Sometimes the best amongst are the humblest, which is certainly the case with these exemplary martial artists.
ALEXANDRIA, VA, January 28, 2022 /24-7PressRelease/ — For many people, the practice of martial arts is a strange—possibly intimidating—concept. People often wonder what happens in a ‘dojo’ with unfortunate misconceptions often perpetuated by movies and television. But the martial arts, and specifically the art of Kempo, which we choose to practice, is not strange or mysterious. It is an ancient self-improvement practice with fitness training and self-defense fitted in to fill out the edges.
In life, we often find that our greatest adversary is ourselves, as we all too often stand in our own way—sometimes going so far as to sabotage ourselves actively. But in Kempo, we work to overcome these traits by developing and utilizing methods that work in the studio and as well as in other aspects of life. By doing so, we work to create well-rounded, successful, and healthy lives.
In this spirit, we wish to acknowledge the accomplishment of three of our most esteemed students. In December 2021, Kevin Simpson, Jon Jelsma, and Geof Gibbs earned their Fourth Degree Black Belts in the Art of Kempo. They are the first students to reach this level in Potomac Kempo’s seventeen-year history, representing less than one-tenth of one percent of our students.
These gentlemen have practiced the martial arts for an average of twenty years, teaching as well as training, and have studied multiple arts.
In addition to his Kempo practice, Kevin Simpson has studied Ninjutsu, Hapkido, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Army Combatives, in which he is a Level 2 Certified Instructor. He is a Sergeant First Class in the US Army Band, and he volunteers to teach both Kempo classes and grappling basics.
Before practicing Kempo, Jon Jelsma studied Tae Kwon Do, Shorin Ryu Karate, and Fencing. Amidst his Kempo practice, he has also studied Jeet Kun Do, Pekiti Tirsia Kali, Inosanto Academy Kali, and Kosho Ryu Kempo. He is a patent examiner for the US Patent and Trademark Office and volunteers to teach Kempo and Kali classes throughout the week.
Geof Gibbs began his martial arts practice with Kempo and has since come to supplement it with the study of Kali and Kosho Shorei Ryu. Having left a former life as a computer scientist, he is now a career instructor, acting as our Senior Staff Trainer and the Chief Instructor of our Huntington Metro studio location in Alexandria, Virginia. In addition to teaching Kempo, he leads our Kosho Club. Consistent with our relatively new tradition of passing on belts, Geof was presented with my own Fourth Degree Black Belt that I wore when I was that rank.
We are honored by their accomplishments and are proud to have them as part of the Potomac Kempo team. It is rightly said that “You are only as good as the people you train with,” and these exemplary practitioners are an asset to all of Potomac Kempo. Their work is a testament to lifetimes of dedication, learning, and growth.
One final thought: as I sat on the floor of an empty studio presenting belts to three very sweaty persons, I searched for words to capture the moment, for praise that would not seem redundant or superfluous. My mind circled twice, and I settled back on humility. I have known these men for decades; we have spent more hours training together than I could begin to count. They are my most accomplished students, yet they may also be my most humble students. And I don’t think that is an accident or coincidence. In martial arts, we tell the story of a student whose cup is so full it will not hold any more tea. Through all of these years, Kevin, Jon, and Geof have all managed to keep an empty cup, space to learn, never believing that they have learned it all.
I wish them a lifetime of continued success and health.
Chris Santillo, Sensei
Godan, Shihan, Master, Guru
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