Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kenpo Stances vs. Traditional Japanese and Okinawan Karate Stances

You have probably heard it said time and time again, “Stances are the most important basic fundamental in the martial arts.” Yet ironically, many martial arts instructors who say those very words to their students are teaching impractical stances. This is quite common in many traditional Japanese and Okinawan styles where instructors tell their students to get as low and deep as they can during kata practice to build leg strength and to develop more power in their strikes. The problem with such teaching is that you lack mobility. When was the last time you saw a guy fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship using a very low/deep stance as taught by many traditional karate instructors? It just doesn’t happen, because they are not practical.

In Kenpo, on the other hand, the stances we use during our forms are the same ones we would employ during a sparring match. We don’t tell students to get as low as they can during kata practice, but then to “ignore that rule” when in an actual fight. Such teaching is too contradictory, and in fact, dangerous. Forms are, in effect, Kenpo’s method of shadowboxing so practical stances is paramount.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kenpo Karate Training Camp

Hi Everyone,

Paul Dawdy and myself will be hosting a Kenpo Karate Camp in London, Ontario, Canada, from August 17-19, 2007. As our special guest instructor, we will be bringing in 8th Degree Black Belt, and President of the East Coast Kenpo Systems (ECKS), Steve Arsenault, from New Bedford, MA, USA. Steve Arsenault has been in the martial arts for the past 36 years, and was former vice-president of the Worldwide Kenpo Karate Association (WKKA). Other camp instructors include Jason Arnold, Paul Dawdy, Pat Robinson, and myself.


Paul Dawdy's Kenpo Karate
425 First St, London, Ontario

Friday August 17th

7:00-8:00pm - Understanding the Nature of the Attack (Jamie Seabrook)
8:00-9:00pm - Kenpo 2nd Black Advanced Extensions (Steve Arsenault)
9:00pm - Kenpo Requests (Steve Arsenault)

Saturday August 18th

2:00-3:00pm - Modern Arnis Applications (Paul Dawdy)
3:00-4:00pm - Kenpo 3rd Black Advanced Extensions (Steve Arsenault)
4:00-5:00pm - Position Recognition/Family Groupings (Jason Arnold)
5:00-6:00pm - Mental Attributes (Pat Robinson)
6:00-7:00pm - Kenpo Forms Requests (Steve Arsenault)

Sunday August 19th

9:00-10:00am - KIDS SEMINAR
10:00-11:00am - Kenpo 4th Black Advanced Extensions (Steve Arsenault)
11:00-12:00 noon - Kenpo Sets and Forms Requests (Steve Arsenault)

Registration due August 1st

Kids Seminar $20
Teen Camp $99
Adult Camp $150

Family Discount of 25% off each additional family member

Make Checks to Steve Arsenault

Mail To: Kenpo Karate
3057 Acushnet Ave
New Bedford, MA

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Higher Degrees of Black Belt

As we all know, very few students who commence their training in the art of Kenpo Karate are able to obtain a black belt. Most get involved in other activities, or are unable to effectively manage their time in such a way that they make Kenpo a priority. Of those that do reach black belt, some view this achievement as the ultimate goal achieved, and no longer want to continue on in their endless journey as a lifelong martial artist. Sadly, this is more common in McDojo’s where almost all emphasis is on the one destination – black belt.

But for some, black belt level is a whole new beginning. It starts the process where one is now the lowest level (in terms of degrees/dan ranks) of the black belt levels. It also means that to obtain future degrees of black belt, one will have to commit even more mat time, as well as more years of sacrifice and dedication to continue to progress.

In American Kenpo Karate, there is required material to learn up to the rank of 5th Degree Black Belt (Associate Professor). For that level, one has to learn Long Form 8, which is an intricate and long form that is performed with two knives simultaneously. But then what? What happens after one has completed all of the required material for further advancement in the art of Kenpo Karate? Has does one continue to improve and take their Kenpo to the next level?

The answer isn’t a difficult one: PRACTICE! One thing that I know about this great art of American Kenpo is that there is a lot of material. We have 154 self-defense techniques, plus an additional 96 extensions from the Orange, Purple, Blue, and Green belt base self-defense techniques. We also have 11 forms (Short Forms 1-3 and Long Forms 1-8); and unlike most other martial art styles, we also have many sets, which essentially are prearranged movements similar in context to forms, but more specifically designed to isolate our basic fundamentals. I can speak for myself by stating that there is more than enough material for me that I can work on mastering throughout my lifetime.

But does it need to stop there? Is diligent practice all one truly needs to progress in terms of advancement in Kenpo Karate (or any other art for that matter)? Of course not. To obtain higher degrees of black belt, it is essential that one is actively teaching the art to students. For 4th degree black belts and above, teaching should not only include one’s own students, but teaching at seminars locally, nationally, and even internationally as well. Book publishing and/or DVDs are another excellent way one can spread the art to others, and to continue to learn and improve in one’s skill. Furthermore, one should still have a teacher! This is tough for some, because it means that one has to swallow his/her own pride to realize that they don’t have all of the answers.

Question: What else does your martial art school (beyond time, practice, and new material) require for higher degrees of black belt?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Clipping the Storm

Green Belt Technique

This technique is designed for someone coming at you with a right step-through thrusting club attack, most typically via the short end of the club. Commencing in a left neutral bow, we take a quick step off to 11 o’clock while simultaneously delivering a left handsword to the outside of the opponent’s forearm (the right hand is now cocked at our right ear). Make no mistake about it. The initial left handsword, if executed correctly, will not only “deaden” the opponent’s attacking arm and cause extreme pain, but it should also cause him to drop the club. It will also put weight on the opponent’s feet, thereby canceling his height zone. If he still has a hold of the club at the point, the immediate follow-up move is a right inward handsword, preferably to the opponent’s bicep, not the wrist. This shot hurts even thinking about it, and I have never had an uki to date still be able to hold the club after that shot. Note that as we deliver the right inward handsword, we should also pivot into a left forward bow as we do it, to maximize our potential power on the handsword through utilization of torque. We then finish with a left outward handsword to the opponent’s throat while simultaneously sliding our right foot into a right cat stance, followed by a right heelpalm strike to the opponent’s chin as we step behind the opponent’s right leg into a right neutral bow.

Clipping the Storm is also contained in Long Form 6. In the form version, we have a different starting point than we do in the written version, the latter as I mentioned, which starts in a left neutral bow. In Long Form 6, however, Clipping the Storm comes directly after finishing the end of Unfurling Lance on the left side, which finishes with a left side kick to the attacker’s left knee and a left inward handsword to the right side of the opponent’s neck. To see Clipping the Storm from that starting point, and to see the master of his craft perform this technique, I highly recommend you visit the following link:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Family and Kenpo

Last night, after reviewing a bunch of the Kenpo forms and sets with my students, I battled it out with one of my top black belts, Scott Southwell. This isn’t anything unusual, as Scott and I fight full contact at least once per week together. We usually fight after an already exhausting night, whether it be because of kicks drilled up and down the floor, techniques with resistance on partners, forms and sets training, or hand drills. As a 6th degree black belt, I try my best to lead by example, by not just telling my students how to move, but by getting out there and doing it with them.

After going home last night, I thought about my training routine, which is a literal 7 days per week. I acknowledged that the reason why I put my body through such rigorous activity (and sometimes pain) in Kenpo is simply because I value the art so much.

What about the other areas of my life? Do I truly value the marriage that I have with my wife Chantel? I do, but I am always striving to make it better. I love her to no end, and because of that, I need to commit time to be with her, to recognize her needs, and to continue to grow in our marriage. I need to continue to step up to the plate with my children, by being the father that God intended me to be, and to help Chantel out whenever possible with our children. Marriages that our built on martial arts first, and then family second, will likely not survive, and if they do, it won’t be the joyful marriage and family atmosphere that you and your wife both deserve.

It’s easy for us to say that we BELIEVE that we should put our families before martial arts, but does it show in our actions? Since obtaining my Kenpo Karate black belt in 1990, I have taught literally thousands of different kids. What I am seeing over the years, unfortunately, is growing proportion of children that are growing up without a father. Some of these fathers are long gone, and want little to nothing to do with their children anymore. Other fathers were physically abusive, either to their wife, children, or both. Still others turned to alcohol and drugs as “escapism”. They blame their wife saying, “It was her fault”; the reality is that they took the drink and the drink took them.

What do you value in life? I value God and my family FIRST. And when I fail that order (which is sometimes the case), I sit, think, and pray about change for the better. “Till death do us part”…those are BIG words. And every day I get out of bed, I face them.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Rearrangement Concept

Rearrangement is really what Kenpo is all about. Since the self-defense techniques in American Kenpo Karate are ideas (as opposed to rules that offer no other alternatives), these ideas or movements can be rearranged to fit the situation or circumstance. Essentially rearrangement allows one to add, delete, adjust the choice of weapon you are striking with (i.e. heel palm, vertical fist, half-fist, hammerfist), adjust the target you are planning on hitting, rearrange your sequence of moves, and insert extra moves on the opponent when necessary.

Rearrangement eliminates the word “assume”, the latter of which is common in some “traditional arts” that emphasize a “one strike, one kill” methodology. As Grandmaster Larry Tatum noted in an October 2004 Black Belt magazine article, “Depending on one technique would be like betting all your worth on one spin of a roulette wheel.”

One of the simplest ways to work the rearrangement concept is as follows. Have a training partner execute a right punch towards your head. Counter the punch by stepping back and executing a right inward block to the right hand punch. After the block, immediately counter with a right handsword to the opponent’s neck, and then fold your arm so that it becoming an inward elbow (or elbow sandwich if you wish) to the opponent’s head. Finish with a right hammerfist to the groin. Therefore, you should have four simple moves: (1) a right inward block (2) a right handsword (3) a right inward elbow and (4) a right hammerfist.

But now try this. After executing the right inward block (1), have your partner block your right handsword (2) to the neck. As a result, you will find it is necessary to alter your next target. For example, after your partner blocks your right handsword (2), try to next hit him with the hammerfist to the groin (4), and then go back to the handsword to the neck (2), which would mean you would then finish with the right inward elbow (3). This is but one way of altering the order of the same sequence of moves and you can change it up any way that you would like. Note, however, that it was NOT necessary to create new techniques to get the same desired effect. Instead, we kept with the same basic four moves, and simply rearranged them to fit the situation. What you will discover is that four basic moves rearranged can produce 24 combinations.

The problem is that too many instructors introduce the rearrangement concept way too early in their students’ training. A beginner/intermediate student needs to work on mastering the required self-defense techniques in the ideal phase. When taught the ideal phase techniques properly, the student will eventually recognize how to graft into other ideal phase techniques, and deal with the “what-if” of self-defense techniques when learning the extensions. Through consistent and diligent practice, a student will reach a stage of spontaneity, whereby the rearrangement concept becomes “second nature”.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Parting Wings

Purple Belt Technique

One of the most neglected aspects of self-techniques is the nature of the attack. In Parting Wings, the angle of least resistance is to step back to 6 o’clock in reaction to the opponent’s two-handed high push. Notice that I had said “reaction” since the opponent has actually made contact with the push. As we part the arms with left and right extended outward blocks (palms open), the left neutral bow provides the bracing angle for the push. Anchoring our elbows will also aid in the parting of the opponent’s arms.

To improve economy of motion, we then round the corner from the right extended outward block (palm open) as we continue the flow and execute a right inward handsword to the opponent’s ribs as we shift into a left forward bow. We then shift back into a left neutral bow as we strike with a left outward handsword to the throat. The base technique ends with a right middle-knuckle strike to the opponent’s solar plexus as we shift back into a left forward bow, while using a gravitational check with our left hand to clear the opponent’s arms out of the way and/or create an effective path for the middle-knuckle strike.

Parting Wings is one of Kenpo’s 10 master key techniques.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Deflecting Hammer

Yellow Belt Technique

This technique was designed for someone executing a right front thrust kick towards our ribs as we start in a right neutral bow. As we shuffle back, we simultaneously deflect the kick with a right downward block, while continuing that line right into a shuffle forward and right inward elbow to the opponent’s face as we check the opponent’s right arm with our left hand. In other words, be sure to continue the circle (don’t stop the motion) from your downward block to the right inward elbow. Note that using a traditional horizontal downward block to the opponent’s kick can cause injury to our arm depending on the force of the kick, and we also run the risk of hyperextending our elbow. Furthermore, we lose economy of motion when a horizontal downward block is employed. The downward block should be done with a closed fist (hence the name Deflecting HAMMER). Using a downward parry increases the risk of injury to our fingers.

Another suggestion to improve economy of motion and the continuous flow of the right inward elbow strike is to shuffle back to 6 o’clock. Stepping off-line to 7:30 reduces borrowed force from the opponent’s kick, and the opponent will no longer “land” right into the elbow strike as he plants forward from the right thrust front kick. Also since Deflecting Hammer is taught for Yellow Belt level, stepping back to 6 o’clock is very conducive for beginners to learn and follows the same footwork patterns as other beginner techniques whereby you step away from the attack and utilize your dominant (right) side.