Kenpo lineage Left to right - Steve Cordaro- Anne Moskoviz - Sigung Stephen Labounty


*Photo: Kenpo lineage — left to right:  Steve Cordaro, Anne Moskoviz &  Sigung Stephen Labounty


A Kenpo Journey

By: Anne Moskoviz

I didn’t go looking for a Journey. I got into martial arts on a dare from my then 15 year-old son.  We were driving past a local shopping mall, and he noticed a blow-up King Kong advertising the grand opening of a karate school he’d seen ads for on television.  Naturally, he asked if he could ‘check it out’ by taking a demo lesson.  I said  “Sure.  Maybe I’ll go too”.  “Mom.  You could never do this.”  That did it.  No one tells me I can’t do something.   And so it began.

Of course, not knowing the difference, I thought I was learning a traditional martial art.

How cool was this?  I had a uniform and a belt!  And, if I came to class regularly, every ten  classes I’d get a stripe;  after four stripes, I’d test and get another belt.  I could be a black belt in TWO AND A HALF YEARS!

I never ‘got’ that black belt.  I had a falling out with the head instructor and subsequently left the school.

At that point, I started questioning whether I would continue in any martial art.  Had I really learned anything?  I talked with two high ranking women in jiu jitsu who own and run a dojo in my town, having been referred to them by my cousin’s girlfriend, also a jiu jitsu black belt.  Their advice? “When it is time, your teacher will appear.”  I didn’t understand it at the time, and ultimately decided to continue my Journey with taekwondo.

The ‘master’ was a fourth degree and direct student of YH Park, despite being a Caucasian American man.  I asked when he trained with GM Park to continue learning and improving upon his skills.  He told me he didn’t train with anyone anymore, that he had ‘done it all’, had won many trophies, which were on display at the school.  I should have left then.  Another nudge came, literally, the first time I tested for a belt.  Everyone of the same rank tested in a line, both for the two self defense techniques per level, and forms.

Now, I am a form nerd.  I work my stances to the death and beyond.  I will work one little piece of a form for hours until I’m almost satisfied with it; it’s never perfect, far as I’m concerned.  That first test?  I was bumped into by the people on either side of me, because they were making wrong turns due to not practicing the form.  At the end of the test, everybody got their stripe or belt.  Everybody, no exceptions.  After all, you paid your $40 belt test fee, so you passed.

I witnessed a woman get a black belt, even though she could not get through her red belt form.  Shortly thereafter, I left because I felt I was in the wrong place — again.

One of my besties lived around the corner from a Kenpo school, and since she already had a taekwondo black belt, she figured it might be good to cross-train, so she signed us up for a demo lesson.  I showed up early, since I wanted to meet the instructor one-on-one.  I was, I thought, behaving properly by bowing and saying Osu;  when he was finished chuckling, he invited me on to the mat and asked me to show him something I already knew and felt I did well, since I was quick to tell him I had had previous martial arts training, and held this belt in this art and that belt in that art.  I did a form from my first school, which I was quite proud of.  He then asked to see a couple self defense techniques.  At the end of all that, my friend had arrived, and he showed us Kimono Grab, aka Twin Kimono.  I was hooked, as was my friend, and we signed up.

I couldn’t wait to learn a new technique each week!  What a wonderful thing!  That is, until I realized I had to remember them all, and there were 10 techniques for Yellow, and 20 techniques each belt thereafter, as at the time, the school taught Tracy techniques through Blue belt and EPAK Green and up.  In my ignorance, I figured I had it knocked, since I had ‘experience’ and held high rank in two other arts.

First test, for Yellow belt.  “Delayed Sword”.  I just stood there at attention.  Everyone else did the technique, and my instructor repeated it.  I just stood there, at the opposite end of the mat.  So he says “Anne, please show me Delayed Sword”.  I looked at him and said “I don’t have that one.”  At which point, he put the clipboard down, walked the length of the mat to stand in front of me, and said “Oh, you do.”  I insisted I didn’t.  He demo-ed it, and asked me to do the technique, which of course I knew,  and did.  Finally.

That little legend has followed me on my Kenpo Journey, for good reason.  I am always the one who tells it, cautionary tale that it is.  Confidence is a good thing to have, but pride has no place in a martial art, especially Kenpo.

I cried and screamed my way through the Blue belt techniques because they brought me to my knees.  I could not remember which name went with what, and I became frustrated and ashamed because I wasn’t testing and “everyone else was”.  Of course they weren’t, at least not until they were ready, but I was so used to testing and being passed that when it wasn’t happening, I thought something was wrong.  And said so.  Frequently.

My instructor has the patience of a saint.

We also test in groups because people are allowed to come and practice test, which is a wonderful way to handle it.  It helps calm those who are ‘really’ testing, and promotes camaraderie among the students.  When I was told I was ready to test for Green belt, I spent hours practicing, both at the studio and at home.  On test night, I showed up prepared — or so I thought.  There were six or seven people senior to me testing and practice testing, all my friends, so I was calm.  I thought I did my techniques well, including ‘the one I didn’t have’, and nailed my forms and sets.  At the end of it, we all lined up and knelt, awaiting the verdict.  Belts were awarded to three people to my right and one to my left.  Stripes were placed on two belts.   And there I was, not called upon.  I stayed quiet and fought back the urge to say something, and tried not to cry, since I am not a crier in public.  Our instructor asked us all to get up and stand at attention.  No one did, except me.  One of my friends who’d received her Brown III that night said “But you forgot Anne!”  You could’ve heard a pin drop.  I stood at attention with my eyes closed tight, feeling very vulnerable, and sensed my instructor standing in front of me.  “Please open your eyes.”  I did, as he removed my blue belt and replaced it with the green belt I had EARNED.  “I’m so proud of you.”  And he walked away.

Lesson learned.  For all the times my pride took over and I didn’t pay attention to the warning signs, for all the times I questioned when I would test, I finally realized how much better it felt to try my best and not expect to receive anything as a reward, other than the feeling that I did the best I could.

One of the truly memorable days of my life is once again approaching;  my Kenpo ‘birthday’, August 20th. The day I earned my Kenpo black belt.  All these years later, I’ve learned it’s really about the knowledge acquired, the understanding of the concepts and principles built into each technique, form, and set, and the passing along of all those things to others who come after you;  not the belt, which is only there to hold your uniform together.

And I am still learning.  Osu.


Kenpowomen:   We are always pleased to share the stories of our Fellow Kenpo Practitioners, we are honored that Anne has shared hers. Thank you.