Ron Mason – Senior Professor
I have been aware of and involved in Martial Arts for a large portion of my life. My grandfather who was born in Denmark in 1905, studied both wrestling and, to aid him in that, Ju Jitsu. He competed at national level in his weight class in wrestling and had an obvious enjoyment in the tricks and techniques of Ju Jistu. My grandparents move from Denmark to New Zealand during World War II spelt an end to his competitive days but he did continue to train privately into old age. So herein lay the genesis of my own Martial Arts career, a fact that I now realise was one of life’s gifts to me and for that I am very grateful.
Moving on into my adult life, I had the opportunity to join a branch of a large Kempo school operated by Robert Gemmel who had traveled extensively and put together an eclectic style of circular technique, the combination of these techniques being seemingly unique to New Zealand. The system included a small amount of some of the information Mr Gemmel obtained during a training visit to Senior Grand Master Edmund Parker in California in 1979. Whilst most of Grand Master Gemmels system was apparently gleaned from China, the information and the literature of his style spoke constantly and in glowing terms of Ed Parker, a fact that has borne fruit in that the major numbers of students taught Parker Kenpo in New Zealand have instructors who were once Robert Gemmels students. These instructors were inspired to actually seek out Parker’s system, as they were unable to get the information under Mr Gemmel’s umbrella. To that end Grand Master Gemmel is to be congratulated.
So with more than two decades with Mr Gemmels school, where in 2004 I gained my 5th Degree Black Belt, I too left to seek out Larry Tatum’s Kenpo Karate. My journey into Kenpo Karate was greatly eased by the help given me by Shane Rongonui and Grant Morrison, who had been on this same journey nearly a decade earlier. They had successfully created a large Parker Kenpo School in Wellington/Porirua (www.kenpo-karate.co.nz) and as we had shared backgrounds, helped me avoid unnecessary pitfalls and have been wonderful providers of practical and moral support. I would also like to think that we provide them with an outward looking dimension to their school. We compete at their annual tournament despite the 1000 kilometres that divide us and follow the same syllabus, systems and ethics.
Another major thread of commonality is that both schools follow the syllabus of Grand Master Larry Tatum of Pasadena, California. Larry is seen as a hugely authoritative force in Kenpo and widely respected for both his background with Ed Parker and very much in his own right as the head of a very large international organisation that continues to keep the guiding principles of Kenpo true to its role as an absolutely practical and workable system of self defence.
Earlier this year (2009) my wife Gail and I visited Master Tatum and his wife Jill (a 8th Degree Black Belt and top exponent in her own right) at their studio in Pasadena. This was a wonderful life experience and a great compass of where our Kenpo School and techniques should be headed. On an international level for our school to be aligned to the epicentre of the Kenpo world can only be good for our students who domestically as mentioned enjoy close ties with the New Zealand Kenpo Karate Association of Shane Rongonui and Grant Morrison. On this trip I was presented with a 5th degree Black Belt from Grand master Tatum and feel huge pride in this equaled only by the sense of responsibility I have to provide my students with a top Kenpo experience. (to find out more about Grand Master Larry Tatum visit www.ltatum.com)
I also count myself lucky to have meet Senior Professor Graham Lelliot in New Zealand last year when he was here visiting his students in New Zealand from his home in Central California. Graham and his wife Jaydean stayed at our home in October 2008 and Graham instructed our classes to the delight and education of all. Graham is an international instructor and a first generation Parker student. On our trip to California, Gail and I spent a couple of very pleasant days visiting Graham and Jay who were amazing hosts. We visited Graham’s studio and met and trained with a number of his students and delighted in watching his junior class. Graham’s students in New Zealand are headed by one of his Black Belts from his Native Jersey Island (visit www.glkenpo.com).
My wife Gail has her own Martial Arts history and my daughter and son Aaron both hold Black Belts. My son-in-law is one of our keenest students in Kenpo and our little granddaughter continues a family Martial Arts tradition.
I have a wonderful student base both junior and adult whose attitude to learning makes the work of it very rewarding. That Gail is so into her own practice gives us a unity of purpose and has definitely helped Kenpo in the North to grow.
Our instructor pool is further made up of students who have succeeded in other areas of their lives and know how to be a student both in giving and receiving lessons with integrity and understanding. This of course is very important to us as we consider we run a school focused on family involvement regardless of age.
In February 2015 I was honored with an acknowledgment of our efforts around Kenpo by being graded up to 6th dan by Grand Master Larry Tatum. I was very humbled by this event and feel it can only be good for Kenpo here.
Commitment – Perseverance – Discipline
Having taken a far broader view of my Martial Arts than myself I was very privileged to be awarded my 7th degree black belt in March 2018 by none other than grand master Larry Tatum a 10th Dan with few if any peers in the art of Kenpo. I see my role in Kenpo as a conduit for expanding and sharing this wonderful art to others. I have been very fortunate to have a senior student base who share my vision and definitely have contributed to it. As with myself they have wider family involvement in Kenpo and take pride in being a part of Kenpo with family. My family is a strength in that regard, for me also with the fact that four generations have had or have Martial Arts as an avocation.
Larry and Jill Tatum have a continuum of excellence around their long career that is inimitable to the point that I take strength from it but try and be the best version of myself I can be.
Ron Mason 7th Dan LTKKA Area Representative