martial arts pop culture

I have a confession to make.

I was actually a ninja long before I stepped foot in any dojo. In fact, by seven years old, I already had plastic shuriken and two mini-swords as well as epic shoulder pads and a red headband.

I know. I was dang near ready to join the Iga ninja clan.

Mind you, I only wore this outfit and wielded these bend-before-breaking weapons once or twice, specifically on October 31st. After my Halloween spent as a "ninja", I spent subsequent Octobers as a street fighting karate master with ripped sleeves and a dark alter ego. The people around me called me "Ryu" back then.

Moral of the story: I had dope halloween costumes when growing up and, more importantly, the martial arts we train have an impact on more than just the lives in the martial art studio. Nowadays, pop culture has a close, curious eye on the things we do in the dojo. Martial art stories have become intertwined with countless books, TV shows, performances, and conversations.

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The comedic genius — and real-life martial artist — who lurks under the skin of Master Ken is Matt Page. This schizophrenic interview will introduce you to both of them.

If you haven't watched the wildly popular Enter the Dojo comedy series, do it now. Before you read this article. Go to YouTube and click. That's the only way you'll be able to put a face, a voice and a moustache behind the wacky words that come from the martial artist known as Master Ken. 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 YOU'RE IN CHARACTER AS MASTER KEN, YOUR MOVES REMIND ME OF KENPO. DO YOU COME FROM A KENPO BACKGROUND? Matt Page: My first style was Okinawan kenpo and kobudo. I received my first-degree black belt from Rich Pelletier in 1996. He was an amazing instructor and instilled discipline and structure in my life when I really needed it. His school was very traditional and gave me a strong foundation not only in martial arts as a way of self-defense but also in martial arts as a way of life. After that I moved around a lot and sampled various arts: aikido, boxing, stick fighting, etc. Then I settled on American kenpo, studying under Tony and Erika Potter in Santa Fe at one of Jeff Speakman's kenpo 5.0 schools. I'd always wanted to learn the kind of kenpo I'd seen in movies like The Perfect Weapon, so that was great fun. More recently, I've been studying Brazilian jiu-jitsu. There are so many styles I'd like to study — hapkido, kung fu — but for some reason, I'm always drawn back to some form of kenpo.

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