Caution: You’re about to read comments from a real martial artist (Matt Page) interspersed with comments from a fictional character (Master Ken). To make it easier to distinguish the two, we’ve italicized the words of Master Ken.
BLACK BELT: WHEN A PERSON TEACHES AN ART AS DEADLY AS AMERI-DO-TE, IS IT ESSENTIAL TO COUNSEL STUDENTS ON HOW NOT TO WIND UP IN JAIL?
Master Ken: Absolutely. Some of the moves I’ve invented simply cannot be taught for liability reasons. For example, recently I created an inescapable hold where you trap your opponent’s arms and legs, then you sit on their head and release a lethal barrage of flatulence to suffocate them. It’s called the “gas chamber.” I can’t send civilians out in public with that kind of knowledge. It’s just too dangerous.
Years ago I took an invaluable class called Introduction to Business Law at the Central New Mexico Community College, and my instructor, a one-legged veteran named Jim Hooker, gave me the most important piece of legal advice I’ve ever heard: “Dead men don’t sue.” And he was right. Because a year later, he died in a freak accident at a meat-processing plant and ended up being served as ground beef at three Albuquerque public schools. Nobody even noticed until some cheerleader bit into a sloppy Joe and broke her tooth on what turned out to be a piece of his catheter. But the point is he never pressed charges because he was deceased at the time of the accidental ingestion.
BLACK BELT: WHERE DID THE CONCEPT FOR MASTER KEN AND ENTER THE DOJO COME FROM?
Matt Page: In creating Master Ken, I was influenced by something I noticed: Some instructors, no matter how skilled or intelligent, tend to bad-mouth other styles. They see a move from some other martial art and say, “That’s not bad, but in our style, it’s better because we do it like this.”
Each time something weird happened in any dojo, I would take a mental note and say, “Someday I’m gonna do something creative with all this.” Eventually, I found my way to New Mexico and went to College of Santa Fe, now Santa Fe University. Once I received my bachelor’s degree in moving-image arts, I saw that everyone was making their own Web series. At the time, I’d become obsessed with Ricky Gervais’ original version of The Office on the BBC, and I decided I wanted to try that but in a world I understood. So I chose martial arts.
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BLACK BELT: WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH WITH ENTER THE DOJO? IS IT PURE ENTERTAINMENT?
Matt Page: The goal now is really the same as when we created the first episode: I want to entertain people while making a commentary on things that are important to me. It’s not just about the jokes; it’s about pointing out the contradictions in various teachings and the commercialization and the issue of theory vs. practice in the martial arts world. But I want to address it all with humor. I’ve gotten emails from soldiers with PTSD, martial artists who struggle with depression and people from all walks of life who thank me for making them laugh and helping them forget their troubles for the moment. That’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever gotten out of what I do.
BLACK BELT: YOU’VE APPEARED AT THE MARTIAL ARTS SUPERSHOW IN LAS VEGAS TWO YEARS IN A ROW. HOW DID THAT GROUP OF EXPERIENCED, PROFESSIONAL MARTIAL ARTISTS FEEL ABOUT THE MESSAGE YOU PROPAGATE?
Master Ken: The first year, I was like a tsunami of truth that forced many so-called “masters” to re-evaluate their training and, quite frankly, their lives. I think that’s why they wouldn’t allow me to perform at the opening ceremony this year. They lost too much business on people closing their schools so they could take up Ameri-Do-Te. I’ve made a lot of enemies, but then again, so did Napoleon. And he was able to conquer most of South America despite the fact that he was shorter than a Shetland pony.
BLACK BELT: DO YOU HAVE FORMAL TRAINING IN ACTING?
Matt Page: I’ve been taking acting classes and performing in plays since I was a kid. My influences range from old episodes of Saturday Night Live to mockumentaries by Christopher Guest to more serious cinematic works like the films of Robert Zemeckis, David Fincher, etc. But I’ve loved comedic movies and television shows for as long as I can remember.
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BLACK BELT: DO PEOPLE EVER RECOGNIZE YOU ON THE STREET? WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF THEY DID?
Matt Page: I rarely get recognized mainly because Master Ken looks and speaks and moves so differently. I’ve been told I look 10 years older when I get into costume and makeup and put on the voice, and that’s flattering. I have great respect for character actors who can disappear into a role. I’ve had conversations with people as Ken, then gone up to my hotel room and changed out of costume, and 15 minutes later, that same person will have the exact same conversation with me all over again.
As far as anonymity goes, at first I was really concerned, especially since I make a show where I [insult] trained fighters. But most people know I’m kidding, and the recognition I’ve gotten from Enter the Dojo has been wonderful.
BLACK BELT: WHAT’S THE MASTER PLAN FOR YOUR DOJO? EXPANSION ACROSS THE USA? EVENTUAL WORLD CONQUEST?
Master Ken: For starters. But why stop there? My ultimate goal is to be the first person to open a dojo on the moon. Imagine how devastating my techniques would be without the restriction of gravity. You could kick an opponent and send him hurtling through space forever. I’d have to hire someone to clean the bathrooms, though.
BLACK BELT: WHAT’S IN STORE FOR ENTER THE DOJO? ANY TV ASPIRATIONS?
Matt Page: After Season One, I got to pitch the show to a few cable networks, but nothing happened. That was back when we had about 1 million channel views. Now we have 11 million and counting, and I get inquiries at least once a week, but nobody seems to know what to do with us. I’ve gotten several offers to take the show off our hands for free. But if someone is serious and wants to step up and fund the show, I’d be all for it as long as we can keep making it the way we want. Luckily, with the way distribution is now, we can continue to get the show out to the masses through YouTube, through Master Ken Live and through our merchandise, and it’s on our own terms.
BLACK BELT: MASTER KEN, BEFORE WE FINISH THIS INTERVIEW, IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SAY TO OUR READERS?
Master Ken: My message is that martial arts is about staying alive in the street. It’s not a sport, and it’s not a hobby. If that’s what you want, take up pingpong or collect figurines. And when I say “the street,” I don’t mean an actual street. I wish all the rapists and murderers lived on the same street. If they did, I could tell my students, “Hey … don’t go down that street.” But life doesn’t work that way. So whether you’re in bar, in the office of your proctologist or in an actual street, you’re in “the street.”
It has been a pleasure to use this interview to spread the word about the power of Ameri-Do-Te. I look forward to the next issue of White Belt magazine.
BONUS TIME! Master Ken on Bullying
“The issue of bullying requires that we teach kids self-defense. Where most programs get it wrong is with ‘anti-bullying.’ There’s a saying in judo: When pushed, pull. You’re supposed to use your opponent’s strengths against him, so why not take the positive aspects of bullying and use them in self-defense?”
“That’s why I’ve developed a program called Better Bullying. Bullying isn’t inherently bad. It’s just that the wrong kids are getting bullied. So we work on teaching kids how to identify the bad kids and use the three principles of Better Bullying: One, always attack someone smaller than you. Two, outnumber your opponent whenever possible. Three, scatter before authorities arrive.”
Master Ken on Breaking
“I’ve never been attacked by a pile of lumber. Styles that focus on the number of boards broken are an embarrassment to real street fighters. You don’t need to focus on kicking someone’s femur in half. But there is something other than trees that grows out of the ground that we can use for training: fresh fruits and vegetables. It only takes 8 pounds of pressure per square inch to break a collarbone — or a cucumber. If you can use your hand to open a cantaloupe, you can crack a human skull. And if you can squash a grape, you can burst a testicle. The best part about this particular training method is that you end up with the ingredients for a healthy salad.”
Master Ken on Weapons
“I don’t need weapons because my tiger claws are always with me. Even when I’m naked, I’m still fully armed. Learning Ameri-Do-Te is like swallowing weapons-grade plutonium — except in this case, you don’t die from radiation sickness. You become a walking weapon of martial destruction. Especially if you train right after eating some New Mexican food.”
Master Ken on Tournaments
“The few tournaments I’ve attended with my students have been a confirmation that Ameri-Do-Te cannot be contained by regulated competition. There are no rules in a street fight, and that’s the way we train. Which explains why we have been disqualified from every tournament we’ve ever attended for excessive contact or illegal moves. There are more sports-regulation violations in one minute of Ameri-Do-Te training than in an entire pint of Lance Armstrong’s blood.”
Photos by Cory Sorensen