John Downham started studing Kenpo in 1979 with Dale Ebberwein as his first Instructor. John worked full time as a chef at the Basque Norted in Chico (originally in Paradise). He was also working on his business degree at Butte College. Beacause of his schedule he studied privately with Mr. Ebberwein developing a life long journey. He had no idea he was embarking on!
Mr. Ebberwein would bring him to green belt where he competed locally and would end up at the internationals in Long Beach in the summer of 1981- driving his 1966 Mustang.
Studying contiued, but Mr. Ebberwein moved to idaho. Mr. Downham then would continue his study of Kenpo with Darryl Smith,Bill Sheehan & Kauto with Robert Ward. As he continued to train & teach he would receive a phone call from his friend Kevin Bates relaying that Ed Parker (father of American Kenpo) had passed away.
This awoke his deep desire to further his training to its greatest potential in Kenpo. He researched- deeply to find the one Instructor that was close to Mr. Parker, who moved like Mr. Parker. This brought him to Larry Tatum in Pasadena. His wife Casey was very supportive of this & would fly down with him to train privately with Mr. Tatum. Larry Tatum seeing his ability & progress quickly promoted him to 3rd degree Black belt August 5, 1994.
Mr. Tatum connected him up with Darryl Liner in Sacramento, a 4th degree black belt under Larry. Darryl & John became good friends and traveled back & forth to each other’s studios to practice what they learned from Larry Tatum. they would fly down together sometimes to train & sit on Master Tatum’s black belt board,testing future brown & black belts.
THE TATUM CONNECTION: Why? Mr. Tatum most importantly had the material to share, no holding back. All the extensions that few knew, the form 7 & 8 nobody really knew like Larry Tatum did. After Mr. Tatum released the video tapes with all the extensions, all of a sudden everyone seem to know the secret moves. Larry in his humbleness just smiled knowing the art lives on in those that want to learn.
Over the years Mr. Downham would continue to train, travel, train, teach ultimately teaching thousands of students. John’s own progress through the ranks would lead him to being promoted to 7th degree black belt (senior Professor) June 14, 2008, his son David was with him in Pasadena that day ( black belt himself under Mr. Downham).
Mr. Downham has continued to teach officers,security professionals,large groups of medical personnel, being a EMT himself has given him key insight in the medical challenges of training as well as an ability to run the medical at many events. But he feels the greatest reward has been training whole families, & seeing next generations return to train with him.
As the Dojo moves forward, John is looking forward to celebrating forty years in the martial arts in November of 2019. Until then he will continue to train everyone he can.