Several years ago, I published the 1st volume of ‘The Kenpo Continuum’. The book is a collection of stories about kenpoists who have devoted their lives, or at least spent a many years, constantly learn Kenpo karate. I am currently in the process of creating the second volume of the book and am seeking submissions. To qualify, you must be a black belt in Kenpo Karate and have at least 10 yrs. of active training. Your previous instructors isn’t relevant, as far as qualifying, because I am looking for kenpo practitioners from all different lineages. This is not about blowing your own horn or showing off, it’s about recognizing the basis of our Kenpo roots and keeping track of where the many branches have gone. The following is my story, as included in the first volume.

My Kenpo career began in 1979, when I was 11 years old. My good friend at the time, Roben, was taking a kenpo karate class and because I My idea worked; we were great friends for many years.) I knew nothing in regards to the style, but was blessed to end up in an American Kenpo karate school, which was held in the Belmont, CA YMCA. My first teacher was Vinton Koklich. I stayed at that dojo for a bit more than 4 yrs. till my family moved up to Sacramento. That class was 1x per week and since I never practiced, I left that school an advanced purple belt. But -- I was hooked. I’d received my first taste of American kenpo and there was no going back.

I took time off from kenpo to become adjusted to the move, but after a year or so, I began my search for a Kenpo karate school. Kenpo is the type of thing that will get addicting in every way. It’s impossible to stay away. I also discovered that there wasn’t any other type of exercise which held any interest for me. I checked out a few schools until I discovered one I liked. One day, after I walked in for class, I noticed a black belt on the floor stretching, who I didn’t know. I greeted him and introduced myself, then I proceeded with my stretching, then katas.

He watched me intently for a bit, left the room, returned, took my technique list, then told me to follow him. He brought me to 1 of the private curtained sections where instructors did one-one-one sessions, then stated, “I’m your instructor now.” Uh, okay. His name is Ray Arquilla.

I learned to have a fascination for American kenpo beginning with Vinton, but I can safely say I got my passion for Kenpo from Ray. He cleaned up my basics and showed me how to train. And BOY, did we train! I was 17, so the three hr. twice-weekly workouts were easier to handle then. I was , as it happened, the only woman taking the class, so practically killed myself to keep up with the guys. We did some over the top workouts. One that I remember specifically was the 5am, crack-of-dawn, November, up-in-the-hills, weekendworkout, nearby a river. Towards the end of the sweat-inducing workout, the instructor announced, “I want you all to follow what I do – no hesitation. Am I understood?” YES SIR! Following that, our beloved leader took off down the hill, through the bushes and dived into the ice cold river! I must have been a bit whacked in the head then as well because I took the dive — with only a tiny hesitation. (GOD, I HATE cold water!) Objectively-speaking, it was a really brief swim, but I still practically froze in place. The other student assisting us near the other side laughingly said that my head poked up so high from the water that I strongly resembled a turtle.

In retrospect, it was a great experience though. I stayed at that school, learning more than I can say, for close to two years.

I later trained with Bob Liles for about a year and a half, during the time I was around 20), then later left for a couple of yrs. because of college as well as other obligations.

One of the best things about attending his school was that I was able to attend a seminar taught by, and being an uke for, Mr. Ed Parker Sr., the previous year before he passed. I later made the move to Marin County, where I attended Marin Kenpo, becoming a student of Richard LaFave. He has since passed, but I learned a lot during my short time as his student. I needed to post-pone my kenpo training before he died because I developed Hodgkin’s Disease (Lymphoma). I was deathly ill for about eighteen months, with another year or two for overall healing. I tried a few different Kenpo karate dojos during my healing, but none proved good for me.

Eventually, I stumbled across Darryl Liner’s school, at which I attended for roughly a year and a half, leaving after I found a bun in my oven. 1 child became two - (it’s like magic) so before long, it’d been six years that I had been without my art. During that time, I had become resigned to not ever receiving my black belt. When my boy was 2, however, I began to feel the itch. I was sick of of feeling like an overweight, frumpy lump. (Child-rearing can have that affect on a person, especially a stay-at-home mom.)

I went back to Liner’s school, where I eventually earned my shodan. The quest for black belt took a mere twenty-five yrs. (total). I tested at Larry Tatum’s first Las Vegas camp, in 2004. I felt totally prepared and had trained really hard for the test, but, Murphy’s Law kicked in, so my 220lb. instructor landed on my knee sideways during one of the first few techniques for the test. I hobbled through the rest of the test (and the following half a year). Not the kick-butt impression I had hoped to make!

After I was promoted though, I started to teach a beginner’s adult class. I’d at all times helped out at the many schools I’d attended since blue belt, but this class was all mine. I loved it.

The only difficult thing for me about going to that school was that I had nobody to workout. I did a ton of Air Kenpo. I could be devastating to the air like nobody’s business. Before long, I discovered a great Kenpo forum ( where I found kenpo lovers of like-mind and a person of like-location: Through the forum, I met Tara Turnbull, who lives only 45 min. away. Darryl’s school was smack dab in between, so I invited her to join me for a workout as well as help teach my class. As she was also a well practiced Air-Kenpoist, she jumped at the chance.

As it happened, she’s a kick-butt Kenpoist too. We easily formed a bond and soon after my second degree black test, decided to break away to open our own school. Sacramento Kenpo Karate was born.

I was without an instructor for some time, but once having gone to more than a few kenpo camps along with seminars, I found a whole group of kenpo enthusiasts who offered me help. Most of my instructors have been from the Tatum lineage and Tara’s has been in the Planas lineage, so we have a great deal to draw from. Our dojo (and me personally) were very lucky when Ron Nakamoto joined us in 2008. He is currently a fourth degree black belt in American Kenpo and has not only enhanced the overall quality of our dojo, but of my personal life too.

At SKK, we have utilized a lot of various dvds, including Larry Tatum’s and Mike Lambert’s, both of whom have influenced my art. I have found Lee Wedlake to be a wealth of generous knowledge. Most recently, Dr. Dave Crouch has been my instructor (and very good friend) and We have found our kenpo philosophies to be most similar. I can honestly say I’ve learned more him, in my relatively-few hours of time on the mat with him, than I had learned in the many years at my previous dojo. He teaches kenpo in a conceptual way, which I can apply to each and every move in the system. As Dr. Dave says, Kenpo is THE WAY you move, not the techniques themselves. He is one of the most phenomenal kenpoists I’ve ever had the pleasure of training with. In Sept. of 2011, Dr. Dave honored me by promoting me to third degree black belt.

Kenpo karate has been instrumental in molding and guiding my life. Kenpo has always been there for me. I’ve met some of my best friends as a result of Kenpo karate (you all know who you are!)

I travel to camps as well as seminars whenever I can, usually taking hundreds of photos at each and every one. I do whatever I can to give back to the art that that means so much to me.

Our website is the Sacramento Kenpo Karate. If you you are a Kenpoist, then you’re family. Come by anytime participate in a class. We’d love having you.

Amy Long is a 3rd degree black belt in Kenpo karate in addition to being the author for the first volume for the Kenpo Continuum. She is currently looking for submissions for the next volume of stories.

Author's Bio: 

Amy is the President of the ULC Seminary and author of multiple books and courses on ceremonies and various spiritual belief systems.