Golden Leopard Kempo

Gathering of Eagles

Sijo Gascon, my daughter Danielle and myself

A Historic Kempo Event -- from one student's perspective.

February 5, 1999 is a day to remember in the history books of Kempo.

Nearly a thousand kempo enthusiasts gathered at the Las Vegas Tropicana Hotel Casino to meet, learn and share. Grandmasters, masters and students of all ranks, from all derivations of Kempo were represented. When I reached the main hall, I was electrified with the emotions that drove this event. We had gathered together in brotherhood to pay respects to those who came before, to those who are here now and to inspire those to come.

My main focus for this event was to establish better ties with my Karazenpo go Shinjutsu roots. Almost immediately, I meet Sijo Gascon and other students of Karazenpo.

A late start

Mitose Sensei and Sifu Bagnas Al Tracy remarked how this event had swelled in size, taking on characteristics of a karate tournament. As such, it was inevitable that the first seminars would start late. Two hours after the intended start time, the Gathering moved into high gear. The emotional energy in the room was invigorating.

Down to Business

While waiting for the attendees to register and get their badeges, Sigung started our training with combinations and katas. This was a great impromptu class, clarifying for me the original, proper techniques for the combinations. Later on that day, we reviewed and corrected kata one, two and three.

Mitose Sensei

I had the pleasure of attending a seminar by 22nd Great Grandmaster Thomas B. Mitose. He and his assistants were covering topics such as footwork and economic striking. My students will enjoy the two new kempo punch techniques from this direct kempo lineage.

Grandmaster Castro and Sifu Bagnas

Castro and Son

The grandmasters of Shaolin Kenpo (distinct and different than Hawaiian Shaolin Kempo), Ralph and Rob Castro, taught several of their style's kata. Great Grandmaster Ralph Castro also used this event as an opportunity to recognize his son, Rob Castro, as heir to his system. All of the Shaolin Kenpo seminars had large crowds, a testiment to their teaching style and ability with techniques.

At one such seminar, many of the most advanced Shaolin Kenpo practioners were on hand to help any student participant. Sixth and seventh dans were in the mix turning punches, explaining the Castro concepts and demonstrating proper techniques. You can see the love all the Kenpo masters have for the art and for transmitting the art to others.

The Son of Chun

I had the pleasure of meeting Grandmaster Bill Chun, Jr. He represented his fathers lineage of Chow-Chun kempo. To quote an article written by Richard Goetz for Karate International vol.5 no.6:

The Go Shin Jitsu Kai Chinese Kempo System is a hard-soft style which is taught with the old hard training methods, but the execution consists of the perfection of effective techniques, balance and power with the Kempo's circular motion shortened to effectively increase speed, power and snap which makes the defense of the Chow-Chun system incredibly effective. The original true Kara Ho was a combination of multiple breaks, breaking blocks and Ju-Jitsu combined with the flow of Kung Fu and the power of Karate. There are no high kicks, no flashy moves only short quick and effective combinations. Total concentration is required to learn this system and there are no shortcuts to mastering the effectiveness of true Kempo.

Grandmaster Chun and Sifu Bagnas As far as I know, Master Chun didn't teach any seminars at the Gathering. Without someone with his esteemed lineage, this event wouldn't have had the same prestige. It was truly an honor to meet such a great master as Bill Chun Jr.

Awards Banquet for Our Modern Roots

Master Ibrao kicked off the dinner honoring Kempo's most senior grandmasters. Each grandmaster received a beautiful (and large) plaque finely engraved. Several gave heart-wrenching speeches of appreciation. To see them all together was well worth the effort to reach the Gathering. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for students of Kempo to see and participate in.

Ties that Instructor and the Grandmaster.

The greatest gift I received from the Gathering is the opportunity to meeting and train with the founder of Karazenpo go Shinjutsu (Hawaiian Shaolin Kempo), Sijo Gascon. He has re-emerged into the Kempo community to tell his story. He was honored by the other senior grandmasters of Kempo at the Banquet on Saturday, Feb. 6, 1999.

Of Now and Then

For the future, I hope there are more events such as these. It helps to inspire those that will take on the mantle of leadership for the generations to follow. Each of us become a single link in the chain reaching back to the dawn of the chinese civilization and martial traditions. Without the old masters who came before, there will never be old masters to come.

Copyright © 1999, Bryan Bagnas. All rights reserved.

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