Gene Braden - President
Mr. Braden believes the knowledge available in the Kenpo system is endless. The more you learn about Senior Master of the Arts (SMA) Edmund Parker’s American Kenpo, the more you realize there is so much you don’t know.
As a child, Mr. Braden loved to watch Kung Fu Theater on Saturday mornings. After viewing his first episode, he was determined to learn a martial art. In 1989 he stumbled upon an American Kenpo Karate Academies (AKKA) affiliated school owned and run by 5th degree Black Belt Eric McEnaneny and signed up.
The AKKA was founded by Senior Grand Master (SGM) Bill Packer, which is primarily a form of Chinese Kenpo. Although the system is not the American Kenpo system taught by SMA Parker, he felt it gave him a solid foundation of the Kenpo system, having the same forms, basics, and principles. While attending Mr. McEnaney’s school, he was promoted to Assistant Instructor and taught classes three days a week for several years. During this time, he competed in many tournaments placing in Kumite and Kata divisions and had the privilege of attending seminars with SGM Bill Packer.
In 2006 Mr. Braden joined an American Kenpo Karate school in Cameron, MO, run by Mark Bundy, where he continued his training and promotion in the art of Kenpo.
During his time with Mr. Bundy, Mr. Braden had the opportunity to train with great people such as Si Bok Tom Kelly, Senior Master Dennis Conatser, Grand Master Frank Trejo, Senior Master Huk Planas, Master Rich Hale, Senior Grand Master Dave Hebler, Senior Master John Sepulveda, Associate Master Brian Duffy, Senior Master Bob White, Master Jeff Speakman, and many others.
Mr. Braden states that it was people like this that made him strive to achieve even more. He continued his training under Mr. Bundy in the Kenpo 5.0 and original Kenpo curriculum, assisted with classes as an instructor, and continued competing in tournaments to challenge his skills. Mr. Bundy, who was under the instruction of Mr. Hale at the time, suggested that Mr. Braden consider training directly under Mr. Hale as well. In 2011, at the recommendation of Mr. Bundy, Senior Professor Rich Hale accepted Mr. Braden as a personal student.
Mr. Braden says the passion Mr. Hale shows for the art of Kenpo has taught him that there is so much more he needs to give back through teaching and helping others. Under Mr. Hale's guidance, he's continued his training, going back through all material previously learned to refine his skills in the art of Kenpo. In June of 2011, Mr. Hale promoted Mr. Braden to 3rd Degree Black Belt.
Mr. Braden's and his wife, Lee Braden, opened an American Kenpo Karate school in St. Joseph, MO, in September of 2011 named Scholar and Warrior Kenpo Academy. Through his time as a student and instructor, Mr. Braden feels privileged and humbled, having learned from the eldest and great masters of the art and the smallest and youngest of students. Mr. Braden says, "The more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. The study of various forms of martial arts such as Chinese and American Kenpo, Yiliquan Kung Fu, and Sport Karate has made me who I am. However, my heart will always be with American Kenpo.
In 2017, Mr. Hale humbled me by announcing me as President and successor of his association. What an amazing honor! I have been trying over the years to fill these shoes and grow into this position. I only hope to make Mr. Hale proud and happy that he gave me this great honor!"
In September of 2015, after continued training and teaching in the art, Mr. Hale promoted Mr. Braden to 4th Degree Black Belt. Mr. Braden considers this to be one of his highest honors. "Every promotion is a great moment in a student's journey, but this was a big one! There is so much more to learn in my martial arts journey, and I feel I have a long way to go."