|CHRISTOPHER N. GEARY
||PROFILE OF A MARTIAL ARTS MASTER
On October 15–16, 2005, my organization sponsored an intensive weekend seminar on “Sublevel-4 Kenpo™ Concepts” taught by Dr. Ron Chapél, the nation’s foremost authority on this topic. Shihan Shawn Steiner and David Carnley set up the seminar, which was attended by martial artists from towns and cities throughout the Midwest. We held the seminar at a reception hall in the historic Old Market section of downtown Omaha, with half-day sessions on Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning. Dr. Chapél traveled to Omaha with one of his advanced students, Ryan Angell, a sixth-degree black belt.
Soon after arriving in Omaha on Friday, October 14, Dr. Chapél paid a visit to my Corporate Headquarters at 180th and Pacific. As he walked up to the entrance, he could see the interior of my school through the plate glass windows. He had a look of amazement on his face. Soon after walking in the door, he received a call on his cell phone, and he told the person at the other end, “I’m standing here in the most beautiful school I’ve ever seen.” To put his comment in perspective, this is a man who must have visited hundreds of schools throughout the world during his 50-year career in the martial arts.
I asked one of my instructors, Seth Tipton, to show Dr. Chapél around the school. Dr. Chapél spent the first 15 or 20 minutes looking around. When he was in my office looking at some of the books and videos on the shelves behind my desk, I asked him if he would sign one of Grandmaster Ed Parker’s Infinite Insights volumes that he is in, and he signed it for me. (Pictures of Dr. Chapél and references to him can be found in quite a few of these books.) Some of my students brought in magazines that had articles and pictures of Dr. Chapél, and he autographed the magazines for my students.
Before Dr. Chapél’s visit to Omaha, I had e-mailed him to ask if he would be willing to observe and evaluate my martial arts technique while he was in Omaha. I wanted him to do this because of his experience and longevity in the martial arts, particularly in the art of Kenpo Karate. On Friday, October 14 during his visit to my Corporate Headquarters, Dr. Chapél observed my techniques, made some suggestions, taught me some variations of techniques that I had shown him, and prepared a brief written summary of my proficiency. To view his signed evaluation of my technique, click here.
Dr. Chapél’s opinion means a lot to me because he is such an outstanding martial artist with so many years of experience. Born and raised in Southern California, Ron Chapél has been involved in the martial arts since his childhood. Dr. Chapél has been a role model and mentor to martial arts students for decades. He was a close friend and student of Grandmaster Ed Parker, Sr., from 1963 until Mr. Parker’s death in 1990, and he is a friend and teacher of the Grandmaster’s son, Edmund Parker, Jr.
To understand the significance of the connection between Dr. Chapél and Ed Parker, you need to know that Ed Parker has been described as a genius in the martial arts. Generations of martial artists from many systems have aspired to follow in his footsteps. Born in Hawaii, Ed Parker learned judo and boxing as a young person and was introduced to Kenpo during the 1940s. He received his black belt from William K. S. Chow in 1953 and opened his first school in 1956. Over the years he became well known for both his teaching skills and his business sense. Grandmaster Parker picked up the threads of work that many other martial artists had begun, weaving them together to develop the system that became American Kenpo Karate. He was a teacher and mentor to people from many martial arts systems, including my advisor Hanshi Lou Angel. Ed Parker was well known in Hollywood, where he trained many actors and stuntmen. Two of his most famous students were Elvis Presley and Jeff Speakman. During Elvis Presley’s later years, Grandmaster Parker served as his bodyguard. At a time when Bruce Lee was not as well known as he is today, Ed Parker gave him public recognition by introducing Lee during his International Karate Championships.
Dr. Chapél received his seventh-degree black belt from Grandmaster Parker almost 20 years ago after writing a thesis on the rank structure of the organization founded by Ed Parker, the International Kenpo Karate Association (IKKA). My system is not identical to American Kenpo, but I knew that Dr. Chapél was well qualified to evaluate my techniques and my abilities as a martial artist. By affirming that I have attained a “very proficient level of physical ability as well as an excellent ability to verbally explain the intricacies involved in execution of the technique” and noting that I have been able to take what I have learned and adapt it into a working system, he has given me added peace of mind and assurance that my system is built on a solid foundation.
Dr. Chapél shares Ed Parker’s vision of ongoing improvement in the martial arts. In Volume 2 of Infinite Insights, Ed Parker wrote, “When I am gone, I hope that people won’t try to traditionalize my Art. I want you to always remember that Kenpo will always be the Art of Perpetual Change. If you remember this, then the Art will never become obsolete because it will change with the times.” These words are right in line with my belief that change and adaptation are essential to the vitality of Kenpo/Kempo.
Grandmaster Parker went on to say, “A true Martial Artist is not one who fears change, but one who causes it to happen. To live is to change, and to obtain perfection is to have changed often.... we should study old theories not as a means of discrediting them, but to see if they can be modified to improve our present conditions. A word of advice: The humble man makes room for progress; the proud man believes he is already there.” Dr. Chapél has carried out this philosophy by developing and expanding on the ideas introduced by his friend and mentor, Grandmaster Parker, and I have tried to do the same.
Throughout Ed Parker’s Infinite Insights volumes, you can find many references to Dr. Chapél. In addition to holding the martial arts title of “Senior Master Professor,” Dr. Chapél has a Ph.D. and has lectured and taught credit courses on college campuses. He has traveled throughout the world giving seminars. Dr. Chapél has earned numerous high-level black belt rankings and many other honors during his career. He received eighth-, ninth-, and tenth-degree black belts from the prestigious American Teachers Association of the Martial Arts (ATAMA), founded by Shaolin Kenpo Grandmaster Ralph Castro, who personally witnessed his promotion to eighth-degree black belt after a well-received lecture and demo.
Dr. Chapél has also received ninth-degree black belts from three other organizations: Danzan-Ryu Jujutsu, the World Federation of Karate-Do, and the Universal Martial Arts Society. He holds an Instructor ranking in W.A.R. (within arms’ reach) and a black belt in Shotokan. He has studied numerous styles of martial arts, including Goju-Ryu, Shorin Ryu, Hap-Ki-Do and more. Together with Grandmaster Ed Parker, Dr. Chapél was featured in some of the first issues of Inside Kung-Fu magazine, and he has written numerous articles for Black Belt magazine.
The City of Los Angeles has honored Dr. Chapél as a “Martial Arts Pioneer” and as the “founder of a Martial Arts Institution” in Southern California, along with certificated awards from the California State Legislature and Senate for public service and excellence. He is the Senior Master Professor of the University of Martial Science, which is the only American Kenpo school certified by the World Federation of Karate-Do. The University of Martial Science emphasizes the educational aspects of the arts, requiring its teachers to hold certifications in addition to belt rankings. No one person is allowed to promote anyone. Instead, the University Board of Credentials grants rank and degrees to students who have completed specific coursework in diverse arts such as Aikido, Mushin Ryu jiu-jitsu, and Silat.
Along with a martial arts career spanning fifty years, Dr. Chapél has spent more than thirty years in the field of law enforcement. He has worked as a street cop and has held special assignments protecting the Governor and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California, providing Witness Protection, and ensuring Judicial Security as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal.
During his career in law enforcement, Dr. Chapél became aware of the need for techniques to control the level of destruction in arrest and control situations. Working closely with Ed Parker, Sr., Dr. Chapél developed the principles of Sublevel-4 (SL-4) as a part of a law enforcement curriculum for an effective means of controlling suspects in law enforcement and self-defense situations.
During his seminar in Omaha, Dr. Chapél explained the dynamics of SL-4 as follows: “When Sublevel-4 is used to strike, nerves are activated through SL-4 Destructive Sequencing utilizing Chinese Acupuncture Meridians and nerves embedded in cavities of the human body. This causes the subject to involuntarily react in a predictable manner and creates a Negative Body Posture. This places him at an anatomical disadvantage. When you are capable of understanding as well as reading Martial Posture, you know what nerves are most easily accessed based on the subject’s actions.” In addition to teaching SL-4 techniques at martial arts seminars such as the one in Omaha, Dr. Chapél has presented these techniques at law enforcement training seminars and police academies throughout the U.S. and abroad.
Dr. Chapél’s evaluation of my technique has reinforced my commitment to pursue excellence as a martial artist and teacher. My contact with Dr. Chapél has also given me a stronger sense of the connection between my system and the philosophy of Ed Parker, who made it clear that Kempo must continue to change and improve over time.