No question I am a martial artist first and actor second. I love martial arts of any kind and work every day to be the best I can to achieve the status of authentic martial artist. In fact the acting just gives me a bigger opportunity to interact with people to promote the martial arts.
I began studying martial arts in 1978 in Joplin Missouri from a Black Belt of Hanshi Lou Angel of Japanese Goju Ryu. Although I was born and raised in Chicago Illinois I left home at 17 years old to attend the University of Southern Missouri State in Joplin because of a friendship I had with a class mate in High School whose family moved there and lived on a small ranch. In my first year there I would get up at 5:30 every morning to feed the cattle to pay for my room and board and then go to school 45 minutes away. In my second year I moved to Joplin and had a roommate that was a Black Belt with Mr. Angel and that is how I met him and got started in my life long journey in the martial arts.
Although Japanese Goju is radically different from Kenpo the great thing was the clarity of leadership that Hanshi Angel supplied. This is a traditional art of course and therefore the opposite of Kenpo but the single dot focus of the Japanese arts has great application in the world of Kenpo from the perspective of power first and speed second. This was the common denominator I found with Kenpo once I became a student directly under Grand Master Ed Parker. In stark contrast to my previous Kenpo experience where speed was the objective once I studies directly from the founder and master of the art I immediately saw the connection of my previous art and from that point forward my execution of the art of Kenpo had that emphasis and helped to separate me from the group of less effective practitioners who would slap themselves more that their opponent.
At first the transition was very difficult from every point of view. The overwhelming effectiveness and devastation of Kenpo was amazing and painful. Over time I was able to adapt and become one of the respected Black Belts of the system at that school at that time. What I didn’t know in those early years is the Kenpo that was being taught at the West Los Angeles school under the management of Larry Tatum was not the Kenpo Ed Parker wanted. So when I became a personal student of Mr. Parker it was shocking to see and feel the difference but ultimately this Kenpo was much better for me because Parker Kenpo was a power based system that has amazing speed to accentuate the power, no using speed for the power source. So with Parker Kenpo the emphasis of stances to deliver a solid base for execution was a thing I was very comfortable with from my training from Hanshi Angel. So from that point I was on a trajectory to powerful and effective Kenpo.
Kenpo 5.0 is the execution of the mandate set forth by Ed Parker in many of his teachings and writings since its inception. And that mandate is that Kenpo evolve and change over time to adapt to the changing environment and situation of current street defense. In order to answer that mandate it was necessary for Kenpo to adapt to current ground fighting application. The overwhelming and obvious current street conflict would definitely include an applicable and working knowledge of ground fighting for Kenpo to remain in the position of “ultimate street defense” that It always enjoyed in years past. In that endeavor it was necessary to carefully evaluate the application of the art against the “new threat” on the street today. So the continuing endeavor to adapt Kenpo the new threat of a trained MMA fighter in the street is really what Kenpo 5.0 is all about. I chose to remove the word Karate from the phrase Kenpo because in the ensuing years following the tragic loss of Mr. Parker I saw clearly the down fall of the existing structure and I just didn’t want to be associated with most of what I saw happening in the Kenpo world. Of course there are still many pockets of outstanding groups of practitioners in Kenpo Karate, and those people have been and remain now my dear friends and seniors I look to for advancement and advice, people like Steve LaBounty, John Sepulveda and Bob White to name a few. However I travel all over the world and see that Kenpo is fragmented and not adapting to the current state of affairs of the world and needed to separate myself from it, so the Kenpo 5.0 family was born. We now enjoy a very hard earned status of franchise Jeff Speakman Kenpo 5.0 schools in 19 countries and growing.
The 5.0 Fighter system is a direct outgrowth of the Kenpo 5.0 system. From the distance it looks like a controlled MMA fight with a few exceptions. Those are no striking to the face, the groin is a full contact target, and the tap out is not the end of the fight. It is the only thing you can earn 3 points on. Below brown belt it is a single 2 minute round of continuous fighting both stand up and ground. If you are brown and above it is a single 2 minute round with a 1 minute rest and a 1 minute round. We believe we have the system of martial arts completion for the future of all arts. Everyone is welcome to compete with us in this arena and now we have and annual Australia/New Zealand national championship, a European national championship, a South American Championship all culminating in a World Cup Championship each year in the summer in Las Vegas Nevada. Please just go to jeffspeakman.com for more information and all school locations and information.
The first 8 months of 2013 I fought and beat stage 4 throat cancer. Clearly the lowest point of my life but ironically it also was the most powerful experience as well. What I learned from the overwhelming show of love and support of my Kenpo 5.0 family as well as from so many in the public let me know for sure that my life has been of value for so many and because of that realization I feel that my choices that brought me to this point have been the right choices. After all the most important thing in life is to have made a meaningful contribution to the common good. And the love and friendship I enjoy to this day from my 5.0 family and others around the world gives me that level of accomplishment.
Yes, please try to remember that we all came from the same place and it is the idea of separation that comes out of a feeling of forgetting that one premise that is bringing our world and our martial art world down. I personally stand for those martial artists out there who have kept to the time honored traditions from any art and never give in to the greed and ego of selling rank or advancing themselves for money and power. If these words mean something to you then join us and become the solution.