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First and foremost, if you're here to get a history of Kenpo, you've come to the wrong place. The histories, and opinions of histories, of Kenpo are so convoluted and confusing that I'm not even going to bother digressing down that path. If you want a history of Kenpo, Google it, and then you can spend hours reading the conflicting stories of how Kenpo came to be. You will discover that there are as many experts of where Kenpo came from and how it evolved as there are factions of Kenpo organizations. Quite tedious, really. No, this is a history about me, my ideals, and the evolution of American Martial Training Systems. So if you're interested, read on...


My name is Sifu Steven J. Hull. I have been training in Kenpo for the past 22 years, and have been a professional instructor for 17 of that. My original instructor was Professor John Conway, Sr., whom I dearly cared for. In 1994 he passed away, and as I had already been assistant instructing for him, his family asked me to continue running and instructing at his studio. He actually owned more than one studio, the others being run by his son, Professor John Conway, Jr. After Sifu John passed, I continued my training under his son, Sifu Johnny, who tested me for my black belt in Kenpo. But that was not all. During my time with the Conways, I was also extensively trained in ground fighting and grappling, as Sifu John was a Judo instructor long before he began training with Ed Parker in Kenpo, and Sifu Johnny was a ground fighting wizard. Sifu Johnny's ability to logically combine ground fighting with Kenpo was extremely progressive (ahead of it's time, in fact, as it was shunned by many as not traditional),and my early years of training up to and through my black belt included both Kenpo and groundfighting. I like to say that we were MMA before MMA was MMA.


In 1996, Sifu Johnny closed his studios, and that is when I opened my first Kenpo studio. It was hands down one of the greatest moments in my life. I operated that facility under the name of Advanced American Martial Arts until 2001, averaging between 50-60 students. During that time I worked very closely with one of my own Kenpo black belts, Stephen Souza, who was not only trained by Sifu Johnny in Judo techniques, but also very experienced in wrestling. Together we formed a complimentary ground fighting style to go with the exceptional art of Kenpo. We did not, however, combine the two styles, preferring instead to not sacrifice the integrity of Kenpo by watering it down with other systems. So instead of combining the two styles, we chose for the belt tests to incorporate both, but the techniques of each system remained distinctly separate. If a student did not desire to train in what we called American Grappling, they could opt to only train in Kenpo (Now, of course, American Grappling means MMA, but at that time MMA was in it's infancy).


I closed my first studio in it's commercial location in 2001, choosing instead to pursue other career options so that I could spend more time with my family and focus on my own training. During this time in my life I went through a period of what can only be called martial arts transformation. I worked hard at attempting to perfect what I knew, and trained with many other exceptional martial artists to enhance my skills and knowledge base. (Perfect is a funny word, because I believe two things about perfection: 1) Only perfect practice makes perfect, and 2) I could spend a lifetime working on perfecting what I know, and still not be satisfied with the results.) I also began melding my firearms training with my Kenpo training. And this, I believe, is one of the biggest weaknesses of a large majority of martial arts studios. They avoid firearms training, which I believe is crucial to survival in todays society. Some avoid it out of fear, some out of arrogance, some out of misplaced traditional beliefs. Whatever the reason, the fact is we are an armed society, the bad guys carry firearms, and we as martial arts instructors have a responsibility to be trained in the proper care and use of these weapons, so that we can train our students. To attempt to handle a firearm scenario without a firearm is complete foolishness, unless there is no other option. Not training in the art of the firearm means you have left yourself with no other option. The melding of martial arts and the firearms arts is what creates a truly prepared combat technician


I formed American Martial Training Systems in the fall of 2001, and have spent the last 12 years strengthening and enhancing the way that Kenpo training should be approached. Up to 2001, I had taught Kenpo the way it was taught to me: Learn the required techniques, sets, and forms for the belt, work it on a person or persons, test for that belt, and start all over again on the next belt. But I had noticed three major problems with this almost unified form of instruction, the first within my own studio back then, and all three at every other studio I have visited, even to this day:

1. Basics, the building blocks of every martial arts system, are not drilled nearly enough.

2. Students are promoted through the belt system to black belt far to quickly.

3. Not enough attention is given to instructing the student on how to develop a proper combat mindset, which is crucial to survival in any physical encounter.

Much of this is due to the impatience to progress that is inherent within the western culture, and impatience has no place within the martial arts. The martial arts student should know and understand that developing the type of skills necessary to be competent cannot be achieved in just a few short years. Even more so, however, is the assembly line approach to martial arts instruction that has developed within the western culture over the last 50 years. No two students are exactly alike, so how can they be taught in exactly the same manner? Add to this the general belief that rank advancement and comfortable situations is the only way to retain students, and you end up with what is currently occurring: Instructors mostly ignoring any type of mindset instruction, casually teaching basics only from the perspective of getting the student on to more interesting martial arts techniques, then advancing the student so rapidly through the belt system they never have the opportunity to perfect their martial arts foundation. The end result being a large majority of black belts that are supposed to be experts, have the knowledge of an expert, but have yet to develop fully as a cultivated, capable, and competent martial artist. Conversely, when a martial arts student takes his time, learns his basics, develops proper mindset, and works his way through the curriculum with the desire to perfect as much as possible that which he learns, he becomes a much better martial artist at a much earlier stage than if he rushes through the belt system just to have that ultimate martial arts status symbol - black belt. Yes, continually working the same material over and over is boring, drilling basics is tedious, but repetitive drilling with a realistic mindset is what makes a combat technician solid in his martial arts skills, and truly confident in his abilities.


I have been training in the martial arts since I was a teenager, but chose at an early stage to dedicate myself to the art of Kenpo, as the ideology of inclusiveness and practicality felt natural to me. I have trained, and continue to train, in the art of the shotgun, rifle, and handgun. I have had the pleasure to be able to train with such fine and notable martial artists as John Conway Sr., John Conway Jr., Skip Hancock, Howard Jackson, and of course many others that aren't famous, but are very, very good. One of the biggest influences on all aspects of my martial training has been Col. Jeff Cooper, and I would encourage everyone to read his writings, especially on the subject of the combat mindset.


My belief system system is three fold: Be well-rounded, be honorable, and be prepared. Well-rounded: A martial artist should train in all aspects of combat and life. His training should not be limited to just "martial arts". The world, life, should be his open book, and every day should be a new opportunity to learn, to study, to train. Honorable: A martial artist should be true to himself, his friends, and his family. He should be honest, loyal, and committed. He should be willing to admit when he's wrong, and always do whatever it takes to make things right. Be prepared: A martial artist should make sure that he is ready for anything, no matter how improbable. His mental preparation should be as much a part of his training as his physical. As my father once told me "Be prepared! Don't get caught with your pants down."

American Martial Training Systems is built around this belief system, a belief system that continues to evolve. Kenpo is a way of life, indeed life itself, and not just a martial art. Kenpo's fundamental ideology of inclusiveness, logic, and practicality prescribes that the martial artist is first and foremost always a student, while striving to become a master of himself. American Martial Training Systems provides the student with quality instruction in a solid system of all inclusive, ever evolving martial training built upon the precepts of Kenpo. We believe that a true warrior is a philosopher by nature, and a survivalist by necessity.