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American Institute of Kenpo Fun Facts, Black Belt Certificate Symbology

Black Belt Certificate Symbology

The Golden Corners:

The four golden corners contain the initials of those who influenced the founding and development of AIK. The top left is in honor of Sigung Stephen LaBounty, Mr. Pilch’s most recent Kenpo instructor. The top right is for Mike Winkeljohn, Mr. Pilch's instructor during his foundational years. The bottom left is for Lee Sprague, one of Mr. Pilch’s valuable mentors during his foundational years. The bottom right is for Bill Packer, the founder of the American Kenpo Karate Academies, the organization that Mr. Pilch started his Kenpo journey with. These men have pioneered not only the martial foundations we incorporated into AIK, but they also strongly influenced the ethical and professional model that we have today. 


The Tiger:

The tiger is representative of the early stages of learning and is often referred to as earthly strength (the physical) in historical symbology. The yellow and orange represent the first steps on the journey to proficiency, or the mechanical stage. The brown eyes represent the advanced students. The small amount of brown found only in the eyes represents how few actually make it to the advanced stages of training and how important it is to remain focused to make it there.


The Dragon:

The dragon is representative of the later stages of learning and is often referred to as spiritual strength (the intelligence, mental attitude, and humanity) in historical symbology. The representational attitude of the dragon should be the ultimate goal of any martial artist. With increased knowledge of the art of Kenpo, the fear of an aggressor will diminish and a fear of what one can do to an aggressor will increase. Through this process the warrior can turn his back on unwarranted conflict and walk away confident that the physical victory could have been achieved. The black of the dragon represents expert proficiency. The red is indicative of professorship. To remind the professors to be humble and to be able and willing to go back to any level to perform things expected of their students, traces of yellow, orange, purple, blue, green and brown can be found throughout the dragon. Most importantly, in the dragon’s eyes traces of white, which are symbolic of always being willing to learn, can still be found.


Pagoda Forest:

The roots of many martial arts are firmly planted in Shaolin temples and Chinese culture. The Pagoda Forest in the background honors these roots and influences in our style’s development. The right side with the clear sky represents those days and situations that are easy and prosperous for us. One should always be working diligently to cultivate and enjoy such days. The left stormy side represents the struggles and challenges of life that force growth and development. Anyone that achieves a black belt has faced both good and challenging days in their training and it is our hope that the skills developed to deal with the good and the bad will carry over into the lives of all of our black belt students until their last day.


The Floating Lanterns:

The floating lanterns come from the Japanese culture and are present in the certificate to honor those influences in our art as well as those that have paved the way for us and have passed on.  All black belts are encouraged to research the information contained on the lanterns further. 


The front lantern has the I-Ching on its side and the code of Bushido on the front. 


The code of bushido Kanji on the top row, right to left: Loyalty, Bravery, Courtesy. Bottom row, right to left: Sincerity, Truth, Compassion, Discernment.


The  I-Ching is a direct homage to Sigung Stephen LaBounty. The three lines represent the embryonic (ideal), mechanical (what if), and sophisticated (spontaneous) phases of learning. The circle represents the enlightened (sphere of one’s knowledge) stage reminding us that we are students forever. Information and skills will come to us from every direction. We should always be willing to share our gained wisdom with others. 


The second lantern contains anchors and triggers. “Bushido” is on the side of the lantern while “Whatever it Takes, Until the Last Day” is on the front.


The furthest back lantern has the AIK Friends and Family logo on the side and Shu, Ha, Ri on the front.


The Senior Master Belt:

The Senior Master Belt is on the diploma to represent Sigung Stephen LaBounty. It also serves to remind every black belt that, though we respect and honor their accomplishments, they should always strive to honor, respect, and constructively contribute to the lineage and the legacy of our art.

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