Monday, January 29, 2007

Thrusting Prongs

Orange Belt Technique

This technique works for a front bear hug with our arms pinned. That stated, it is important to learn to respond to the low bear hug as the opponent is coming forward, rather than after the bear hug has been fully applied.

As the opponent attempts the bear hug, we step back with our right foot into a left forward bow, taking an angle of least resistance. The forward bow provides the bracing angle that prevents the opponent from driving us back and taking us to the ground. Note that a forward bow provides the brace for a low tackle, whereas a neutral bow provides the brace for a high tackle (e.g., Striking Serpent’s Head). At the same time that we step back, we drive our thumbs up to the opponent’s bladder or groin area. When doing so, be sure to place our thumbs firmly against our fists to give the thumbs support and back-up mass for the strikes. Also, make sure that you move your arms directly from point of origin. This will ensure that we are able to effectively and efficiently get to the bladder or groin area with our thumbs. The bladder shot will create some distance for the next move.

After the bladder shot, our left hand traps the opponent’s right arm as we deliver a right knee to the opponent’s groin. The trap cancels the opponent’s width and also prevents the opponent’s right arm from going up and hitting our face as he reacts to the knee kick we deliver to the groin. With our right knee still in the air, we immediately deliver a right side kick to the opponent’s left knee or shin, which further cancels his width.

We then finish with a right inward elbow to the opponent’s head. Note that Thrusting Prongs is the inside version of Gift of Destruction where both techniques utilize a break to the opponent’s elbow followed by a right inward elbow.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why Sparring Must Be Linked With Consistent Practice of Self-Defense Techniques

In American Kenpo Karate, there are four key zones that we must always be aware when sparring.

The first is what we call "out of range control". Simply put, out of range control is when we are sparring with an opponent but he is far enough away where we cannot reach him with either our hands or feet. There is still is an element of control, however, since a quick and deceptive feint could very well get the opponent to move and be caught off guard for a possible set-up maneuver. The second zone is what we call "within range control" and this occurs when we are close enough to be able to touch the opponent. The third zone is "penetration control" which is where we have passed the opponent's defense (particularly his lead hand and leg) and are now able to effectively reach the opponent with strong punches and or kicks to the body, legs, and/or head. Finally, the fourth zone is called "manipulation control", and as the name states, here we (or our opponent if he has penetrated our range to this last zone) are close enough to be able to apply various joint locks, chokes, and so forth.

It is the last zone, manipulation control, that so many of our self-defense techniques in Kenpo are taught against. Martial artists who have little to no knowledge of manipulation control, and how to effectively defend against attacks once an opponent has entered this last zone, are missing this key component to their training. One merely needs to watch one night of UFC fighting to know that good fighters are often able to get close enough to us to be able to apply these chokes and/or locks.

While I am a firm believer in sparring, if all that is done at a particular martial arts school is kata (forms) and/or sparring, I truly believe you need to seek knowledge of practical self-defense techniques designed where the opponent is close enough to us to have applied a lock or choke. Additionally, knowledge of "bonkai" as they call it in traditional styles is not enough. One must consistently work with a resistant partner, and change partners frequently to ensure that you can make your techniques work on people of all sizes and shapes.

With enough practice and skill level, one can also learn to apply self-defense techniques directly into sparring practice.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Teaching Your Child Martial Arts

It is inevitable. If you are a martial arts addict like I am, and desire or already have children of your own, you are going to want them to take martial arts. Chantel and I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, and my oldest, Morgan, has been taking Kenpo with me for almost 13 months.

While I prefer to not teach children until the age of 6, mostly because I find that kids younger than that can really hold back older kids in the classroom setting, Morgan actually started small group classes with me at the age of 3.5! The first few months were a little challenging both for her and me. She had to try to focus for a solid 40 minutes, which can be hard for even adolescents! I had to try my best to ensure that I was not too hard on her, particularly because of her very young age, as well as the fact that she is my daughter, and naturally, I wanted her to excel.

Lo and behold, a few months passed and she really started to get the hang of at least the motions involved in martial arts. She even learned the first set, commonly known as Star Block Set, or what some simply call Blocking Set 1.

After five months of training, I had her pounding on me doing choreographed self-defense techniques at her first tournament, The Battle of London. She did a fantastic job and won first place, even edging out a 7 year-old advanced yellow belt from a different karate school.

Over the course of 2006, Morgan attended 82 group classes and has achieved her yellow belt in Kenpo Karate. She is now a “regular” at my Kenpo school, and knows Blocking Set 1 and Short Form 1 very well, and is currently working on Kicking Set 1. Morgan hopes to compete in another tournament in 2007. She turns 5 in June.

Here are a few tips for instructors who will be instructing their own children:

  • Give your child plenty of compliments and positive reinforcement
  • Make sure your child gets to mingle with other classmates either before or after class so that he/she truly feels like “part of the crew”
  • Don’t put undue emphasis on your child during class (easier said than done but it takes consistent work)
Love and be proud of your child just for trying!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Balancing Martial Arts and Home Life

I train 7 days per week. I practice my forms, sets, techniques, and weapons daily. I also spar (continuous) two times per week. I actively seek out major tournaments to test my skills against other top-notch competition. No, not because I want that extra trophy. No, not because I want to brag to others about my accomplishments. I do it to test myself. By doing so, I set short-term goals. Once one goal is accomplished, I move on towards another goal.

Besides this strict training regiment, I have been happily married for almost 6 years, and have two beautiful daughters. I also run my own Kenpo Karate school two nights per week and work full-time. But, I have plenty of time with my family. How is this possible?

I train for one hour every lunch hour (Monday to Friday) at my regular day job. That already gives me an extra hour every night to spend with my family instead of taking off and leaving my wife and children behind. Because I am limited to one hour at lunch, I really “push it”. I might work forms, sets, or techniques, or some combination of the three.

I run my Kenpo school on Monday and Thursday nights. I teach all classes. I also spar my black belts and advanced students, work the forms and sets with them, and demonstrate the techniques slowly and at street speed on a partner when teaching the self-defense techniques. On my “off” nights (Tue, Wed, Fri), I practice when the kids are in bed, or are occupied playing, and my wife has something she would like to watch or do on her own.

But I hardly ever leave my wife and kids behind to go practice. My marriage is more important than whether I can pull off Long 1-Long 8 on a given night. That is not fair to my wife or my daughters. Yes, we all need time to ourselves, but make no mistake about it, if that means putting our personal desires by way of sacrificing time away from our family, that is just wrong and selfish.

Sometimes I wonder how much more intact and close families would be if fathers took more responsibility instead of just talking about how much they care about their families. If you think you were “called” to be a monk and to train every night while having very little “spouse time”, you shouldn’t have said, “I do” at the altar. Marriage is give and take, and from what I often see, it doesn’t appear that a lot of men do much giving.

By training 7 days per week, and doing so without sacrificing much family time, I have to make a lot of personal sacrifices. I have to force myself out into the cold during the winter, practicing while other people watching think I am crazy. And trust me, I practice in all sorts of bad weather, blizzards included. I have to forfeit relaxing on the couch to watch an NFL football game on Sundays if that is when the kids are sleeping or have gone out with their papa. I have to forfeit watching an awesome NHL game at night, if that is the time my wife wants to do some work on her new laptop, and the kids are in bed. But I won’t forfeit my wife or my daughters. I love them too much to do so. How about you?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Triggered Salute

Orange Belt Technique

This technique is designed for a front, right hand direct push to our left shoulder. We should note that direct shoulder to shoulder pushes, such as Triggered Salute, force us to work on the inside of the opponent’s body and arm. As the opponent pushes, take an angle of least resistance to help absorb the force of the push. If we “fight” the push, we will find ourselves getting shoved backward quite hard, which may enable the opponent to follow-up with extra strikes if we are not careful.

That stated, there are two key angles of least resistance for this type of attack: (1) is to ride the force of the push (borrowed force) by stepping our right foot forward towards 12 o’clock and (2) is to borrow the force by stepping back with our left foot into a right neutral bow. Whichever angle of least resistance we take (note that #1 is the most commonly taught method), be sure to move from point of origin and simultaneously pin the opponent’s right hand with our left hand while coming up the blind side of the opponent so that he can’t see our right heel palm strike to the jaw or chin.

Also, be sure to simultaneously check the opponent’s right knee with our right knee to give the opponent an angle of disturbance. This knee check is a positional check. The key here is to get the hand check, heel palm, and knee check to work simultaneously. Since we are always concerned about height, width, and depth, let’s examine how these are cancelled in Triggered Salute.

The initial heel palm will raise the opponent up on his toes (height cancellation), which prevents any type of counter knee or kick. The width is also controlled because the opponent’s free (left) hand cannot reach as the heel palm is executed. Depth is also cancelled because there is weight on the back leg, thereby preventing the opponent from being able to move forward or backwards. Should we not make good contact with the heel palm, the next move involves a horizontal crane elbow break to the opponent’s right arm (although I often see this taught as a bicep strike by stunning the arm downward), which further controls the opponent’s width and his ability to retaliate with the free (left) arm. We then hit on the third point on the circle, specifically the right inward elbow strike to the solar plexus. The outward elbow that follows further controls the opponent’s width. From that elbow, we execute a right back knuckle strike to the kidney and/or ribs and follow through with a right uppercut strike to the opponent’s chin.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Clutching Feathers

Orange Belt Technique

This technique works for someone grabbing our hair with his left hand. As mentioned in previous blog techniques, our first consideration when someone is grabbing us is typically the opponent's free hand, or the one that isn't grabbing us. Just as important is to make sure that we pin the hand that is grabbing us. If we neglect the importance of the pin as someone grabs our hair, and proceed by simply trying to knock it off, we will likely lose a good chunk of it. Therefore, in Clutching Feathers, we pin the opponent's left grabbing hand with our left hand and step back with our left foot into a right neutral bow to get away from the opponent's free (right) hand which could potentially punch us. This, of course, assumes that the environment allows us to step back. The pin and step back will put the opponent on an angle of disturbance, as his height and width will be controlled momentarily. In sync with the pin and step back, we strike with a right middle knucke shot to the lymph nodes underneath the opponent's left armpit.

A few noteworthy points about the middle knuckle strike: (1) this is a specialized weapon aimed at hitting a specific target. If a straight vertical thrust punch were to be used instead of the right middle knuckle strike, it wouldn't be able to penetrate the nerves in the armpit which facilitate the release of the opponent's grabbing hand to our hair (2) the middle knuckle strike to the lymph nodes is a THRUSTING strike as opposed to a SNAPPING ONE. The idea is to thrust our middle knuckle strike right into the attacker's lymph nodes (3) the middle knuckle strike will cancel the opponent's height by raising him up on his toes (thus preventing any type of a counter knee or kick attack); this in turn, will aid in the width cancellation which means that the opponent will be unable to counter with his free (right) hand because he is up on his toes; the depth is cancelled as well.

So what do we want to do when someone grabs our hair? Pin the opponent's hand that is grabbing us to save our hair, and get away from the opponent's other arm. Just as important is to cause injury to the attacker so that we can safely escape from the encounter.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lone Kimono

Orange Belt Technique

Lone Kimono is one of my favorite Kenpo self-defense techniques. It works for someone grabbing our lapel with his left hand. When someone grabs us this way, our first consideration should be the opponent's free hand, which in this case would be his right arm since a grab is often followed up with a punch. Since the environment allows us to step back, we do so with our left leg while simultaneously pinning the opponent's left grabbing hand. Note that by stepping back, we are controlling the opponent's height zone because of the weight on his left (front) leg, thereby eliminating the possibility of the opponent being able to kick or knee us with either leg. The width is also canceled which means that momentarily the opponent will not be able to punch us with his free (right) hand. Finally, the depth is also controlled since the opponent is unable to move forward or backward effectively.

After pinning the opponent's left grabbing hand, and then stepping back with our left foot to get away from the opponent's free hand, we immediately execute a right upward break to the opponent's left elbow. This elbow break also controls the opponent's height by raising the attacker up on his toes, and controls the width by preventing any type of counter punch from the opponent. After breaking the opponent's left elbow, we then rake the arm diagonally down which could possibly work as an additional elbow break, but will control the opponent's depth and width. We then compliment the angle of the opponent's left arm and finish with a hand sword to the neck.

If the environment did not allow us to step back (because of, say, a wall behind us), we could front ball kick the opponent's right knee and force him to step back (similar to Conquering Shield). Why this option? Because again, since the opponent's free hand is our greatest concern, this kick would turn the opponent's right shoulder away from us, thus canceling the width of the opponent which would prevent him from punching us with his right hand.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Beware of Studios that Promote Young Kids to Black Belt

If someone wants to obtain a PhD or MD, it is going to take many years of hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance. Sure, someone can now get illegitimate degrees online by “life experience” if he/she is willing to fork out a large sum of money, but it won’t do them much good when applying for a higher-scale job position. With Internet accessibility, one can easily check the legitimacy of any so-called “university” or “college” that are handing out degrees like candy.

So, if something as prestigious as a PhD or MD is so difficult to obtain, why should achieving a black belt be any different? Short answer – it shouldn’t!! Unfortunately, there are so many McDojos out there today that are giving the martial arts a bad name. So I caution you to beware of any martial arts school that awards black belts to little kids!! Please take the time to go in and observe a few classes. If you find a class full of black belts, say, under the age of 12, RUN FOR THE DOOR! The schools will promote your kids through the colored belt ranks so fast, and gladly take your money while doing it!! The ironic part about all of this is that I hear parents all of the time bragging about how their child is a black belt!! I even had one man tell me how proud he was of his son who obtained a black belt at the ripe old age of 7!!!! Can a 7-year old really defend oneself against any adult? Of course not. Does a 7-year old have the maturity and experience to wear such an honored rank? Of course not.

Look – trust me. Find a school with high standards, and that take many years to obtain a black belt and that refuse to hand them out to kids. They are out there, but you have to search.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

How to Deliver a Proper Punch!

The Basic Punch

Too many martial arts students are taught how to execute a specific strike, with little to no explanation on why it is done that way. The students learn the movement and because their sensei taught them how to deliver the strike, it must be correct. Let’s start simple: a basic punch.

Far too often I see people punching above shoulder height with a horizontal punch (the fist is turned palm down). The reality, however, is that the horizontal punch is anatomically weaker since the ulna and the radius bones of the forearm criss-cross each other, and the forearm muscles are not fully efficient since they are stretched too far. It is no wonder why so many “macho guys” break their wrists in bar fights or on the street!!

So what is the best way to execute a punch above shoulder height? The answer is to deliver a vertical punch, or a rotation just past this position. When doing so, the ulna and radius bones are nicely aligned, and the wrist is less likely to break. Try it and experiment!

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Spiraling Twig

Purple Belt Technique

This technique, like Crashing Wings in the Orange Belt manual, is for a rear bear hug with our arms free. There is an important distinction, however, between these two techniques, which is often neglected or unknown to many Kenpoists. The difference lies in the position of the opponent’s hands that are grabbing you. In Spiraling Twig, the opponent’s hands are too high to be able to crash down with the elbows as in Crashing Wings, so instead we use our middle knuckle strikes to the center of the opponent’s hand. In both techniques, however, it is paramount that we drop our weight while stepping out to 3 o’clock to cancel the height of the opponent, thereby minimizing the possibility that the attacker will be able to lift us up and potentially throw us.

After the middle knuckle strikes, and the crash down with our elbows on the opponent’s arms, we then grab the hand of the opponent with our two thumbs. As we proceed by stepping out with our left foot, we simultaneously break the opponent’s right elbow with our right elbow, which will also cancel the opponent’s width. As we continue our stepping and apply the wrist lock while in a left forward bow, be sure to point the opponent’s fingers towards his head, and then immediately turn the wrist on a 45 degree angle to apply the break. We then keep the pressure on the opponent’s wrist as we front instep kick the mid-section as he is bent over, while your right stiff arm lifting back knuckle is in orbit which immediately strikes the opponent’s face.