Flow like Water

One of Sijo Bruce Lee’s famous quotes, “Be like water, my friend” is appropriate for Kempo. These are some of the qualities of water we want to emulate in our art.

  • Pent up action
  • Path of least resistance
  • Continuous flow
  • Drown the opponent

Pent up action
The waist is akin to a Kempo capacitor. That is where striking power is stored and discharged from. Turn the waist to build up momentum and power. Then turn the waist back into the attack to generate a powerful assault. The Chinese arts call this Jing, we call it percussive striking.

One of the early techniques, DM3, demonstrates this waist power. The first move is a #4 block and a waist turn. Then you settle back into a dragon stance with a right thrust punch. The right hip drives this punch. It can be quite powerful when performed correctly.

Path of least resistance
During the assault when sensing strong resistance, we must flow to an alternate zone of attack. Just like the Germans of World War II, we don’t attack the fortified French line. Rather, we quickly move up and around to an exposed, defenseless area. It’s a classic military concept of flanking the enemy. Water has the natural abilities to find weakness and flow towards that area.

For example, the theory around escapes from wrist grabs. The human body can’t defend all fronts. You’ll often encounter a partner that knows what’s coming and resists the lock. The proper response is not to force it, but to move to another lock. This is flanking the muscle.

Continuous flow
Kempo players should never stop their assault until the opponent is incapacitated, immobilized, in a submission or you choose to disengage. Ocean currents continuously push swimmers in single direction. It is difficult to compensate without extra effort. That is how our techniques should work. Constant control and flow into another move of our choosing. Kempo karenza or jiwaza allow the advanced student to sense the attack and bring it to competition.

Drown the opponent
The relentless, continuous assault of the Kempo player serves to overwhelm the opponent. You want to blanket the opponent to instill a sense of smothering. Like the big wave that smashes into swimmers, the water overwhelms.

Drowning the oppenent can be performed on two levels, physcial and psychological. Practice it like a karenza, but include mental intent designed to demoralize and mentally break the opponent. Sometimes called a game face or mental game, verbally harassing the opponent is a vital aspect of encounters. The goal of overwhelming the opponent is to force them to give up, submit or flee. They must loose their belief in surviving the assault.

Sticky hands and partner drills are good essential for developing the water theory. All of these sub-principles are interrelated. You use all of them in your techniques to some degree. Kempo is rushing water.

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