SHAOLIN KENPO ASSOCIATION
1988 Co-Instructor of the Year: Ralph Castro
(Reprinted from Black Belt magazine, June 1988.)
Co-Instructor of the Year
One of the first things the late Bruce Lee noted about Ralph Castro was the creed the latter posted on the wall of his kenpo karate school. It read: "I come to you with only karate, empty hands; I have no weapons. But should I be forced to defend myself, my principles or my honor, should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong, then here are my weapons, karate, my empty hands."
The tenet was authored by noted kenpo instructor Ed Parker, who, along with Castro, learned the art from the late William K.S. Chow, founder of the system.
For nearly 35 years, Castro has followed this kenpo doctrine, imparting it to thousands of students. It is inconceivable that he has never been inducted into the BLACK BELT Hall of Fame until 1988, when he was named BLACK BELT's Co-lnstructor of the Year.
A devoted family man known to just about anyone who has trained extensively in the martial arts, Castro fathered the noted sister team of June and Juli Castro, who have both appeared on television shows and commercials. June Castro currently teaches the "Alive and Kicking" martial arts/aerobics program in Los Angeles.
Castro calls his system shaolin kenpo to distinguish it from Parker's style and to acknowledge the art's shaolin roots. He currently heads the International Shaolin Kenpo Association in San Francisco. A byproduct of classical martial arts training, Castro still adheres to tradition and discipline in his own teaching.
"Throughout my years of training, I've never subtracted anything from that which was originally taught to me as far as technique, application and philosophy," Castro notes. "However, to develop and improve students' performance, additions are occasionally made to compensate for individual differences and to fulfill a necessary updated manner of instruction."
To facilitate learning, Castro has incorporated techniques into eight fixed patterns called "key dances," which break down into 32 sets that correspond with the style's levels of advancement. There are four sets per key dance, each teaching variations on the basic techniques learned in the initial program. In this way, students can look forward to new sets to learn and master, heightening their desire and enthusiasm. After perfecting a particular key dance, a student has the opportunity to earn a half-step promotion in rank. There is no guaranteed advancement simply on the basis of a student's length of study.
"We don't play games," Castro asserts. "The philosophy at the heart of our system is simple: If you're going to raise your hand at all (to strike), you're going to mean it by a total commitment of action. There are no punches pulled or holds barred."
Similarly, Castro himself has made a total commitment to the arts since he first began studying kenpo with Chow in 1955. Such commitment deserves recognition, and Castro's induction into the BLACK BELT Hall of Fame was long overdue.
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