I Am Collingswood: Andrew Faupel
Kenkojuku Karate owner Andrew Faupel explains how his practice embraces non-violence, discipline, and self-respect.
Collingswood's resident sensei, Andrew Faupel, discovered karate as a teen. As owner and head instructor at Kenkojuku Karate on Haddon Avenue, he's been sharing his gift for martial arts for over 10 years.
This week he tells Patch about how the philosophy he teaches his students extends beyond the doors of the dojo, fills us in on a new program for the littlest karate buffs, and gives us some tips on keeping ourselves safe when we're out and about.
Collingswood Patch: What style of martial arts are you trained in and where did that style originate?
Andrew Faupel: Primarily Shotokan karate. Shotokan came from Okinawa, Japan. Prior to that it came from China and if you go far enough back, from India.
Patch: When and why did you start your training in karate?
Faupel: I started when I was 13. The Karate Kid had come out recently. I think I was attracted a lot to the structure of martial arts, the discipline, and that it had rules and a kind of code to it. It became a huge confidence-builder. I'd had a chip on my shoulder for a long time.
I never wanted to fight, I'm certainly not a fighter. And I teach all of my students it's not about fighting, it's about not fighting.
Patch: Part of your mission at Kenkojuku is to “promote your guiding principles in all aspects of life.” What do you mean by that? Can you elaborate?
Faupel: Yeah, at the end of class we always say what's called our Dojo Kun: seek perfection of character, be faithful, endeavor to excel, respect others, and refrain from violent behavior.
They're meant to be your guiding principles not just inside of the dojo, but outside of the dojo. I mean, I take it pretty seriously. It's the way I live my life.
Patch: When are kids old enough to start karate classes? Tell me about the youngest students at the dojo.
Faupel: I have what's called the Tiny Tigers program. I just started it this year. We're in our 10th year and for the first nine I said there was no way I'd take kids who were under 5-and-a-half, 6 years old. But, now 4-and-a-half is our youngest in the Tiny Tigers program, and I have to tell you, I love doing it now.
So, we did Tiny Tigers 1 and this is the first time we're doing Tiny Tigers 2. For those that went through it the first time, it's amazing to see them now compared to when they first started.
We basically teach them courtesy. It's about standing in an attention stance, in a ready stance. We go over how to say certain things in Japanese: what sensei means, a gi is your uniform, we train at a dojo, how to count to five in Japanese.
Also, when I mentioned our Dojo Kun, there's no way a 4-year-old understands, “Seek perfection of character” and all that. So each week I have them color one thing. The first week is, “I respect myself” and it's a picture of a guy brushing his teeth.
And each week they have homework. For this week it was to draw a picture of one of the ways they respect themselves. They always come back with so many interesting comments about who they respect and what respect means.
Patch: Having taught self defense courses for so long, what do you think are the most important things we can do to keep ourselves safe?
Faupel: The first thing is prevention. So, not putting yourself in a dangerous situation is everything. Obviously, don't walk down the alleys by yourself. Simple things people ignore all the time, especially teenagers and young adults who may still think they're invincible.
If you see something that doesn't look right, cross the street, don't confront it. Always trust your gut. If something just doesn't seem right, we're so conditioned to say, “I don't want to look stupid.” If somebody's approaching you, you might stand there, staring straight ahead, thinking, “Oh my God, this person's getting closer, but if I move, now I'm the person who looks stupid.” You have trust your gut and look at them, make eye contact, have strong body language and posture and tell them, “You need to get back, stop, stay there.”
Once you've gone beyond prevention and trusting your gut, if you're in that situation, it's always best to try to fight back. No matter what it is. With the statistics out there on rapes and sexual assaults, 80 percent are performed without a weapon. Anything you can do is to your advantage to fight back when it's actually "Go Time."
You know, I do a lot of self-defense training for women for free because I think it's so important. Last year we did a program for the Junior Women's Club called "Fight Like a Girl"...and there were about 20 community members who just came for the free program at night.
Hey I look at it like this, if the statistics say that one in four women is a victim of a sexual assault, well, my mom, my wife, my grandmother, and my daughter all live in the same town. I'll do anything I can to prevent these kinds of crimes.
Patch: What can the practice of martial arts bring to a person's life besides increased strength and physical fitness?
Faupel: I think it brings a lot of balance. I think all the things you hear about Eastern thinking are true. Karate, in my mind, is not about the physical moves. It's about adapting to any situation that's thrown at you and then overcoming it. That's really what you're learning.