#144: Bernie Gorak II: The Journey Through Kenpo

Hello, dedicated listeners in Kankakee County and those tuning in from every corner of the globe! Today, our latest episode dives into the disciplined world of martial arts, exploring the life journey and teachings of a local Kenpo master. Settle in as we discuss the intricacies of sparring, the profound impact of martial arts on personal growth, and the fascinating life of Bernie Gorak II.

The Discipline and Dedication of Martial Arts

Our guest is none other than Bernie Gorak II, a respected martial arts instructor and multifaceted community member from Bradley. In this episode, we peel back the layers of martial arts mastery and get an inside look into Bernie’s renowned academy.

The Journey to Black Belt

For many, the journey to a black belt is a mix of excitement for sparring and the diligence of learning forms. “Kids look forward to sparring the most,” Bernie shares. “But to spar effectively, you have to understand and master the forms.” It’s a path of progression marked by different belt levels and colors, each representing a milestone in the practitioner’s growth. But not everyone who starts this journey reaches the end. “Some quit after achieving a certain belt,” Bernie clarifies, “while others aim to go all the way.”

Persistence Pays Off

Bernie introduces us to Paul, a student who embodies the tenacity that martial arts demand. Balancing work with training, Paul’s commitment becomes evident as he edges toward the green belt – a testament that martial arts can adapt to anyone’s schedule. “Paul could only attend training once every two weeks due to his work,” Bernie admires, “but he’s been with us for over ten years.”

Kenpo: A Misunderstood Art

Kenpo, a system focused on practical self-defense, often faces misconceptions. “Some called it a ‘slap art,’ and others didn’t think it included ground techniques,” says Bernie. But as he elaborates on its adaptability and continuous evolution, it becomes clear that Kenpo is an art form that resonates with the modern combatant, emphasize tactics, mindset, and discipline beyond just the physical.

A Life Fulfilled Beyond the Punch

“It’s not just about learning moves,” Bernie discusses the focus of his life on more than just work and material success. “Martial arts is a focus on personal growth and self-improvement.” Bernie’s disciplined approach at his academy means structured, purposeful movement for young children who even learn pledges at various training levels.

Tradition, Evolution, and Adaptation in Teaching

Bernie’s own martial arts journey led him to teaching Kenpo after earning his first-degree black belt about 30 years ago. Starting in park district facilities before establishing his private academy, Bernie’s methods and philosophies have evolved, reflecting his deepening understanding and mastery of the art. “I adapt moves to be more effective for my students,” he explains, highlighting the personalized nature of martial arts instruction.

A Legacy of Success and Influence

The episode also touches on Bernie’s successful pest control business and his humble beginnings in Chicago before moving to Bradley. With a passion sparked by his stepdad and uncles, he fell in love with martial arts for its discipline, which he describes as “a way of life.”

Everyday Practicality and the Yellow Pledge

As the podcast host expresses a desire to learn basic Kenpo self-defense, Bernie underscores the yellow pledge’s commitment to protective use of martial arts. It’s an element required for all students, emphasizing the practical application and responsible use of their training.

Gratitude and Community Achievement

Wrapping up, the episode pays tribute to Bernie’s students who triumphed at a recent tournament in Aurora, and the host extends thanks to Bernie for sharing insights and to the sponsors and producers who make the Kankakee Podcast possible.


Let’s join in celebration of our local martial arts community, whose dedication goes beyond the academy’s walls, spreading confidence and empowerment. Subscribe to the Kankakee Podcast for more inspiring local stories, and follow us on social media for the latest episodes. Special thanks to our Patreon supporters for keeping our community’s voice strong and vibrant!

Until our next adventure through the tales from Kankakee County, I’m Jake LaMore, wishing you strength on your personal journey and reminding you to face each day with the poise of a martial artist. Stay tuned, and embrace your inner warrior with honor and integrity!

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