Monday, April 30, 2007

Physical Fitness & Nutrition

As a martial arts instructor, I feel I have a responsibility not only to others but also to myself to stay in top physical condition. The Bible states, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). These are big words, and as a Christian, I want to treat my body with respect and honor, and not fill it with constant alcohol, nicotine, or foods with processed sugar, for example.
I try to eat foods with high nutrient content. For example, I try to get my proteins from chicken. My wife and I buy the whole, cooked chickens every week from our local grocery store, and I also eat a lot of chicken breasts. My wife loves broccoli so I eat a lot of that as well, mostly in whole-wheat pasta. I also eat salads, pretty much every day. My salads are usually spinach salads, complete with tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. I also try to have regular fruit consumption to ensure that I am getting my carbohydrates from good sources. Don’t get me wrong; I also enjoy junk food. But I try to watch how much I eat, and make sure that my eating is consistently healthy.
In terms of physical exercise, I practice Kenpo Karate diligently pretty much 7 days per week. In fact, on the average month, I will only take 1 or perhaps 2 days off from my training. My workout routines are quite intense. On some days I will practice all of the Kenpo forms, both slowly, and then full out. On other days, I may just work all of the sets to isolate my basics. On a given day, I might just focus on kicking techniques. Thus my focus would be on Kicking Sets 1 & 2, which believe me, can get extremely tiring, especially when you try to have a knack for detail, and you are giving it your all. Still on other days I may just work the self-defense techniques. Depending on time availability, I could work as many as 100+ techniques on a given day.
I don’t lift weights. Perhaps if I had more time, I would. But I truly feel I get more that enough resistance training. Here are a few ways I train resistance:
(1) By working my techniques over and over on a resistant uke
(2) By practicing my weapons forms (some weapons are extremely tough on the arms and upper body, particularly the tonfa, saber, sai, ect.)
(3) By doing a LOT of push-ups.
As the summer season hits, I highly recommend training outside, and on different terrain. Train barefoot to toughen up your feet, as well as with shoes on to get a better sense of realism and feel. Just make sure to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Summer: The Most Important Season For Martial Artists

The most important season for improving one's skills in the martial arts is the summer. The reason is that many students get involved in other activities during this time (i.e. camps, soccer, baseball) while those that remain diligent in their training get to take advantage of smaller class sizes, and henceforth, their capacity to absorb new knowledge is endless. Indeed, the summer months have given me the opportunity to share knowledge that is not always possible with large class sizes. For example, in the past, I have been able to use these months to teach traditional and modern weaponry from a Kenpo perspective, advanced forms, techniques with extensions, and intense sparring sessions.

For those that take the summer off (or any month or two throughout a year for that matter), many simply don't come back. Although their intentions were to jump right back into the swing of things come September, many are apprehensive about returning because they don't feel their skills are where they should be relative to the rest of the students who kept training. For those that do return, I estimate that only about 50% will stick with it.

The longer the duration of time off from Kenpo training, the less likely you are to return, and I say this with 100% confidence. There is a lot of truth to what Mr. Miyagi said in the first Karate Kid movie, “Either you do karate yes, or you do karate no; you do karate guess so, get squashed like grape”.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cross-Training or Cross-Referencing?

You have seen them. You open up the yellow pages and find a martial arts school advertising instruction in a half-of-a-dozen different martial arts styles. You think to yourself....WOW! What a deal. You can learn 6 different arts all at one location. There is kick boxing, traditional karate, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Kenpo, Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido.....and so on....And the studio owner is an expert in all of them!

Now that is what I call cross-training!!

The reality is, however, that the vast majority of martial artists cross-train in different arts because they lack the patience and desire to learn their base system correctly. When a perceived deficiency in their art is unraveled, they are quick to jump the band wagon onto another art to fulfill this supposed deficiency.

Guess what? I was one of them.

Having started Kenpo Karate back in 1985, I achieved the rank of 1st Degree Black Belt in 1990. In 1991, I obtained my 1st Degree Black Belt in Modern Arnis (I started Arnis in 1987) as well as my 2nd Degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate. That same year I started training in Black Dragon Kung Fu and achieved the rank of 1st Degree Black Belt in 1994. Seven years later I received a 1st Degree Black Belt rank in Shorinji-Ryu Karate. This is not to take away from these important achievements in my life. Training in Modern Arnis, for example, gave me the opportunity to train under one of the world's best stick and knife fighters on the globe, the late Grandmaster Remy Presas. Likewise, training in Kung Fu gave me the opportunity to take my sparring to new levels, learn very intricate forms, ground-fight, and learn a truckload of weapons.

All of this time, however, my base art that I constantly trained in was Kenpo Karate. I currently hold the rank of 6th Degree Black Belt (Professor) in that art and received my rank under Grandmaster Larry Tatum in 2004. Through consistent practice and seeking out some of the best Kenpo instructors on the globe, I have learned that a lot of Kenpo's supposed deficiencies were due to my lack of understanding. I have come to realize, for example, why everything was implemented in the system the way it was, and how each component of the system (be it forms, sets, techniques, extensions, sparring, weaponry) is important. I have learned that one need not cross-train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to learn how to fight on the ground. Kenpo can be applied on the ground just fine; I just needed someone like Larry Tatum to show me how.

Cross-training is not the answer; cross-referencing is. The difference is that the latter concept allows you to explore the value of other arts via seminars or the exchanging of ideas, while allowing you to see how these different arts relate back to your base art. By contrast, cross-training means that a large portion of your time is devoted to learning a different art than your base art. This means that you are taking ample time away from growing, learning, and improving in your base art. You are seeking answers and exploring different opportunities that most likely existed right in your base art, although you didn't seek proper instruction to find it out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jamie Seabrook Books

For those interested in expanding their knowledge of the martial arts, I have two published books available for purchase:

Martial Arts Revealed: Benefits, Problems, and Solutions

American Kenpo Mastery: A Guide for Students and Instructors

Martial Arts Revealed provides a thorough examination of many important facets as they relate to the martial arts. For instance, the reader will learn about modern vs. traditional methods of self-defense, choosing a martial art style conducive to your body type and personality, the psychosocial benefits of martial arts training, injuries in martial arts, and steps to getting everything you deserve out of your training. For more information about the book, and to make an order, click here:

American Kenpo Mastery is written particularly for Kenpo practitioners that are seeking to better understand their art in all of its forms. Topics include the history and evolution of American Kenpo, a discussion of the forms and sets in American Kenpo, self-defense techniques, methods of Kenpo sparring, testing procedures and rank advancement. Terms are also defined within the relevant text, whenever practical, because American Kenpo concepts, theories, and principles may be a new language to you. In addition, a glossary of terms is provided at the end of the book. Appendix A provides a listing of common curriculums taught in American Kenpo: the 32-technique system, the 24-technique system, and the 16-technique system. Appendix B provides a guide of general notes I have made for myself of self-defense techniques. For more information about the book, and to make an order, click here:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Body Position, Environment, or Range?

I was watching a clip of Ed Parker teaching a seminar. He asked the class to rank, in order of importance for a street altercation, the following three terms: body position, environment, and range.

Fortunately, I knew the order: environment, range, and then body position. Would that have been the order that you ranked them?

Where you and your opponent are in terms of location (environment) is crucial. Here is a humorous example that Ed Parker gave. Let’s assume that two guys are in a bar in Alaska. The two of them start arguing, and one proceeds to rip his shirt off as if to say, “the fight is on”. In response, the other person decides to step outside in the freezing cold so that his opponent (if he decides to immediately follow him) will be without a shirt. Clearly, environment is working to the one’s advantage that still has his sweater on! Now given that both are outside in the freezing cold, and one person is without a shirt, one would guess that in all likelihood, the one without the shirt is going to be in a big hurry to get the fight over with so that he doesn’t have to fight in such cold climate. Environment is crucial in any fight, and is an important factor in which technique one could employ.

Range is less important than environment but more important than body position. Range allows our perceptual speed to “read” the opponent’s attack so that we can respond with an appropriate defense (or better put, OFFENSE). Range is simply the distance between yourself and the attacker. If you knew for certainty that a specific gun could only shoot 200 yards, you could stand at 300 yards away from an attacker and do the Macarena! You won’t be shot. No, don’t really try this; I am just throwing some humor at you. But the point, nonetheless, is that range is very important once environment, and I would argue target availability, have been established.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Short Form 1

Yellow Belt Form

Short Form 1 is the first form in American Kenpo Karate. The form is used for defensive purposes as we are continuously retreating from a punch with a front hand block. The blocking sequences follow this course: two inward blocks, two outward blocks, two upward blocks, and then two downward blocks. When performing this form, it is important to keep our head at a consistent level while transitioning from one neutral bow to the next. Short Form 1 form teaches four basic angles of attack, as you will notice that the foot pattern looks like an addition sign. The primary power principle is torque, and counter-torque can also be found in the second outward block and the second downward block.

As one progresses in training, try doing Short Form 1 in reverse. Doing so allows one to see how the movements can be both defensive and offensive and how manipulation control can be applied. Note that manipulation control is a category of grappling and is the last (fourth) of the combat ranges. In this range, you are close enough to the opponent to be able to apply various joint locks, chokes, and so forth.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Do the kenpo extensions contain new material?

While it is true that the extensions offer many of the same movements already contained in the base techniques, the extensions uniquely demonstrate how upper body principles can also be applied to the lower half of the body. That is why you will find more leg sweeps, foot maneuvers, and leg buckles in the extensions than in the base techniques.

Kenpo karate practitioners that argue that the extensions are meaningless or “busy work” often argue that there is nothing new in the extensions that are not already contained in the base self-defense techniques. A closer examination, however, will show otherwise.

Take the extension of Thrusting Salute, for example. The last part of the extension calls for right downward punch to the groin or bladder of the opponent, which cannot be found in any of the base techniques or other extensions. Similarly, the neck throw in-sync with the right reverse bow as we buckle our opponent’s left leg in the extension of Destructive Twins is also completely new.

More important than just some new movements, the extensions offer “what-if” scenarios should the ideal phase techniques not work as planned. That is what the equation formula is for.