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Meet Richard Arnold of Tempe Shao-Lin Kempo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Richard Arnold.

Hi Richard, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My name is Richard Arnold, and I am the Chief Instructor and owner of Tempe Shao-Lin Kempo, a community martial arts school by Kiwanis Park that opened in June 2021! We teach traditional martial arts and modern self-defense skills for all ages.

My journey began in my hometown of Salem, OR. When I was younger, I enjoyed being outdoors but didn’t find any interest in sports. Plus, with it constantly raining, I watched too much television and played too many video games, as kids often do without alternative stimulation. When I was 9 years old and saw my cousin performing a martial arts demonstration at our elementary school, I realized I could actually be the one making all those cool moves I’ve seen in the games & movies. My dad, also Richard Arnold, had been trying to get me interested in learning martial arts for a couple of years, but I was too nervous or scared, and I was dealing with the loss of my mom in 2006. My cousin was only a beginner and never really took it that far, but he gave it his all in front of everyone at our school. This told me that I could also succeed if I put in my full effort.

I joined American Schools of Shao-Lin Kempo under Headmaster Robert Pearlswig and his son, Master Zach Pearlswig, and never looked back. Within months, I knew I had discovered my passion and told my family and instructors that I would someday have my dojo. Two years later, I began my instructor training at Green Belt. My father got back into training by the time I was 12 but had torn his ACL preparing for a tournament; he originally strained the injury by working in union scaffolding. In 2011, my masters shared their plans to branch our system into Arizona, and we decided to join them. My father needed to switch careers, and we wanted our instructors to be the best of the best. After a 3-year hiatus from training martial arts, my father overcame the plateaus of his knee recovery with lots of help from our instructors and physical therapy. Since then, he has risen through the ranks to black belt and now helps me run my school here in Tempe. In the meantime, my instructors helped us overcome any and every obstacle, helping to propel my undergrad education from ASU to completion by the time I was 20 and opened my school here in Tempe at 23.

This martial arts system has done wonders for us, and my life’s goal is to help others achieve their success by providing them with the same feelings of safety and confidence. The greatest thing about my career is that everyone has their version of what success looks like, and we all have different reasons to train, but we all share these same tools to improve the lives of ourselves and those around us.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a smooth road?
Luckily, we’ve had the guidance of our masters and the other instructors over the years to help set the framework for the long journey ahead. Our career is often one of paving one’s path and rising above adverse circumstances rather than walking the same roads most follow. Sometimes, digging the trenches can be anything but smooth! But my job allows me to pursue my passion for learning and teaching daily. I have the privilege of helping others feel safe, confident, stronger, and more focused while having fun simultaneously! Martial arts is also a path that requires us to be flexible when faced with struggles. I’m sure I could list a million problems that have piled up throughout the years: money, school, family life, COVID, etc., but I think most important is finding solutions to those problems and taking preventative actions to stop them from reoccurring. We have to think positively for positive things to happen!

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Our martial arts system is known as the American Schools of Shao-Lin Kempo, a group of schools throughout Oregon and Arizona under Headmaster Robert Pearlswig. He has been teaching what is known as American Shao-Lin Kempo since 1973. Our self-defense system has its roots in Chinese Kung Fu, but over time has blended with Japanese Karate and other martial arts practices. It has an excellent balance of traditional training and modern application now that times have changed. This art form has had 1500 years to develop and discover what works, even though every person is different. My father has studied martial arts from many instructors throughout his life. But what has always kept us with American Schools since we discovered them is the quality of the instructors and the students. They produce people as well as fighters. That’s something all of us in our organization take pride in. Many of our members have studied other arts in the past. But choose to study with us now- for the same reasons I do after 15 years. I’m most proud of everyone leaving each class feeling better physically and mentally and more capable of staying safe. If your readers want to know more or have friends in family near our other locations, they should get the whole story from our website, Shao-linKempo.com. It has more of the story!

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
My view on risk-taking is that when you commit to doing something, you’re committing to everything that can go right and wrong! The symbol we wear over our hearts on our uniforms is simply the Yin-Yang because it represents the important concept of duality, and neither negative nor positive can exist without the other. Martial arts teaches you to try to be aware and cautious, but we also push the envelope to redefine our limits. This can come with risk. When I assess a situation, I try not to kid myself about how good or bad it will be. I ask myself if I can accept all the possibilities regardless and if I’ll be able to handle the difficult situations they might bring. I have taken a lot of risks and sacrifices to achieve great things. Most of them have paid off; the failures have at least been something to learn from! I dedicated myself to my career at a very young age, moved across state lines, graduated high school and college early, and opened a very hands-on business in the middle of a pandemic. These decisions have had difficulties and the risk of leading to one form of failure, but I never gave up and knew the outcomes were worth it. At times, they don’t feel like risks because I had to believe in myself to achieve them, and I don’t think I would have taken this path if I didn’t think it was possible!

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