AMY LONG'S STORY
My Kenpo story started in 1979, when I was 11 yrs. old. My friend Roben was taking a karate class and I wanted to be better friends with her, so I decided to take it too. (It worked; we became great friends to this day.) I didn’t know anything about the style, but was fortunate to end up in an American Kenpo school, which was held at the Belmont, CA YMCA. My instructor was Vinton Koklich. I stayed at that school for a little over four years until my family moved to Sacramento. The class was once a week and I never practiced, so I left there an advanced purple belt. But I was hooked. I’d gotten my first taste of Kenpo and there was no going back.
I took time off to get adjusted to the move, but after a year or so began looking for a Kenpo school. Kenpo is one of those things that gets in your blood. It’s hard to stay away. I also found that no other sort of exercise made sense anymore. I tried a couple of schools until I found one I liked. One day when I walked in for class, I saw a black belt stretching who I didn’t know. I said hello and introduced myself, then proceeded with my kata warm up.
He watched me for a bit, walked out of the room, came back in, took my practice sheet, and told me to follow him. He took me to one of the little curtained areas where they did private lessons and said, “I’m your instructor now.” Uh, okay. His name was Ray Arquilla.
I learned to have a love for Kenpo from Vinton, but I think I got my passion for Kenpo from Ray. He cleaned up my basics and taught me how to train. And did we train! I was 17, so the 3 hr. twice-weekly workouts were easier then. I was also the only woman in the class, so practically killed myself to keep up with the guys. We did some insane workouts. One that sticks out was the 5am, November, up-in-the-hills, Sunday morning workout near the river. Towards the end of the killer workout, he said, “I want you to do what I do – no hesitation. Is that understood?” YES SIR! Then he charged down the hill, through the brush and dived into the freezing cold river! I was a little nuts then too because I did it — only a minor hesitation. (GOD, I HATE cold water!) It was a very short swim, but I almost froze in place. The guy helping us on the other side said my head came up so high in the water that I looked like a turtle.
It was great though. I stayed at his school, learning more than I can say, for close to two years.
I trained with Bob Liles for about a year and a half (when I was 20), then quit for a few years because of college and other obligations. One of the best things about being at his school was that I was able to attend a seminar by and uke for Ed Parker Sr. the year before he died. I later moved down to Marin County, where I went to Marin Kenpo, training with Richard LaFave. He has since passed, but I learned a lot in my short time with him. I had to leave before he did because I developed Hodgkin’s Disease (Lymphoma). I was deathly ill for about 18 months, with an additional year or two for general recovery. I tried a few different Kenpo schools during my recovery, but none proved right for me.
Eventually, I came across Darryl Liner’s school, where I trained for about a year and a half, leaving when I became pregnant. One kid turned into two (it’s like magic) and before long, it had been six years I’d been without my art. During that time, I had become resigned to never getting my black belt. When my son was two, however, I started to get the itch. I was tired of feeling like a fat, frumpy lump. (Child-rearing can do that to a person, especially a stay-at-home mom.)
I went back to Liner’s, where I eventually earned my black belt. It only took 25 years (total). I tested at Larry Tatum’s first Las Vegas camp, in 2004. I felt completely prepared and had trained really hard for the test, but as life would have it, my 220lb. instructor landed on my knee sideways during the first few techniques of the test. I hobbled through the rest of the test (and the next six months). Not the kick-butt impression I had hoped to make!
Once promoted though, I began to teach a beginner’s adult class. I’d always helped out at all the schools I’d gone to since blue belt, but this class was allmy own. I loved it.
The only hard thing about being at that school was that I had nobody to workout with. I did a ton of air Kenpo. I could kick the air’s butt like nobody’s business. Before long, I found a great Kenpo forum (www.kenpotalk.com) where I found people of like mind and one of like-location: My now good friend Tara Turnbull, who lives only 45 min. away. The school was right in between, so I invited her to come workout with me and help teach my class. As she was also a kick-butt air Kenpoist, she jumped at the chance.
As it turned out, she’s a kick-butt body Kenpoist too. We quickly formed a bond and soon after my second black test, decided to go off on our own and open our own school. Sacramento Kenpo Karate was born.
I was without an instructor for a long time, but after having gone to numerous camps and seminars, I have found a whole group of people who have offered us assistance. Most of my instructors have been of the Tatum lineage and Tara’s has been from the Planas lineage, so we have a lot to draw from. We also utilize many dvds, including Larry Tatum’s and Mike Lambert’s, both of whom have greatly influenced my art. I’ve found Lee Wedlake also to be a wealth of generous knowledge. Currently, I have been blessed to have Dave Crouch agree to be my instructor and I have found our kenpo philosophies to be most similar. My understanding and enthusiasm for kenpo has grown exponentially under his expert tutelege.
Kenpo has been instrumental in shaping and guiding my life. It has always been there for me. I’ve met some of my best friends through Kenpo (you know who you are!) and I am pleased that both kids are now taking it as well.
I travel to camps and seminars whenever I can, usually taking hundreds of pictures at each and doing what I can to give back to the art that I love so much.
Our website is www.sacramentokenpokarate.com. If you’re a Kenpoist, then you’re family. Stop by anytime and join us for a class. We’d love to have you.