Larry thought some of you would enjoy his insight from an Australian interview.
Larry Tatum provided this fascinating insight on how he perceives Kenpo as a paradigm for life in this in depth interview with KKA Queensland Director Tony Perez.
T.P. You often express Kenpo as a paradigm for life. How did your experiences in Vietnam establish this belief?
L.T. In 1968 I became a solder in the Army. During my three years in service I spent one of those years in Vietnam. It was on this journey that I can relate to you the manner in which time and duty are compressed into a time frame that only a soldier knows.
When my plane landed at 1:00 in the morning we stepped out of the plane and were hit with the thick air of the Vietnam climate. All my senses were suddenly on alert sorting out this new place that I was to stay in for a year.
From the moment one steps into a war zone your past life in terms of relative time stops. How you encountered life back home gets balanced between space and time. Your home life moved along at a certain pace in which time of action was regulated by your needs. In short you knew that each day, life at home was secure as you paced yourself to get through the day, a pacing that was measured by your daily actions: eating, work, etc.
My sense of reality and my awareness of time changed now that I was submerged into a world of war. Life in Vietnam depended on where you were stationed and did not move at the same pace as "home life". Life and death in Nam were new constants to embrace. Your survival and the survival of others were constants as well.
I was looking at life through new eyes. Because of my inherent ability to accept reality I accepted that the things of war were now part of my life sooner than others might in my situation.
T.P. They are great examples of the significance of the first 2 considerations of Kenpo - Acceptance and Environment. How did the intensity of that environment affect your own beliefs?
L.T. I remember watching other soldiers going home as we were coming in. Many had the distant stare that is only from prolonged action in war. These young men had in one tour, condensed years of experience in battle, into one year.
The life most people lead outside of war takes years to develop certain wisdom's. A normal life span is a balance of comparisons to the situations that a soul encounters daily. It is through these encounters that one discerns the things that are good for themselves and what things are good for others. As time goes by, one finds their niche within the realities that exist measured by their experiences. Being thrust into a war zone however, forces one to compress experiences into a very short time. Beliefs that you held sacred at home are of no concern to the enemy and you are forced to make a place in your heart for what you hold sacred in a new place, for a land in the war you are in.
In a war zone, if you have to kill then the moment killing presents itself you have little or no choice but to act out of instinct. Time is being compressed for you by the actions of the enemy. Core beliefs are in many cases put aside for primal existence.
T.P. What sort of adjustments did you have to make when you returned home? How did Kenpo help you with that?
L.T. When I came back from Vietnam I found that time to me for a while was still measured and based upon my tour in Nam. Being home prompted me to readjust to the time factor that "home existence" was built around. I no longer had to compress my core beliefs, my standards of living.
One year over in Nam was a life time. In short you grow up to the realities of life.
So it is that on the mats of a Kenpo School, time is compressed as well, in order to address to you the realities of life such as brutality and beauty, anger and love.
For some, through learning techniques and encountering confrontation on the mats, it is the first time that they come in contact with core beliefs that they may not have even knew they had inside themselves.
For some studying Kenpo starts shedding light on what they thought was reality but really was an "ideal phase" of their thinking. This is selective reasoning.
Others see themselves as they are through Kenpo and are eager to see further into the landscape of their souls.
T.P. So viewing Kenpo as a paradigm of life is really a reflection of time and experience the past, present and future. What one did yesterday brings one to the present and how one deals with the present ultimately will influence ones future?
L.T. Yes, Kenpo is built around the realities of life. For example:
A 30 year old adult enters a Kenpo school and is now coming into contact with emotions dealing with things he may have left behind in his thirty years, as well as things that he over looked, things that may have offered greater growth and things that may have hindered growth.
In his 30 years he has placed things he wanted to acquire, either knowledge or physical things, in a time frame of when he could achieve them.
The things he has set up to acquire in life are hung in his mind on a string of time and will offer enlightenment for him as he searches for various means of attaining wisdom.
But time in a Kenpo school is different and the lessons learned inside a dojo are not just "things" on a list to acquire, but rather a condensed version of life. Time as he once knew it is now suddenly brought into a frame work of learning that is not so far down the string of time as originally thought.
The very wisdom he will acquire is condensed as well. One self- defense technique carries a lifetime host of concepts and principles. To understand that, is a journey within itself.
T.P. Thank you Grandmaster Tatum. We look forward to having you back in Australia soon.
Have a great gun carryin' Kenpo day