Sunday, March 21, 2010

In dojo heaven

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Today is Sunday and Pierini Fitness is normally closed so the chief executive blogger can rest his body, mind and spirit. Today, however, I’ll share memories of Sensei Ken Kuch, my karate brother from a different mother who passed away last month. He's the person on the left on the book cover in the photo.

This afternoon, I’m attending an informal Sensei Ken Kuch “Pizza Memorial” with my other dojo siblings to reflect on the memories we all have of our departed comrade. The following are my memories that I’ve collected in preparation to attend this memorial.

Sensei Ken Kuch began his karate training in the late 1960s as a teenager under the instruction of Steve Fox of Ed Parker’s International Kenpo Karate Association. He trained diligently and rose to the rank of first degree black belt in that system.

Eventually, Sensei Ken Kuch stumbled across Sensei Ron MCausland, a black belt of Takayuki Kubota’s International Karate Association (IKA). Sensei McCausland had relocated from IKA headquarters to start an IKA dojo in Sacramento. After a humbling sparring session and being on the receiving end of Sensei McCausland’s delivery of hard and fast Gosoku-ryu karate, Sensei Ken Kuch picked himself off the floor and decided at that moment to take off his kenpo black belt and replace it with a white belt as a new student of Sensei McCausland.

Sensei Ken Kuch trained hard under Sensei McCausland and quickly rose to the rank of shodan. One day Sensei McCausland asked Sensei Ken Kuch how far he wanted to go with his training and he replied that he wanted to be the best he could be and advance to higher dan rankings with diligent and progressive training. Sensei McCausland told him that he would need to train at the IKA headquarters with Soke Takayuki Kubota to achieve his goals.

True to his passion, that is exactly what Sensei Ken Kuch did. He quit his job, packed his modest material possessions along with his karate gi and relocated to southern California to train at IKA headquarters. He trained hard and diligently and rose to the rank of yondan before returning back to his northern California roots in 1988 where he settled in El Dorado Hills with his new wife.

He soon connected with some local IKA karateka who had trained years earlier with Sensei McCaulsand. This small group regularly trained in a room at a local gymnastics academy. Sensei Ken Kuch took charge of leading this group and they eventually relocated their “dojo” to the park and recreation district in El Dorado Hills. Sensei Ken Kuch instructed IKA-style Gosoku-ryu karate to a dedicated and loyal group of adults and children in the evenings on Tuesday and Thursday and Saturday morning for over 20 years.

New Year Day workouts and annual trips to the IKA headquarters dojo were regular activities of Sensei Ken Kuch and his small group of dojo brothers from a different mother and dojo sisters from a different mister as they continued to diligently train and gracefully age.

Sensei Ken Kuch continued to train regularly and seldom missed a workout even as he began experiencing health problems a couple years ago. He trained the Tuesday evening prior to his death on Thursday, February 25, 2010 at the too-young age of 60 years young.

One of his shodan disciples had this to say about Sensei Ken Kuch: “I especially enjoyed his advanced classes on Saturday's. He would demonstrate his 'signature' combination techniques. And I was always mesmerized with his speed and coordination of the beautifully choreographed moves and amazed that his techniques was always evolving and ever changing. “

Another student shared these thoughts in remembering Sensei Ken Kuch “. . . by picturing in my mind how he held his body and how he moved, the way he held his hands and the way they were when he blocked, his foot sweep, his steely glaze, and his kindness.”

Rest in peace Sensei Ken Kuch and we look forward to being reunited with you in dojo heaven.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, I didn't know Mr. Kuch, but I have had that book for years and enjoy the spirit of karate from that era. Very nice to learn about a person who devoted so much of their life to the art.

Cary said...

I was a patient of kens for over twenty years and i saw his orbit yesterday in the sacramento bee. I was devasted. He was a friend to me and we discussed many things. I was wondering if you can tell me what the hell happened???? He was so young. I saw him about a year ago and he seemed fine except for aging. Please let me know. I am not s weirdo but a person who deeply cared for Ken and feel a lost right now.
Melinda Nethaway

Jim Mather said...

Thanks for a great remembrance of Kenny. He was a great guy and great martial artist. His death was a huge loss. I'll never forget his easy manner and wonderful laugh... and his focus, speed, and strength on the dojo floor. He's missed by many.