Chris Denslow began his journey with martial arts when he was 13. He studied Tae Kwon Do, or Korean Karate, then, as his family moved around, he studied several kinds of martial arts, including Tai Boxing, Mauy Thai, Bushido Ki and Aikido.
“There are two different types of martial arts: the hard stuff, that includes kicking, punching and using force, and soft stuff, which involves harmonizing with opponents, blending with them,” Denslow said. “I had an injury at age 18, and I had to stop the hard stuff. I was out for two years, and it drove me crazy.”
Then, in 1991, he was invited to a Tai Chi Chuan class in Detroit, Michigan, the kind of class he associated with slow-moving people in the park. He was expecting a leisurely class, but his legs hurt so bad by the end of his first session that he had to rest in the car awhile before he could drive away.
“I was hooked,” he said. “It was harmonizing and blending, but definitely a martial art.” Today he has a second degree black belt, and has taught classes at Casa de Yoga since 2001. In October 2007, he began adult and children’s classes for a few reasons.
First, he wanted to formally train his son, Addison, who was 10 at the time. Second, he was starting to “feel his age” and wanted to step up his fitness level. Finally, he wanted to give back to the community, sharing his God-given gifts.
“God has given me a talent,” Denslow said. “I love teaching and I love martial arts. The classes I teach now are a mixture of different martial arts,” he said, “with elements of everything, mainly Chinese, soft, centered and rhythmic, but with a definite cardio workout.”
The women’s class just started a few weeks ago and has a workout similar to the men’s, with kicking, punching, Chinese wrist locks and shuijiao, or take-downs of various sorts. His system includes all four elements involved in well-rounded martial arts.
“There are specific forms you have to learn that are simple and complex,” he said. “My belt levels are white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, red, three levels of brown, and black. All of them lay the foundation of the system.”
When a student reaches brown level, they’re required to attend a different class to learn a weapons form and be able to explain the applications of the form and demonstrate the form.
“They need to broaden their horizons, to stretch beyond the comfort zone of the school,” Denslow said. “Black is about the time and dedication to the system. If you can handle yourself in a fighting situation, control your emotions, exercise self-discipline and use the strength of the mind to get what you demand out of the body.”
Denslow said his classes are taught on the basis of his Christian faith, and students are generally Christian, and the children’s group is mostly homeschoolers. They’re structured with respect and orderliness, and the students call Denslow Sifu (see foo), meaning instructor.
“They’re kids and we want to have fun,” he said. “I try to walk a very fine line. I train them to listen to me, to learn, perform and excel in the structure.”
Denslow is extremely knowledgeable and could tell you everything you didn’t know you didn’t know about martial arts. In fact, he has a Masters degree in Chinese Medicine and can practice acupuncture, although he does not currently have an office in operation.
His current classes, however, include Kids’ Kung Fu Monday nights at 6:30pm, Adults Kung Fu Monday at 8:00pm, both at Gem of the Hills, and a brand new Women‘s Kung Fu Thursday night at 7:15pm at Casa de Yoga. Classes cost $25 per month, and $20 for additional family members. He also teaches a Tai Chi class at Casa de Yoga Wednesday night at 7:30. For more information, either swing by the class to check it out or call 830-833-1549.