Before the Zenpan Dojo was even an idea, before Jan Claude Orda was even born, there was a man who practiced martial arts with such passion and fire that one day he would pass that same spirit to his son.
This man is Pro Orda.
Pro opened his own home dojo in the Philippines with his brothers and friends. At first, it was only them working out and practicing martial arts together. However, Pro wanted more students. At the time, there was no easy way of promoting his dojo. No social media, no internet...
So one day he decided that he would join a tournament to prove himself in his town of Atimonan. To prepare for the tournament, he knew that he had to focus on the basics if he was going to win. For three months, he practiced punches and kicks for one hour, everyday in the ocean. Bruce Lee once said, "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once but the man that has practiced one kick 10,000 times."
On the day of the tournament, he won.
The speed of his front snap kick was faster than any of his opponents could match! Even his last fight was nearly effortless because of his simple yet effective training method. After his epic victory, people lined up in front of his house to learn from him. For a while, he taught the people of his town. From the local police force to the curious citizen, he taught them self-defense in the way he knew how. But alas, his father told him he wanted him to get serious about his future and become an engineer. With hesitant obedience and a heavy heart, he closed down his dojo, went to school and moved to America with his wife and children.
Pro continued his training as best as he could despite night classes and a full time job. However, it started to become overwhelming having to raise three kids and be a loving husband on top of his busy schedule. Something had to give and eventually it was his martial arts. Little did he know that slowly but surely, he would pass on that same passion and fire to his son, Jan Claude.
At his home, Jan Claude was known as, "Coy". Whenever Pro would come home tired from a long day at work, he would ask, "Coy, what movie do you want to watch today? I need to take a nap."
Coy would ponder a movie and no matter what he said, Pro, by default, would always put on a martial arts movie! Bruce Lee, Gordon Liu and Jackie Chan became Jan Claude's babysitters. He would watch these martial arts movies growing up, copying and imitating the moves because quite frankly, there was nothing else better to do!
As he grew up, Jan Claude would get bullied in elementary and middle school. However, it did not affect him in a negative way. On the contrary, he believed that the only reason he was getting picked on was because he was not strong enough. He then turned to his masters, Bruce, Gordon and Jackie and copied their moves helping him become stronger. As he grew, Pro decided to put him in martial arts classes from Tae Kwon Do to Shotokan Karate. It was not until Jan Claude was 14 did he start training seriously at Keller's Martial Arts Plaza in Houston, TX.
For three years he trained under Raymond J. Keller, a 7th dan Shorinryu Karate master. Jan Claude had a very "Karate Kid" experience training under Sensei Keller. From moving heavy furniture and clearing land to cleaning the entire dojo's 30,000 sq ft. place, Jan Claude learned the value of hard work and discipline.
One day, Sensei Keller and Jan Claude were hanging out after a long day of chores and Sensei predicted the future. "Jan, I can see you having a dojo one day," the wise sensei said with certainty. Jan Claude was a little surprised. "How could sensei see a 14 year old kid become the head of a dojo?" he wondered. "You must be kidding sir! You mean, YOUR dojo!?!" Jan asked. Sensei Keller took a deep breath and said with a smile, "Maybe!"
Jan Claude gained much experience training with the sensei's and students of the dojo but left because by the age of 16, he was only interested in chasing girls! However, around this age he was given his first job as a personal trainer to the children of the Youth Minister at St. Albert of Trapani. Along with the children, he also trained "Totchi" here who still trains at the Zenpan Dojo. At the age of 20, Jan Claude opened up his garage to train his cousin Mo and her friends. This was before Crossfit was popular so the scene of young women striking and flipping tires while training in boxing was not very common at the time!
As he grew into adulthood, Jan Claude began to pick up different martial arts. From Jiu Jitsu with Sensei Daniel Cantu to Muay Thai with Kru Pong, he journeyed like a certain Japanese warrior with a karate gi and red head band, learning different martial arts and creating his own style.
In January of 2010, Jan Claude decided he wanted to start training with people regularly. Originally, he wanted to keep it to very close friends and family. Before he knew it, his house started to become crowded with people wanting to train! After seeing how the dojo had grown he decided to give it a name. Because of his love for Japanese culture, his Shorinryu karate background and love of anime, Jan Claude decided to use the Japanese word "Zenpan" to describe his dojo. Zenpan means "universal" or "general" and his idea was that the dojo would be a general place to go if you wanted to learn martial arts. The techniques he wanted to teach would be great for anyone who decided to begin their journey in the martial arts. The techniques would also be a solid self-defense system that when practiced diligently, would be able to give someone the confidence and ability to take care of themselves.
Thus, the name "Zenpanken" or "Universal Fist" was born.