Students learn to ‘Live clean, fight dirty’ at Kajukenbo AZ






It took Kelly Corder about five years to go from martial arts newcomer to black belt, but it launched him to start Kajukenbo AZ with his wife. Now his adult children are even involved as instructors. (Photos by Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)
It took Kelly Corder about five years to go from martial arts newcomer to black belt, but it launched him to start Kajukenbo AZ with his wife. Now his adult children are even involved as instructors. (Photos by Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

It took Kelly Corder about five years to go from martial arts newcomer to black belt, but it launched him to start Kajukenbo AZ with his wife. Now his adult children are even involved as instructors. (Photos by Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

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When classes transition from one finishing to another starting, the incoming and outgoing students bow in and out together. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)
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“Monkey lines” allow students to practice using their skills to fend off attacks.
In 2018, Kelly Corder, whose eighth-degree black belt in the mixed martial art of kajukenbo earns him the title of “professor,” was seeking a way to spend more time with family in a business he had started just for that purpose.

But Kajukenbo AZ’s two dojos, in Mesa and south Gilbert, had his family split up running them. So he found a good place at Warner and Greenfield roads with enough open space to run his classes, closed both dojos and opened in the new space.

“I think it used to be a church at one time and then a fitness center,” Corder said. “Now, it’s both.”

Corder smiled at the quip, but it is not far from the truth in the way he and his wife, Jennifer, run the place.

Fitness is an important component of kajukenbo, but so is the way a student conducts his or her life, Corder said.


The academy’s motto is “Live clean, fight dirty.” It may sound like one undermines the other, but Corder stresses fighting dirty is not about cheating in competition, for example, but rather about doing whatever is necessary to save yourself if attacked.

It is the “Live clean” tenet that colors most of Corder’s instructional efforts, with an emphasis on awareness, control and self-discipline.

“All of those things are what you should be learning in martial arts, and that’s what we teach,” he said.

Kajukenbo was developed in Hawaii as a combination of disciplines. The name is a blend of karate; judo and jiu-jitsu; kenpo; and Chinese boxing, or kung fu. The masters who created it brought together what was most effective from each, Corder said.

Corder was a latecomer to martial arts; he started at about age 26 when he needed a more physical means to rehabilitate from a badly broken ankle.

After building his way to a black belt, he and his wife, also a practitioner, started the academy.

But the academy is a night job for him. Corder runs his own software development company as his day job. He said he likes the mix of introverted and extroverted work from the jobs.

“It can make for a long day,” he said. “[But] I think I thrive on both at different times.”

Kajukenbo AZ

888 S. Greenfield Road, Gilbert

480-755-3008

www.kajuaz.com

Current class schedule: Mon./Wed. 5-5:30 a.m., 9-11 a.m., 5:30-8:15 p.m.; Tue./Thu. 5-5:30 a.m., 9-11:30 a.m., 5-8 p.m.; Fri. 5-6:30 a.m.; Sat. 6-10:30 a.m.; closed Sun.
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By Tom Blodgett

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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