Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Consistent Daily Practice

One of the best tips I can give to martial artists around the world is that if you want to be the best you can be, you need to practice as much as possible. This seems obvious, but how many of us can honestly say that we practice as much as we would like to? This may sound harsh but I am convinced that mediocrity in any areas of our life (Kenpo included) is the result of practicing only when we feel like it. Conversely, being the best we can be is the result of practicing if when we don’t feel like it.

This past Saturday was my daughter’s 5th party. Morgan had 23 kids (not exaggerating) over to our house for a 3-hour party. Luckily, the weather was fantastic and my wife and I were able to host the party outside in our backyard. Given the special occasion, I took the day off completely from Kenpo Karate and enjoyed every minute with my family. It was actually a well-deserved break because up until that date, I had practiced 41 days straight for a minimum of one hour of Kenpo Karate. Some days over the span had been as long as 3-5 hours in one day. That may seem like a lot, but as a 6th Degree Black Belt in American Kenpo Karate, and as a school owner, I believe that I have the responsibility to train that hard not only to continue to improve my skills, but for the betterment of my students. The more my students see me improving, the more motivated they will be to improve as well.

Most of my training is completed outdoors. I much prefer a tennis court or park to practice then a comfortably padded floor with mirrors to look at myself. No, I am not knocking dojo training, but I enjoy the sunshine and different terrains offered outside. I like training in my bare feet to toughen my feet, as well as in shoes to give a greater sense of realism.

By practicing daily, and conditioning my mind to pattern the consistency in this behavior, practicing Kenpo is not just a duty for me, but a devout passion. It allows me to stay in top physical shape, relaxes my mind, and makes me feel good about myself. The more confident of a person we are on the inside, the more it will reflect on the outside in how we treat others.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Recommending a style of martial arts

I often get asked by people who are not involved in the martial arts what style I would recommend to suit their needs. I read many arguments about which arts to avoid due to their lack of practicality and logic, and I also read about arts that almost everyone states are some of the best. I am not buying it. No art can save you. The key to any art is the instruction that is being transferred from teacher to student.

Of course, I am a die-hard American Kenpoist. But that does not mean that I would necessarily recommend an American Kenpo Karate school to someone over another art if I feel the quality of instruction is severely lacking at the Kenpo school. An instructor has the responsibility of striving to become the best he/she can be, and that knowledge should be passed on to students.

I always here about how great Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is. I find it ironic, however, how 15 years ago, you didn't know many people teaching that art, while now it seems that virtually every school needs to have it as part of their marketing tool just to compete with the other schools in the area. The problem is that much of what is being called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at many schools is weak at best, and the instructors claiming to teach it should not be because they have not been adequately trained in the art. So, for example, if someone asks me if I would recommend Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, like Kenpo, it highly depends on the particular school and the instructor who is teaching it. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gained most of its hype from the Gracie's, who believe me, are in a class of their own.

Here is another example taken from Japanese and Okinawan arts. Too often I hear practitioners of these arts bickering about which katas are authentic. My questions is: what difference does it make if the applications in the kata are not practical with respect to street self defense? In my eyes, the practitioners that can make the movements in the kata work on the street are right. I could care less how much older one kata is over another. I am just being honest, but I have seen many “self-defense” movements taken from traditional kata that are so impractical that they shouldn't be taught whatsoever. Why? Because the instructor who is teaching those movements has not sought out proper instructor by a true master in that art who has full knowledge of the movements contained within the kata.

At my school, I value quality instruction and quality students over commercialization. You will not find a class full of kids with black belts on. You have to earn your rank with integrity and perseverance. When I hear about the latest “graduating class” of black belts (which usually means about 20-40 students with a mean age of 10) my stomach feels like it is going to turn over. Hats off to any school of any art that values the martial arts over commercialization.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Response to Will’s Question:

“Is there a comprehensive video demonstration of effective pure kenpo technique on the ground in various jiu jitsu, judo, or wrestling holds? I truly am interested in ground kenpo.”

I would definitely recommend Master Lee Epperson’s videos. Lee is an 8th Degree Black Belt in Gaijin Ryu Ju Jitsu and also holds a 5th Degree Black Belt under Grandmaster Larry Tatum in American Kenpo Karate. Lee Epperson can lock anyone up in a pretzel in about two seconds!

Besides his tremendous skills, and devotion to the martial arts, he is truly one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.

For more information, I recommend you visiting this website:


Friday, June 15, 2007

Response to Will’s Questions:

“What are the 10 master key techniques? Why are they master key?”

Those are two very good questions Will.

The 10 master key self-defense techniques in American Kenpo Karate are:

Thundering Hammers
Five Swords
Lone Kimono
Shielding Hammer
Repeating Mace
Intellectual Departure
Locked Wing
Thrusting Salute
Parting Wings
Hooking Wings

In response to your second question, here are a couple of excerpts from my latest book, American Kenpo Mastery: A Guide for Students and Instructors:

“Master key techniques are self-defenses that can be used as base moves and applied in many different situations. Techniques that are similar in nature to the master key technique can then be thought of as altered formulations of the master key technique. By learning to recognize how various movements are interrelated, Kenpoists reduce their reaction time and improve their level of spontaneity when executing their self-defense techniques.”

And later on I note:

“Although the above ten techniques are all considered master key self-defenses, they should not be thought of as necessarily better than the others. Instead, they provide a model to see how many techniques are related to a single technique. The ultimate goal is to be able to use any self-defense technique as a base move and to recognize how other self-defense techniques similarly relate to it.”

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Response to Marvin's Question:

“Do you also keep track of the time you spend doing stretches and exercises? If you spend 1 hour per day practicing, do you do much other exercise?”

Hi Marvin. Thanks for asking. I don’t keep track of how much time I devote to stretching or other exercises, but that’s certainly another option. The only thing outside of logging my daily martial arts training routine that I keep track of is the amount of push-ups that I do (minimum of 100 per day).

In terms of other exercise, martial arts are my passion so about 99% of my exercise is through the martial arts. I do have two young daughters (ages 2 and 5) so they definitely keep my active. I also do some occasional long distance biking but the vast majority of my cardiovascular workouts are via continuous sparring or long forms.

I will post a similar question on my new Kenpo forum and see what other people are doing. Please click here: http://kenpo.amkbb.com/index.php?mforum=kenpo

Monday, June 11, 2007

Black Belt Titles and Academic Degrees

Maybe it's just me, but I think the whole concept of associating a higher degree (dan) of black belt in Kenpo with a given academic degree (ie, BA, MA, PhD) is silly. What makes Kenpo that special that we have to put all of these extra degree equivalents beside our name? No, I am not knocking Kenpo. I love the art to no end. But doesn't this whole notion of wanting to have an academic degree beside our name fit the North American model of greater ego, and trying to get the most possible out of something through the back door, also known as the easy route?

I know what some are going to say in rebuttal. There is no easy route in American Kenpo Karate. Someone who has devoted 20+ years in Kenpo has put in more time than most students that have graduated from a university. I actually attended university for 6+ years, and graduated with an MA in Sociology. So what does this have to do with my 6th degree in American Kenpo? Sorry, but not a lot.

Why doesn't Oscar De La Hoya,, Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis or Floyd Maywether get a PhD title? They have mastered boxing, have they not? I would even argue that they have put in much more mat time over the years then many Kenpoists holding higher dan levels. But is boxing different? Is it apples and oranges? Are we in Kenpo so special and so unique that we are deserving of having a BA, MA, and/or PhD title beside our name? C'mon guys.

Let's get back to the gym and stop worrying about whether we deserve an MA or PhD.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Snapping Twig

Purple Belt Technique

Snapping Twig is designed for someone coming at us with a front, left hand chest push. Taking the angle of least resistance, we step back with our left foot to 6 o’clock into a right neutral bow while executing a right inward palm strike to the outside of the opponent’s left elbow, simultaneous with a left palm strike to the inside of the opponent’s left wrist. The strike creates a fulcrum, which will break the opponent’s elbow. The elbow break will also control the opponent’s width, which means that the attacker will not be able to turn into you and deliver a right punch with his free hand. At this point, we execute a frictional pull with our right hand (hooking over the opponent’s left arm and pulling it down past our right hip) while simultaneously delivering a left thrusting handsword to the opponent’s throat while shifting into a left forward bow to maximize torque. As we pivot back into our right neutral bow, we hit the opponent with a diagonal right raking hammer fist to the nose, while push-dragging forward to 12 o’clock and finishing with a right elbow sandwich to the opponent’s head.

Here is something cool to experiment with. Let us assume that after delivering the left handsword to the opponent’s throat, the opponent backs up (thereby leaving your raking hammer fist out of reach). If that is the case, try doing a left front crossover at the same time that you deliver the right raking hammer fist. As you continue on from that point in the technique, try delivering a right front kick to the opponent’s knee, and then finish, of course, with the right elbow sandwich.

Have fun!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Summer Seminar Special!!!

From June until the end of August, I will be running a special on my martial arts seminars. During the summer months, the fee will just be $300 excluding travel and lodging expenses. No money for food is necessary. The $300 fee will entitle your martial arts school to three seminars: (1) a seminar for children (2) a seminar for adults (3) and a seminar for instructors. Private lessons are also available upon request.

Seminar topics include, but are not limited to: (1) Learning how to adapt to different sparring strategies of your opponent (2) Street Self-Defense techniques (3) The How’s and Why’s of Forms (4) Sets (5) Multiple Attackers.

For more information, please contact me by email at:


Monday, June 4, 2007

Logging Your Training Time

Since January 2004, I have kept a daily log of everything I have practiced as it pertains to the martial arts. I access and save my log on a Word file, which allows for easy accessibility and data entry.
It is relatively easy to remember what one has done in the past week or so. But keeping a log will allow you to do so much more. By logging your practice time, you can make sure that you are balancing out your training routine, by spending ample time on material throughout all of the belt ranks. Typically, for example, the majority of one’s practice time is in what they teach regularly, or perhaps what they can get through in a short period of time in today’s fast pace society. But logging allows you to see where you have not devoted enough time. So, if you are a 1st degree black belt, for example, you may see that you have practiced Short Form 2 perhaps 30 times full-out this year, but have only practiced Long Form 3 or Long Form 4 say 5 times. If this is the case, this should encourage you to devote the next few days or perhaps weeks to really fine-tune Long Forms 3 and 4.
By logging my practice time, I make sure that I have practiced all 96 extensions at regular speed at least every month, in addition to all of the base techniques. I also make sure that I have practiced my sets and forms several times monthly. I also keep track of how many days I have taught Kenpo throughout the year (if you want to modify this, you could keep track of how many classes that you have taught, for example). I keep track of all of my weapons forms and empty hand forms that I know from other martial art styles (typically Kung Fu), as well as drills practiced, and how many days I spar in a given month.
Since January 2006, I have even kept track of how many days per month (or year) I have practiced Kenpo Karate one hour or longer. This really helps me train harder and to set goals. In 2006, I practiced 318 out of 365 days for one hour or longer, and I am “dead set” on beating that this year!!
In short, I really encourage everyone to log his or her mat time. Also, let me know of any ideas that you come up with that are worth logging as well.