Tuesday, August 28, 2007

High-Ranking Black Belts That Don’t Spar

In American Kenpo Karate, as in other arts, there are many high-ranking black belts that simply do not spar. They are full of knowledge and skill, and can make their self-defense techniques look virtually flawless with minimal effort, but yet they are missing a critical component to their training - having someone stare straight back at them, while trying to hit them with whatever possible. They hold 7th degree black belts and higher, yet the last time they have slapped on the gear against a notable opponent was, say, 10-20 years ago.

Many people believe that continuous sparring is simply about two people trying to hurt each other, and because one has progressed to some supposed level of mastery, he/she is beyond that level of training due to age, knowledge, and skills acquired. I don’t buy it. The true warrior, in my eyes, is one that puts his whole body and heart into his training regime, of which sparring cannot be neglected. The higher the rank, the greater should be the level of one’s commitment.

While one must be in top physical shape to engage in full-contact sparring (particularly against good quality opponents), the reality is that continuous sparring is just as much a mental game as it is physical. Indeed, much of a fight is devoted to strategy, and learning how to adapt your fighting style to fit the situation, which is based in large part on how your opponent fights. Much of that “mental game” is lost when one’s training routine is based almost exclusively on demonstrating self-defense techniques on a partner for which the attack is already predetermined. Furthermore, in addition to the use of punching and kicking techniques, continuous fighting allows for use of takedowns, and possibly ground-fighting with submissions. Again, this sense of realism is lost when high-ranking black belts stick to just teaching, practicing forms, weaponry, or choreographed self-defense techniques.

While martial arts is clearly more than just learning how to fight, I don’t think black belts should lose sight of the fact that martial arts is, in turn, also a lot more than being able to pull off a victory in forms at a tournament, or being able to dazzle the audience with one’s speed while executing choreographed self-defense techniques.

Which gets back to the title of this blog. Why don’t most high-ranking black belts spar on a regular basis, let alone hardly ever?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Street Fighting or Personal Growth?

Someone asked an interesting question today. The person stated that given that we are more apt to obtain a lifestyle disease than we are to be violently attacked on the street, why is there so much emphasis on street self-defense and not much in the way of lifestyle modification?

I will answer that from my perspective, although I am confident that much of what I state can be applied generally. First, in my early days of training back in 1985, and probably continuing on through the lower ranks of black belt, I was fascinated with the street-fighting applications of movement contained in American Kenpo. I wanted to learn how to be a "fighting machine", and I was confident that through proper instruction in American Kenpo, I could get there.

As I continue to grow, mature, and develop in my Christian walk, as well as my relationship with my wife and two daughters, my perspectives on life have changed. That doesn’t mean I don’t love fighting full contact because I do it all of the time. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t love "working" what I believe are the most practical self-defense techniques known to man, which I believe are contained in American Kenpo. In fact, I love sparring and self-defense techniques more than I ever have. What it means, however, is that my character has changed. I don’t need Kenpo to prove to myself that I can fight; I need Kenpo for personal growth.

Through a stringent daily Kenpo Karate plan, I am exercising more than I ever have in my life, both in terms of frequency and duration. Doing so allows me to stay in the best shape that I possibly can, and gives me the mental focus to tackle all other areas of my life. It helps me grow spiritually in my relationship with Christ. It helps me focus my attention on my wife’s needs and desires in our marriage. It also helps me be a better father and "kid" with my two daughters.

Additionally, I also use Kenpo Karate as a tool to help others. Through Kenpo, I teach my students that with diligent practice, they too can achieve what they want in life by learning the acquired discipline, focus, and perseverance. I also teach them that association breed’s similarity, and thus the people that we choose to hang around are the same ones that we will most likely end up being like. So, for example, if we choose to hang around people that love bars, drinking, and smoking, the probability rises that we will have to fight given the location and atmosphere of these places. Conversely, if we hang around people who love to exercise, that say no to substance abuse, avoid bars and strip clubs, in most likelihood, we won’t ever be in a situation where we have to engage in a real fight.

Question: what are you taking martial arts for?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Blinding Sacrifice

3rd Degree Brown Belt Technique

Blinding Sacrifice works as a defense for an attempted two-hand front choke. It is related to Parting Wings and Thrusting Wedge, all three of which are contained in Long Form 3.

As the attempted choke comes at us, we immediately step in with our right foot to 12 o’clock while thrusting our forearms forward as we wedge the inside of our opponent’s arms. As we do this, our fingers attack the opponent’s eyes. We then continue the circle of our arms and clear the opponent’s arms out of the way, while delivering a double underhand groin shot with our claw hands. In anticipation of the opponent’s head coming forward as we grab and pull the groin, we should have our head in position to deliver the head but.

The next part of the technique is the “sacrifice”, the term used in Kenpo techniques when we have to break a rule. As we draw our arms behind the opponent’s back, our arms are lower and underneath of the opponent’s, thus breaking the rule of keeping our arms above our opponent’s. We do this, however, to execute double back fist strikes to our opponent’s kidneys (making sure to use back-up mass when doing so), as we pull back to the cat stance with two vertical outward blocks, which in this case are really checks. We then step back in and deliver a four-finger slice to the opponent’s eyes, finishing with two thumb strikes. As the opponent’s arms come up from the eyes strikes, we then frictionally pull the opponent’s arms down to cancel his height zone (putting weight on the opponent’s feet), and immediately circle our arms back up for two inverted roundhouse punches to the opponent’s temples. We then collapse our two forearms so as to attack the jaw on both sides of the opponent’s face (some versions teach this move as a brace with the left hand, while letting the right forearm go for the jaw break). We finish the technique by grabbing the top of the opponent’s head with both hands and delivering a right knee strike to the opponent’s face, while landing with a right foot stop to the opponent’s right instep and foot. Note that it is possible to execute the knee to the face with the rear (left) leg, however, it is done with the front knee for category completion purposes.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

ECKS London, Ontario, Canada Kenpo Karate Training Camp!!!!!

This is a quick reminder that the ECKS training camp will be held in London, Ontario, Canada from August 17-19th at Paul Dawdy’s Olympic Karate, 425 First Street. The ECKS camp is open to Kenpoists from ALL backgrounds and lineages. Seminar instructors include Steve Arsenault (8th Degree American Kenpo Karate Black Belt), Jamie Seabrook (6th Degree American Kenpo Karate Black Belt), Jason Arnold (5th Degree American Kenpo Karate Black Belt), Paul Dawdy (5th Degree American Kenpo Karate Black Belt), and Pat Robinson (4th Degree American Kenpo Karate Black Belt). Topics include Orange, Purple, Blue, and Green belt technique extensions, position recognition and family groupings, mental attributes, environment and target availability, Kenpo forms and sets, and Modern Arnis applications.

Below is the agenda for the Kenpo Karate camp:

August 17
7:00pm Environment of Kenpo-Seabrook
8:00pm Kenpo Advanced Extensions 2nd Black-Arsenault
9:00pm Kenpo Requests-Arsenault

August 18
2:00pm Arnis Applications-Dawdy
3:00pm Kenpo Advanced Extensions 3rd Black-Arsenault
4:00pm Position Recognition/Groupings-Arnold
5:00pm Mental Attributes and Set-Robinson
6:00pm Kenpo Forms Requests-Arsenault

August 19
9:00am Kids Seminar!
10:00am Kenpo Advanced Extensions 4th Black-Arsenault
11:00am Kenpo Sets and Forms Requests-Arsenault

Kids Seminar $20
Teen Camp $99
Adult Camp $150
After August 1st Please Add $20
Family Discount 25% OFF each additional family member!

To register, call Steve Arsenault at: 1-508-998-3937

Hotel Information:
Delta London Armouries
325 Dundas St
London, Ontario

Airport Inn & Suites
2230 Dundas St
London, Ontario