Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ken Knudson Memorial

See video of Jimmy Jones, Bob Wall, Doug Dwyer and Fred Degerberg talking about John Keehan here:
Quicktime™ |Windows Media

I arrived at the memorial for Ken Knudson about 6:00 pm at Ridgewood Cemetary in Des Plaines, IL. The place was packed as I expected. There were family, friends, Sybaris staff, and a lot of martial artists. I met Ken's wife, she was as warm and friendly as I knew him to be, very forthcoming and enaging.

Among the many martial artists were a few cops among them talking trade, about shooting, how tough they were, taking down big black guys about my size(sic). Old feelings come back from my teen years in the late 1960s. I am happy to say I never got my ass kicked by a cop, I guess I never met the wrong one. Youth can be hazardous. I did have my encounters. I once got taken into the backroom of the Greyhound Bus Station on Randolph by Chicago cops once upon a time. I thought this was gonna be it. I was handcuffed and jerked around the room. As I was jerked I went with it. I just shadowed his movements until we were almost dancing. I was tempted to accidentally put a okuri ashi harai on him because those cuffs hurt. Then what? There is nothing like the feeling of powerlessness when you feel so powerful. Why was I down there? I said "something smart" so I had to be arrested for disorderly conduct to "teach me my place." Someone there said we always remember ourselves as tougher than we actually were. Especially when there are fewer people around alive to dispute it.

What really bothered me is that this guy, a cop, meets me for the first time and in one minute he is telling me how tough he is and how he shows Black guys like me whats what by punching them out. My height and girth is that intimidating to him? He was shorter than me. Still, I never imagine myself as threatening. It bothers me. This is 35 years later and I have a 15 year old who is 6'2" tall. So this is how short cops will view him, as a threat of some kind? Of course I know the answer to that question. Social engineering is a skill best applied against people with no preconcieved notions of who you are. I am trying to teach him how to casually finesse himself out of sticky situations. Jail is a waste of time, cops are still right even when they are wrong is too many situations. The pressure of the job???? If you can't stand the heat, seek counseling or change professions. Law enforcement is not a job I could or would do, it takes it's toll I am sure, but it should not affect the innocent. Ok, off the damn soapbox. some of my best friends are cops, but they have desk jobs.

Some of the young martial artists were clearly in awe of the older guys, there was bowing all over the room from them. The classic karate environment is still in place in some schools.

Ken Knudson was Jimmy Jones's student. Jimmy showed up after I arrived. Bob Wall flew in from LA just for the memorial. He arrived at 5:00 pm and was back on a a plane at 10:00 pm.

There were a few people there I wanted to talk to. John Nanay, a Serbian guy I had heard a lot about showed. He was a student of John's back in 1961-2. Doug Dwyer was there also. He was looking good. Fred Degerberg showed up. I have called him numerous times. I met this guy, Jim Reiker, who was with Ken the day they won the street race and decided not to fight the "wanna-be mobsters." The picture of Chicago, the richness of the city back then really comes through in stories like this. Ken and Jim raced all over, including on the South Side right behind the Robert Taylor projects next to the Dan Ryan. And this was with the cooperation of the police who would block off the streets.

There were stories and stories and more stories. I was sorry I did not have a cameraperson with me. I basically went to make contacts. I did not want to do anything that might be disrespectful. I took a few notes on my miniDV. Doug is ready to be captured again on HD, as is Jimmy Jones, Ben Peacock showed up also later in the evening. I do not hold my camera in front of my face. It is awkward, it is intimidating with people you do not know. People will talk to me, seem more relaxed when I don't have a camera in front of my face. I need a cameraperson. Soon come.

Doug was really lively, he was less guarded than when I first met him. Our HD interview is guaranteed to be fun. He is full of those stories from the early days of moutfuls of teeth being spit on the Coliseum floor in matches that pit Black Muslims against Marine karate team members that resulted in chases down Wabash Ave. Such were those early days of full contact.

I am really ready to kick into the next phase, the HD interviews with a small crew. I got some problems of style and art direction to solve in the next two weeks, some content issues and structure to think about. I am still asking myself do I belong in this story. Is my voice and story really part of this?


jimrock said...

We travel the same circles Floyd. I was on the other side of the fence at Marquette Park where I was raised. My first experience with a 16mm film camera was perched in a tree as Collins and his band of followers spewed hatred. I was not raised in a hateful envioment but my classmates are forever preserved on film. I was also a student of Doug Dwyer when I had classes on 63rd street. I also remember reading about a fight between two karate schools that resulted in someone's death. I thought the Count had something to do with that. I also found the love of Blues music at an early age recording interviews at the Checkerboard in the back of a beat up van and Maxwell Street. That love turned into Gospel which has brought me to Tanzania and Senegal shooting great gospel groups. Now I shoot some jazz groups where I heard your name from my friend Tom Buckley. I just put an HD camera package together and am looking for a story. I like the story of the story of you finding the Count. We should get together and compare notes.I smell something good.
Jim Quattrocki

Anonymous said...

miss you dad.. peace be the journey