“What’s the definition of a black belt?” Students at Diamond Martial Arts were asked by special guest, Kathy Owen, 8th degree black belt and member of the American Kenpo Karate International Association.
The answer was simple, and held a special meaning for each student including Kelly Allan, owner of the studio, head instructor, and one of Kathy’s star students.
To kick start November, Kathy traveled to Galt from Newark, Delaware to support seminars, assist with classes and fit in some one-on-one training time with Kelly.
“All the students were excited to meet Kathy,” says Kelly. “It’s a privilege to meet someone with an 8th degree. They understand that she is an important person in the Kenpo family.”
Kathy’s accomplishments swing a mighty punch beyond her incredible level of belt. The succession and roots of A.K.K.I. can be traced like a family tree to the founder, Paul Mills, 10th degree black belt and protégé of Master Ed Parker, straight to Kathy, and next to Kelly, who is looking forward to testing for her 4th degree in the spring.
Kathy’s presence, however, did not intimidate the students. Her easy manner, quick smile and quiet words of encouragement inspire a camaraderie on a mutual journey, no matter what age or level of accomplishment.
“She’s just like them,” says Kelly. “Kathy makes everyone feel comfortable.”
Owner of Newark Kenpo Karate, Kathy touches the lives of over 250 students and firmly believes in each individual’s triumphs and growth. With 35 years of training, she now has 15 instructors, many who started their journey with her when they were four years old. “It spreads through generations,” she says, and recounts stories of kids, now married with children, who are still involved in her school.
“I’m privileged and honoured to be their instructor and be that influence in their lives,” says Kathy. “It’s not all about teaching kicking and punching, but to become better people.”
For Kelly, this visit has allowed her students to put a face to a name they often hear, and “helps them realize that there is a Kenpo family around the world.”
It is Kathy’s first visit to Galt and to Diamond Martial Arts. “Kelly is a good influence for kids. She’s done a great job.” Kathy smiles proudly. “She’s innovative and that’s a good thing.”
Innovation is key. Paul Mills describes the art as “…higher proficiency through innovation. Our students will learn that A.K.K.I. Kenpo Karate is one of the most effective and efficient, complete self-defense systems as well as an art, because of its implementation of scientific laws, principles and disciplines of mathematics, physics, geometry, physiology and kinesiology. The A.K.K.I. continues to innovate and perpetuate the ever changing and fascinating art of American Kenpo. This art is for anyone regardless of their age, size, strength, fitness level or disabilities… as Kenpo is designed to work for the individual’s needs.”
The three seminars, featuring Kathy, focused on form encompassing solo routines to reinforce basic movements, practical self-defense, and the use of − and self-defense against − weapons. Throughout the classes, the instructors maintain the emotional teaching as well: life skills, self-esteem and responsibility.
“If you were to ask our kids, they would not be who they are today without Kenpo,” says Kathy. “It’s confusing to be out on the street. There are pressures to do the wrong thing and they don’t go down those roads.”
A few students relaxing after class agreed. Without hesitation, each announced their goal to achieve their black belt level and their determination to rise to the challenges set before them.
“It takes them in a positive direction.” Kathy adds as she prepares for the upcoming seminars. “I hope parents take this opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of their kids.” What’s the definition of a black belt?
A white belt that never gave up.