Many are called, but few are chosen. This statement rings true when people are recognized for both their accomplishments and contributions in certain arenas of life.
For the Nobel Prize, nominating committees have given awards to: Peace, Literature, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, and Economics. Learned officials offer Pulitzer Prizes to excellence in Journalism including meritorious public service, editorials, correspondence, international and local reporting as well as feature writing and commentary. In addition, the Pulitzer goes to Letters in both fiction and general nonfiction (history, biography and autobiography), and poetry. Let’s not leave out Pulitzers in both Music and Drama.
Most of us are glued to the television when the Oscars are handed out each year for those special roles portrayed by actors and actresses; as well as for best director, movie of the year, and lifetime achievements. Then there is the Golden Globe and Grammy awards for special performances in acting and in the field of music.
For the athlete the greatest moment in a chosen sport either amateur or professional would be to help lead a team in winning a national title or world championship. Yet one could spend a whole career and not capture that coveted pennant, but be chosen for excellence in the field of one’s endeavor. Baseball, basketball, football and hockey all have a Hall of Fame and so does the discipline practice of Martial Arts.
One former Eastern Shore of Maryland resident was recently nominated for such an honor. William Bill Albert Hensel, who constantly practices and still teaches the martial art of Kenpo, was both proud and humbled to be selected. With the many thousands that have studied Kenpo since its inception in the early 1930s, only 300 men and women are currently enshrined into the Kenpo International Hall of Fame. Kenpo is one of the more difficult styles to master as it has borrowed principals from five different cultures. Beginning with China and then Japan followed by Okinawa, Hawaii and finally reaching North America.
Hensel, a 1970 graduate of Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin and my friend and fellow classmate, spent his youth on a small farm in Newark, Maryland, and his teenage years in Snow Hill. The adoptive son of Harold and Georgia Hensel, Wild Willie (a nick-name given to him for his intensive competitive spirit) was a star on Decatur’s track team, participating in the discus throw, javelin toss, pole vault and distance races.
Shortly after graduation, Bill worked in construction, building homes in the newly plotted area known as Ocean Pines, now a thriving Worcester County community. When he wasn’t laying bricks, banging nails or sawing boards, Hensel could be found catching breakers off the shores of Assateague Island, Ocean City, and parts of Fenwick Island in Delaware. As a surfing enthusiast, he enjoyed the refreshing cool waters of the Atlantic and the challenges of man working in harmony with nature and catching the perfect wave. It was during one such outing that Bill, while waxing his surfboard, met a Buddhist priest strolling the shoreline. During the brief conversation the priest told him that his spiritual path would include Martial Arts and the plant he would resonate with was the sturdy grass known as Bamboo. All of which would eventually become true.
Between 1971 and 1972, Hensel traveled to Philadelphia and began taking private lessons at a Karate Studio. In 1973 he moved to Denver, Colorado, where the area was ripe for construction opportunities and there was a Tracy Kenpo Karate Studio nearby. Hensel credits Al Tracy, one of the founding brothers of Tracy’s Kenpo and a Judan (10th degree Grand Master) black belt for his mentoring in his career as both student and businessman. Tracy was a former student of Grand Master Ed Parker. Bill Hensel received his Kenpo Shodan (1st Degree) Black Belt in 1976. By 1980 he was operating a wholesale/retail market featuring Martial Arts supplies including uniforms, training weapons and defensive equipment.
Through the 1980s and mid-1990s Hensel owned and managed three Tracy Karate Studios in the Denver area. He began offering the students private lessons, no belt testing fees, and demonstrating difficult situations with practical self-defense techniques graduating them into individual self-confidence. His studios became an immediate success. By 1994 Hensel received his Kenpo Godan (5th Degree) black belt. He also published several articles entitled: The Physics of Contact and The Kenpo Cane. Then in 1996 he closed the last of his studios and took up the art and craft of Bamboo fly-rod making. When not trout fishing the high streams of the Colorado foothills, he would occasionally take on a new student for Kenpo Style training or Bamboo fly rod making at his home in Pine Grove. Around the Denver area Hensel is known as Bamboo Bill for his ability to manufacture bamboo fly rods.
Briefly, Kenpo Karate is derived from the Kosho (ryu) Kenpo that the late Great Grand Master James Mitose (who was tutored by Grand Master Sakuhi Yoshida) brought from Japan to Hawaii nearly eighty years ago. Kosho ryu means Old Pine Tree School. Kenpo translates to Law of The Fist. Basically, it blends traditional Japanese Martial arts (Kosho Shorei Ryu Kenpo) with Southern Chinese Kung Fu (Chu an Fa Kung Fu). It is characterized by the use of quick moves in rapid-fire succession specifically intended to disable and overwhelm an attacker or an opponent. Kenpo is promoted strictly as a self-defense system based on discipline, speed and self-control.
For those of you who are practitioners and fans of the numerous styles which make up the Martial Arts realm, Kenpo Karate can be seen in Jeff Speakman’s movies: “The Perfect Weapon,” 1991, “Street Knight,” 1993, “The Expert,” 1995, and “Deadly Outbreak,” 1996. Incidentally, Speakman also joined Hensel at the Kenpo International Hall of Fame installation podium as both newly enshrined members received their plaques. The late King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley is also a Hall of Fame member. Presley was taught by the first true martial arts master in North America, Hank Slomanski. This highly-decorated Korean War veteran was declared in 1956 World Champion Karate Black Belt. Ultimate Cage fighter Chuck Liddell used the Kenpo Style to win the championship several years ago.
The Kenpo International Hall of Fame installation took place with more than 900 people in attendance in the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, on August 6th. In fact, it was a three-day Martial Arts extravaganza with demonstrations and seminars being conducted by some of the finest masters from around the world covering numerous styles.
Courses included simple stretching and kicking to complex rhythm and timing which enhances speed and power; as well as the 3 Es of movement: escape, evade and engage. Also, there were demonstrations on power breaking and crippling nerve strikes. Plus, defensive knife-fighting, modern arnis/eskrima (stick fighting) and classic Chinese Broadsword forms coupled with advanced Kenpo techniques involving ground fighting introduced by Jeff Speakman.
Shortly after his induction, Bill Hensel was notified by Grand Master Al Tracy that he had achieved the rank of Kenpo Shichi Dan (7th Degree) black belt making him just the 72nd person to be so highly regarded. For a peek at Hensel’s Kenpo Studio go to web site: Pines Kenpo Karate. For his Bamboo Fly Rod products see: http://bamboobillrods.wordpress.com/