April 28

Master Phillip Koeppel: Pay Attention to Details

During 2013, I’ve made a personal goal to attend as many seminars as my schedule (and budget) allows me to.

One I wanted to make sure was on my radar was a seminar taught by Mr. Phillip Koeppel and hosted by the Springfield Karatedo Budokai.

Mr. Koeppel teaches kyu ranks at his 10th annual seminar in Springfield

Mr. Koeppel teaches kyu ranks at his 10th annual seminar in Springfield

Peoria-area martial artists should be familiar with Mr. Koeppel. He opened his first school in Peoria in 1960 and, from what I can gather, has been in or around town ever since. He’s also the founder of the United States Karate-do Kai, an international organization consisting of karate schools of different styles whose headquarters is in Peoria.

Metamora Martial Arts students should associate Mr. Koeppel as a senior student of Master Robert Trias, with whom he trained for 22 years.

“I was the first shichidan (7th-degree black belt) he ever promoted,” Mr. Koeppel said in an interview with H.P. Henry. “He promoted others later on to this grade, but as far as I know, and as far as I am concerned, he never graded anyone above the rank of shichidan.”

(The interview is great, by the way. I suggest reading it. Mr. Koeppel talks about training with Master Trias in great detail, as well as his entire martial arts career, and led him to leave Shuri-ryu and begin taking up Matsumura Seito Shorin-ryu, with which he developed his own style, Matsumura Seito Shorin-ryu Koeppel-ha.)

Upon his arrival in Peoria in the mid-1970s, Mr. Hawkey trained at a dojo owned and operated by Mr. Koeppel and received instruction under one of Mr. Koeppel’s instructors, Mr. Randy Holman.

The seminar itself was intriguing.

Mr. Koeppel, 75, started by running the attendees (mostly black belts) through Ryu Sho Ken. I quickly realized I was one of the few who did not know this form. With the help of Mr. Loyd Shults and his son, I was able to keep up. Mr. Shults looked at me at one point and said, “I can tell you don’t know this form.”

I really liked what was described as the “Four Winds Kata.” I found my phone and recorded a group of attendees practicing the form so that I could review it later.

As he was throughout the four-hour session, Mr. Koeppel was a stickler for details. He described how the feet should move in two motions instead of one, and how the hands and feet should be at 35-degree angles. He illustrated exactly how the hands should swing down for the opening motion.

Clearly this day was about perfecting. Not introducing.

After Ryu Sho Ken, we went over gokui waza. In talking with Mr. Shults, Mr. Koeppel created the gokui waza to be short snippets of kata. In other words, Mr. Koeppel would extract essential points in kata for shorter, more direct waza. These are similar to our ippons, taezus and kihons.

Again, more detail. Raise the arm up vertically instead of rotating it out. Step out of the line of attack. And so on.

My favorite part of the session was a Chinese form that I understood to sound like Ba Bu Lin (I’ve seen other spellings online, including Ba Bu Lian or Lien. Somebody help me understand which would be proper).

Mr. Koeppel said he learned this form from Patrick McCarthy, translator of the famed text, Bubishi, in 1997. “I’ve dedicated my life to learning it,” he said to me afterward.

The form appears briefly in the Bubishi under the name Happoren. It is also apparently a predecessor to Tensho, a tension form for advanced ranks in Shuri-ryu.

As a practitioner of Chinese martial arts, I instantly loved the form and am working on memorizing the movements.

Again, Mr. Koeppel emphasized details. The traditional Chinese opening of the form. Breathing when releasing the tension in the hands. Releasing energy on a movement known as “fire hands.”

Overall, this was a great seminar to attend. Mr. Lucky Phillips hosted it at his home dojo, a beautiful space in a Morton-style building. And, if the seminar wasn’t enough, Mr. Phillips cooked a big cauldron of chili for everyone to enjoy afterward.

June 4

June 2012 Metamora Martial Arts Newsletter

I hope you have enjoyed the two-week official break from Metamora Martial Arts. Sometimes it’s nice to recharge our batteries.

We are ready to go for the summer and we hope you are, too! Classes start back up this Thursday at 6 p.m. and go until 8. All classes will be held at Metamora Township High School.

We know the summer months can be very busy, so we understand if you cannot attend class. If you can be with us, great. If not, we hope you have a good summer.

Classes Resume Thursday, June 7

Martial arts class begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 7, for grade school students. Unlike during the school year, we offer summer classes for free!

High school students and high ranks – You are welcome to attend these classes in order to get extra practice, as well as if you’d like to become an assistant instructor.

Once the grade school students finish, high school students, high ranks and adult ranks are asked to be ready to bow in at 7.

Grade school students and parents – If you or your child would like extra practice, you are welcome to stay on the mat with us once the grade school class is bowed out.

Advanced Summer Classes with Mr. Hawkey

Mr. Hawkey is once again offering classes for advanced ranks (brown and above) at his home in Hopewell. These classes will be offered on specific Saturdays. We are currently trying to pick when we’ll have the first class since he is out of town two weeks in June. Keep your eyes peeled to Metamora Martial Arts on Facebook for an update.

Kempo Seminar in Dana, Ill., on June 9

We received word on our Facebook page last month of a seminar being held by Professor Pat McDaniel in Dana at DragonsFire Dojo this weekend thanks to Ki Do Kai Kempo.

Mr. McDaniel has been practicing self-defense for more than 40 years. He plans to cover speed drills, smoke drill concepts, slip blocks and says his methods can be incorporated into any style.

The DragonsFire Dojo is located inside the Dana Fire Department at 115 E. Washington Street in Dana, IL, 61321.

Soo Kim Taekwondo Open Championship in Peoria, Ill., on Sunday, June 10

Our friend Charles Robertson alerted us via Facebook that Master Soo Kim will be holding his annual tournament this coming Sunday beginning at 12 p.m. at Peoria Academy, 2711 W. Willow Knolls. The cost is $50 for the first event and $20 for each additional event.

Master Kim was recently featured in the Peoria Journal Star.

USKK International Karate/Kobudo Championship in Peoria on Sunday, June 17

Charles also notified us of the United States Karate-do Kai’s next tournament being held at the Riverplex in Peoria beginning at 9 a.m. on June 17.

The competition will feature kata, kumite and kobudo. Non-USKK members can compete for $45 for the first event if registering beforehand and $50 the day of. USKK members receive a $5 discount. Spectators will be admitted for $5.

Additionally, the USKK is hosting three days of events. On Friday, June 15, will be the USKK euchre tournament and a feature seminar. On Saturday, June 16, several heads of styles will be hosting seminars from 8-10 a.m. Finally, the tournament will be held on Sunday, June 17.

For more information, please download the USKK International Karate/Kobudo flyer.

March 11

Adair Rodriguez Places 3rd in Men’s Black Belt Kata at Supreme Way Challenge

Joshu Adair Rodriguez placed third in men’s black belt kata Saturday at the Supreme Way Challenge in Pekin. His Nan Dan Sho proved a stiff challenge for the tremendous competitors in our division. I performed Kanku Sho.

Supreme Way Challenge 2012 - Adair Rodriguez, 3rd place champion in men's black belt kata, and Adam Bockler I wanted to post a few takeaways from this tournament:

* I love what we do. I really do. I think are forms are cool, and I think how we do them is cool and works for us. But there are so many other cool martial arts out there. I saw some great forms competitors today who represented their school and their art very well. Several times I said to myself, “I have to learn that form!”

* In my studies of other arts, I try not to focus on the differences. However, I noticed students who were running the same forms we do that were running variants. I saw a Wansu that looked to be more performed at a 45-degree angle than a straight line. Adair saw a Go Pei Sho where a te uke usually on one side was on the other. Some people started their forms with or added a few “extras” along the way. But, again, the main idea is that they’re doing exactly just what we do with some modifications. It’s like handwriting – everybody does it, but each person has their own individual touch.

* I was struck by several martial artists who, several years ago, were still kyu ranks and were now black belts, taking responsibility for judging and really upping their competitive game. These martial artists competed in Metamora when we would host open tournaments, and it was great to see how they’ve advanced since our last one in 2010.

For those who asked yesterday that may be reading this: Yes, I’d like to eye an open tournament again. But first, we need to get our martial artists out to other tournaments to see how it’s done.

* Coaching your students from outside the ring is okay, depending on the rules of the particular tournament. Blatantly standing behind a referee and vocally disagreeing with the calls is unsportsmanlike, though at least a judge can choose not to acknowledge it. Getting in the face of the center referee and cussing him out, however, is not an appropriate way to handle those disagreements. There was an incident today between two instructors that I feel did not represent martial artists in the best light. Thankfully, this incident is in the minority.

* Kudos to Mr. and Mrs. Fink of Kosho Kai Karate in Pekin. They did a great job of making sure that things ran smoothly. And thanks to the Lincoln’s Challenge cadets who also volunteered their time to help out.

February 3

The 2012 10th Annual Supreme Way Challenge is in Pekin on March 10

This year’s Supreme Way Challenge is located in Pekin at the Moose Lodge. The March 10 event features Forms (Kata), Sparring (Kumite) and Weapons (Kobudo). Special events include Chanbarra, Self-defense, and Three-person Team Synchronized Kata.

Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the tournament begins at 11.

As you’ll see, the tournament organizers require the following safety equipment: Foam headgear, hand pads, foot pads, mouth guard and groin cup for male competitors.

The tournament is hosted by Frank and Patricia Fink of Kosho Kai Karate in Pekin. For more information, I’ll include the tournament flyer, registration form and rules summary.

The Finks can be contacted via email or at 309-353-8639.

The last time Metamora Martial Arts competed in the Supreme Way Challenge was 2007.