Monday, June 12, 2006

Milwaukee: Another John Keehan Student


On Sunday I went to Milwaukee to meet Dr. Art Rapkin a former student of John Keehan. In 1964 Art was a 17 year old kid from Wisconsin who wanted to study with a master karateka, so he sought out John Keehan.

Today Dr. Rapkin is a reknowned healer. Dr. Rapkin runs the Kindo Center in Milwaukee. Meditation and healing is his way of life now. My fear most times is that I am dredging up some memories that people may not want to recall. You never know when you talk to people about John. But the proof of core discipline is in where so many of these man are in their lives now. More than a bump along the road of life John Keehan was in many way an inspiration. Count Dante is where the problems start.

Who we are at 17 and then at 55 is a lifetime away. Who knows what John might have accomplished had he lived.

When he found Keehan, he sent him to Jim Konsevic. Konsevic trained Rapkin and he then went back to John for advanced training. Interesting that John sent him to Tria's school AFTER he had split with the USKA. John also advised him to go to hairdressing school as a way to make money and to meet women. He did both.

I had hoped to speak with Myuang Gyi also. I never knew that Gyi was chief instructor for the USKA for Trias. Gyi was busy today so I did not get a chance to talk to him. I will try again in August. Maybe my son Djibril and I will attend one of his seminars on Letha Yoga.

Art gave me some insight into John and his style of fighting. He talked about John's ange, about how he used anger as a force in his teaching. John even managed to convince the impressionable 17 year old Art he could fight a bull as a demonstration at a tournament. It was really a gimmick. But he was training for it as if it were real. He talked about how John psyched him into believing he could do it. Dan Kelly found the article about him and the bull at the Chicago Historical Society. This was in 1968.

Art talked about John's charisma, his ability to attract and repel. John called him the night of the Dojo war he wanted him to fly out to Chicago from his home in Colorado. He did not.

Art also told me about how he challenged Bill Aguiar Jr from Mexico in 1976. How and why he was there probably had a lot to do with cocky youth, John's crazy influence and his tales of training in the Sierra Maestra with Che Guvera and Raul Castro and providence. I have been wondering if I could get a picture of John to Raul...I am serious.

What he did was not so far fetched. I found myself training with South African ANC Umkhonto we Sizwe, Spear of the Nation, fighters to be on the beaches of Dar Es Salaam in East Africa in 1974 when I was 21, the sensei was Nantambu Bomani. No I was not a guerilla. I was hanging out looking for my mission in life. Some of us got caught up in the times...

He had never heard of Aquiar. He wrote an open letter of challenge to Black Belt Magazine and sent a copy to Aguiar's studio. He never got a reply, he does not know if Black Belt ever printed the letter. That was a lifetime ago and many of change, some don't and some excel, like Dr. Rapkin.

I am not happy with the quality of the interview. But I got the necessary info. I will be interviewing Art again. I tend to feel like an interloper, dropping in on people on Sundays...all in a good cause...to me.

Art gave me the views of an impressionable 17 year old who slept on a mat on the dojo floor, felt the power of youthful immortality, almost lost it, was reborn, and unlike so many we know, including John has lived past 60 and tried to do something to heal the world.

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