My Kenpo Journey - by Matt Snell

February 10, 2014

Welcome to the Flaming Fist Kenpo Martial Arts Academys blog.


I thought I would start this blog with a bit of history and name drop a few individuals who have been important in my own and our academy's martial arts journey. In essence starting at the beginning.


My name is Matt Snell and I am currently a 6th degree black belt instructor in American Kenpo.  I started my interest in the martial arts with my cousin, Jamie Hawkins by going to the movies and watching VHS videos at home back in the 1980's. In 1986 my cousin and I went to the cinema and we watched Karate Kid II. We loved it and shortly afterwards began looking for a local martial arts club. My cousin saw an advert in a local shop about a Kenpo Karate club opening just around the corner from his house. 


We both went along on the opening night and the saw a demonstration of Kenpo by Mervyn Ormand who was Exeter's head instuctor at that time. The juniors also put on a great display.  I think Mr Ormand was a 1st or 2nd degree black belt at that time. Back in the 80's black belts were rare.


This new club was opened by Sean Kelly 1st Brown and Chris Jones 2nd brown and it's due to these two individuals as to why I carried on for so long. They became very close friends and mentors. It wasn't just the material that we were learning but the whole atmosphere and family feeling of belonging to something special that kept my interest.


I was only 14 when I started in 1986 but as I had my cousin to train with, we were put into the adult class straight off. We were training alongside people at least twice our age and often went home with some Kenpo colours (our Kenpo colours are black and blue - if you've ever done Kenpo properly, you'll know what I mean).


I was training twice a week at Sean and Chris's club in Countess Wear, Exeter and also one night at Mervyn Ormands club in Whipton, Exeter. Mr Ormand's club was actually closer to my house and each lesson there was a brilliant experience. Mervyn Ormand was a big guy, a definate force of nature and an inspiration to us all. For a big guy he had brilliant control, energy and enthusiam.  He would produce a great lesson for twenty people or just one person. It never matters how many where in the class. I try to rememeber this on the cold rainy nights, when I struggle out the door after a long day to go to training, and then find only a handfull of others have made it out.  He was a great role model of how Kenpo should be done.  


In addition to Mr Ormand we were privillaged to have Ms Jaki McVicar attend Mr Ormand's classes almost every Thursday.  Ms McVicar was absolutely amazing to watch. The power she could generate for her size was stunning. I remember getting slapped so many times for dropping a check here and there, I'm sure it still hurts even now.  It was through Mr Ormand and Ms McVicar that we received the attention of, and the chance to meet Senior Grandmaster Mr Parker.


I didn't realise it at the time but I have photographic memory of events or seminars that I enjoy, so for me the seminars that I attended by Mr Parker are like they happened only last week. Odd, but true.  


Can I remember after 20 years of marriage that my wife likes sugar in coffee, no! 


Can I remember Mr Parkers seminar in 1987 on the rearrangement concept using the A,B,C of a movement to create new movements, yes! Sorry dear.




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