Building character through art of Kenpo

“Enhancing character in every aspect of life” is the motto at AltaMeta Kenpo Ohana, a Kenpo school located near Triumph High School in Cheyenne.

Kenpo “is an updated system of martial arts based on modern-day street fighting that applies logic and practicality. It is characterized by the use of quick and powerful strikes delivered from all of the body’s natural weapons, powered by rapid stance transitions, called ‘shifting,’” according to Wikipedia.

Operated by Sensei and owner Douglas Pietersma, AKO has a focus on developing character. AKO’s brochure includes this statement:, “Personal character is the foundation for a successful life.” The school was established in 2015 and currently has 42 students.

AKO teaches not only self-defense skills, but other techniques that are unique and part of the martial arts world. The school teaches what a student should do when confronted by very hostile and dangerous situations. That training was on display during a recent training session, where students would find themselves in confrontational situations and would rely on their training to fight back.  The students may not use the same steps, but the training they learned is instilled into them and can save them from harm or possible death.

The students first prepare with various exercises for 30 minutes that they run through as a group before performing the basic skills or challenges given to them by Pietersma. One example is training for combatting with a stick called a “baston.” The training is used with long sticks and the student will do quick turns and defense moves using that weapon. Pietersma walks around during the training to help students who may be struggling to show them the correct form. He also practices with them by allowing them to spar with him. After the exercises, the real training begins. The students usually train for two hours.

Each group is separated by age. The youngest student ever was 4. The ages vary as most of the groups are families. There are four groups led by his top students who train the younger students in the abilities and movements and place themselves to be used as “training dummies,” so to speak.  AKO’s focus is on group training, which Pietersma said was more effective to student learning.

Some of the students attend the school multiple times a week to enhance their training and skills. The school meets in the evenings throughout the week. One Saturday of the month, AKO hosts a special kind of training called “Shugyo.”

Pietersma said Shugyo training is “an intense endurance training session that simulates belt testing. I learned the term from a book called, ‘Living the Martial Way’ by Forrest Morgan.”

Belt promotions occur about every six months, depending on how many of the students are ready. These ceremonies usually include instructors from around the U.S.


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