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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What should I wear or bring to class? 


If you’re a beginner coming to your first classes with Stanford Kenpo, you should wear athletic clothes that you feel comfortable moving around in.  Typically students practice karate in bare feet, so you need not worry about footwear.  Once you’re ready to commit to the class, you can buy a gi package for $50, which includes a gi (black karate pants and top), a white belt, a mouth guard (for sparring) and a Stanford Kenpo Karate Association t-shirt.  Men must purchase athletic cups on their own and wear them to each class! 


  1. How much does it cost to participate?


As with all club sports, quarterly fees are $50 for students/faculty/staff. Quarterly fees for non-Stanford affiliate members is $100. Make checks payable to ASSU Stanford Kenpo Karate Association and indicate your Stanford I.D. on the check (if you have one). Checks are greatly preferred, but cash is accepted.


  1. How is a typical class structured?


Class begins promptly at 6:30pm on Monday and Wednesdays and 10am on Saturdays.  Students line up in two lines by rank facing the front and salute the head instructor.  Class begins with 20 – 30 minutes of warm-ups and group exercises.  Students are then split into instruction groups by belt rank and work on martial arts skills, forms and techniques appropriate to their rank.  At the end of class, students line up again and salute the head instructor.  We bow upon entering and leaving our dojo (i.e. – the gym). 


  1. What if I arrive late to class?


The club expects students to arrive on time to class out of respect for themselves and their instructors, all of whom are volunteers.  If you must arrive late, you should walk to the front of the class and wait for the head instructor to acknowledge you.  Once this instructor has acknowledged you and bowed to you, you may join in the class’ activities. 


  1. Do you actually hit each other?  Will I get hurt?


The instructors at Stanford Kenpo are committed to having class be an educational and safe experience for everyone. Beginning karate students are expected to make little or no contact with other students when practicing to ensure that no-one gets hurt.  If ever you are uncomfortable with the level of contact in class, you can let your fellow student and/or an instructor know, and he or she will make adjustments. The level of physical contact you will make with other students will increase as you gain experience and greater levels of control over your strikes.  Once you reach an intermediate level, you will be expected to make contact with fellow students in order to demonstrate that you can execute self defense techniques effectively and in a controlled manner.  


  1. What is Kenpo? How Does It Compare to Other Martial Arts?

Some martial arts are more "martial" and some are more "artistic."  We like to say that Kenpo has a great blend of both. 

Kenpo focuses on practical self-defense techniques for attacks that might be encountered in any street situation.  We practice for attacks such as a grab from behind, an arm pinned behind your back, a punch, multiple punches, a push from the front, and so on.  A kenpo student learns a wide-ranging set of self defense moves in response to these attacks, which can be used and adpated in any situation. 

Stanford Kenpo also incorporates light sparring into our training, which teaches students speed, agility, and improvisation.  When students are sparring, the emphasis is not on winning or hitting hard; rather it is on learning from one another, improving skills, and making sure that no-one gets hurt in the process.

In addition to the practical self defense aspect of kenpo, there is also an artistic aspect.  Students learn katas (or forms) which are choreographed sequences of martial arts moves that allow for self expression and creativity.  Practicing katas helps students to master stances, transitions between moves, flow, timing and so on. 

  1. I have Done Kenpo Elsewhere. How Will Your Club Compare?

Stanford Kenpo Karate is rooted in Parker Kenpo, but has evolved somewhat over the years to meet the needs of the Stanford community. If you have studied kenpo elsewhere and come to our club, you will most likely notice that our stances are a bit different than what you're used to and that our techniques are differently named, although the content of most techniques and katas remains the same.

  1. How Fast Do Students Advance?  What are the belt ranks?

Student progress depends on the individual student and the amount of time and effort they devote to learning the art.  Students test for and advance to a new belt rank once their instructors see that they have mastered the skills and techniques required at that level.  The course is designed such that all beginners who attend regularly should receive their first belt (yellow) within one quarter.  The next belt (orange) is typically attainable in two quarters, but after that it depends on the student.  The belt order is white, yellow, orange, purple, green, brown and black. Once students reach intermediate rank (blue), they train to become assistant instructors.  At Stanford Kenpo, it takes ten years or more to achieve a black belt. 


    9.  Do you compete with each other or in tournaments?

No.  We do, however, perform demonstrations from time to time for student groups on campus.

    10.  What will I learn in the first couple classes?

You will learn some really cool things in the first classes!  You will learn blocks, kicks and strikes, how not to get hit by a punch, and also how to kiyai, or yell at the top of your lungs. Within the first couple classes, you'll go home knowing how to defend yourself against an attacker on the street.


    11.  Do I have to be athletic or particularly strong to do karate?

Not at all!  Kenpo Karate is designed to work for all different body types and athletic abilities.  Kenpo relies on tecnhnique, not strength or athletic ability.

    12.  What If I Can Only Come to 2 of 3 Classes each Week?

Students are grouped by belt rank.  It is difficult to teach a class when a student's attendance is inconsistent, as it holds back the progress of the entire class.  Please make sure you speak with an instructor if you can not attend on a regular basis.  In general, the student should try to average more than two out of the three classes a week in order to keep from falling behind.

    13.  What Do I Need to Do In Order to Get Course Credit?

Kenpo is officially a club sport, but there exists an optional course for credit. For course credit, enroll in course 78M in Axess.  In order to obtain satisfactory credit for taking the course, the Athletic department requires a minimum of 21 hours of participation.  Of course it is recommended that students acquire more than the minimum number of participation hours, since advancement of skill  comes only through practice.

    14.  Why do you guys like kenpo so much?
    People love Stanford Kenpo for a lot of different reasons, and these are just a few: 

                - It's a great workout
and keeps us from getting fat
                - Yelling, hitting and kicking pads and/or fellow students is an amazing stress reliever
                - It's great to know that you can defend myself if you're attacked
                - It feels so good to finally master a difficult move or understand a technique
                - The instructors are great and really care about your experience
                - You build a lot of trust when practicing karate with others, and those others
                  often end up being great friends
                - Sometimes you just need a class in your schedule that's NOT intellectual


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