John McKenna is the founder of
He received his First Degree Black belt in 1977.
The most important thing when looking for a
qualified instructor is:
Do you like the person?
Do they move in
ways that you want to move?
Are they in great shape? Do they
have skills that you want to learn?
Can you respect this person? Do
they have peace, poise, balance?
Do you like the
art that they teach?
Is this art useful to you and your personal
John McKenna has been a lifelong student of
Martial Arts. He has been teaching in Evergreen since 1983. John is a long time Evergreen
resident (since 1982).
Here is a brief overview of the Martial Arts path
John has traveled.
Raised in Queens, New York, it was a rough
neighborhood, street fighting was prevalent. Learning about it
seemed like a good and necessary skill for survival. The passion for
organized Martial Arts training was born out of this need at age
twelve when John studied Self-defense Books. Then John moved to Florida and it took a while to find a
good school because Martial Arts was new and just getting started.
At age sixteen John entered a training program with Sensei Al
Walters, trained 5 days a week and received his first degree Black
belt in Japanese Go-Ju Ryu Karate at age 19, This was the
Sensei Walters moved and John began training
in the other styles available, in hopes of finding a new
instructor equal to Sensei Walters in skill. This was a long
path. John Studied Lo Hans Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, White Crane Kung
Fu, Boxing, and Aikido for the next several years. Finally settling
down into Tae Kwon Do, starting over and earning 2nd degree
black belt under Chris Chelf in 1984.
In 1984 John McKenna met Bob Orlando and found
the teacher he had been looking for. Bob Orlando was a highly
skilled Black Belt in Chinese Kempo under Sifu Al Dacascos. When
John met Bob Orlando, Bob was studying Chinese Kuntao and Indonesian
Pentjak Silat under Willem De Thouars.
The Search was over. There was never a need to go anywhere else
after meeting Bob Orlando. He was an innovative pioneer in Martial
Arts, a highly skilled Black Belt, a great teacher, very demanding
and tough on the black belt students, and also a published author of
several Martial Arts books and various videos that were very
effective. John McKenna still calls Bob Orlando his teacher and has
been training with him for 28 years. Bob Orlando always encouraged
John to expand his skills in many areas. During the last 28 years
with Bob Orlando John has continued to augment his training with Jiu-Jitsu, Grappling, Small Circle Jiu-Jitsu, Indonesian Pentjak-Silat,
Tai-Chi, and Mixed Martial Arts.
People often ask "what degree are
you?" It is a meaningless question, because some schools
will promote a 9 year old kid to a third degree black belt after
years. Other schools don't award a first degree until ten years of
training have gone by. By then the 9 year old is 19 and a 7th degree
master. I think you get the idea. Some systems don't use belts and
yet produce fantastic practitioners. Perhaps asking someone how long
they have trained and what they have studied would be more
In our art of Kenpo/Kuntao we don't use titles or the word master. We know that we are always students
of this art. We continue to learn, and try to be humble about it. We
do not wear red stripes on our black belts to signify degree, but we
all know the levels of skill we hold. Suffice it to say that
Bob Orlando did award to John McKenna the highest rank possible in
this art, of GURU and full instructor, on April 1st 2006. But what
does that mean to someone? Not much.
Comparing apples to Oranges. It would be appropriate to say that
if a practitioner is training and teaching at the Black Belt
level he or she will mark another degree of skill every 5 years. So
we can always do the math if need be. Displaying the degrees
create unnecessary ego. As my teacher suggested to me, "why be
burdened with a sense of self importance and rank if you don't need
it to keep improving and enjoying your art". After all, it is a
path, not a destination.