, as well as at the other seminars, was amazing and I hope I captured some of the moments well. I was to express thanks and appreciation to all those who were there and participated and did not mind me snapping so many photos. I again want to thank Bruce Epperson for letting me shoot the event. I will be doing more work with martial arts and photography. Please continue to follow my work as I post it here and on Facebook. If you have any requests or questions, do not hesitate to email or call me. My email is - thanks for reading and continue to train and make art. Both are a journey that yield many benefits!


"Paradise Seminar Photo" digital photo taken with Nikon 5200
Location: Paradise, CA
Time: July 2015
(If anyone from the photo wants a copy, just email me at and I will send them one without the watermark - or hit me up on Facebook and I will get it to them). 

**Note: As of the publishing of this entry, I am still finishing the editing of all the photos from the seminar. Please be patient and I will post more soon. I am sorry it is taking awhile, but time has been limited lately. Also, be sure to email me with questions, comments, and requests. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A New Interview Posted

I had the pleasure of doing an interview recently with Brandon Hubbard. He is a Kenpo black belt from the Sacramento area. We did a photo shoot together that was quite fun and turned out well. Brandon is one of those artists/martial artists who is easy to work with. One of the things that I learn with each interview is that each artist, each person, has his/her own story and that story evolves over time, just as their work does. 

The photo above was taken at Folsom Lake, in Folsom, CA. We had a bit of an adventure trying to get to the spot. There was some fabulous boulders that were perfect for doing a martial arts shoot over the water. It was a truly exciting experience to be shooting photos in such an amazing place with such a talented martial artist. 

I would encourage you to go by and give the interview a read. You can find it here, - There are several photos from the shoot that showcase Brandon's versatility and creativity within the art as he was posing for photos. Enjoy the interview and stay tuned for more work! There are more interviews coming soon, so be sure to look out for those as well!!