Understanding Adapting, Adjustment and Gauging Points

Where a fight starts and how close the combatants are very important things to know. These ranges and the opponent’s reaction also play a part in the overall outcome of the conflict. As I said many times before, there are an infinite number of variations to a situation. No two are a like.

But then why do we practice a set routine of techniques? And why do I get corrected all the time in class if the technique isn’t going to happen that way? To get yet another answer, you need to know a few terms.

  • Adapting point is the section of a technique where you make changes to accommodate for how the opponent reacts to your initial strikes. Did you hit the pressure point just right and now the opponent has completely crumbled in front of you? Did he shake off your devastating strike or counter it, now what do you do? You adapt the technique.
  • Adjustment points are the sections of a technique where you make adjustments to the performance of moves in response to environmental and structural differences as compared to practice in the dojo. Are you about to do a jump-kick in a low-ceiling room? Is there room for you to back up in the crowd or a room full of pillars? Rethink the next few moves to keep yourself out of harms way, allow yourself room to actually perform your moves and use the pointy end of the table as a weapon or landing platform.
  • Gauging points are sections of a technique where you shuffle in or out to maintain optimal distance to the opponent. Does the opponent step out to the side to catch his balance thereby taking him out of the next counter’s optimal range? Well, you adapt by shuffling up to him or changing to a longer ranged weapon.

These three are really different sides to the same concept, making changes on the fly. You may be hurt or protecting someone else. No fight is going to occur as practiced in the dojo. No opponent is going to match your uke in size, mass and movements. Therefore it seems only natural to accommodate for these differences in your technique.

We naturally do them when we change uke during class. In fact, that’s the reason you are asked to change your uke so often. Get a mix of body types, speed and range of motion to develop an understanding of these points.

By isolating the sections of a technique, you can see the best time to make changes and adaptations. This also helps you combine moves together to improvise as needed. Don’t let changes in the circumstances through off your game and unsettle your mind. Remain calm, mushin, and go with the flow.
Also read my post on the three levels to improve your technique, zone defense strategy and the can’t reach situation.

Do you have a story about how you or someone else adapted, adjusted or changed the gauging of a technique that you thought was cool? Tell me in the comments.

5 Constant Factors in Self-Defense

This is the next installment of my commentary on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for personal self-defense. What are the five constant factors necessary for successful defense?

The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline.

The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger. [Tu Yu quotes Wang Tzu as saying:   “Without constant practice, the officers will be nervous and undecided when mustering for battle; without constant practice, the general will be wavering and irresolute when the crisis is at hand.”]

Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.

Here Sun Tzu is mentioning time and weather. These play a factor in your self-defense strategy. In the cold part of the year, baggy jackets can hide pocket sticks and other self-defense weapons. During warmer times, you need to have another place to store your weapon.

Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.

Know the layout of the land, the room or alley. This is part of your situational awareness.

The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness. [The five cardinal virtues of the Chinese are (1) humanity or benevolence; (2) uprightness of mind; (3) self-respect, self- control, or “proper feeling;” (4) wisdom; (5) sincerity or good faith.  Here “wisdom” and “sincerity” are put before “humanity or benevolence,” and the two military virtues of  “courage”  and “strictness”  substituted for “uprightness of mind”  and  “self- respect, self-control, or ‘proper feeling.’”]

By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure. These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.

Total self-defense entails knowing where your supplies are and having them ready. This survivalist point of view may scare the general population but it is essential. Sun Tzu mentions that part of warfare is the maintenance of roads for your supplies. On a personal level, you need to have food, water, radio, fire starters and blankets for disasters. We all know that nature strikes on her own whim. We can not plan for a particular date of an earthquake or hurricane but we can plan for its randomness.

Therefore, I suggest that a modern warrior knows where his or her weapons are, has a survival pack, and is trained to defend himself or herself.

Help raise $350,000 for charity

Bryan’s Viral Network Challenge: raise $350,000 (or Euros, etc.) by July 1st for Mayan Families (http://www.mayanfamilies.org), a non-profit working with indigenous Mayans in Guatemala. Sponsor a child to go to school, feed a family, provide water filters and fuel-efficient stoves, repair classrooms, and ensure animal welfare. If everyone sends in $35 that reads this we can achieve that goal. Please post this on your Wall, Tweet it, Blog it and even Text it to your friends and family. Can we reach 1 million people? Are you up to the Challenge?

8 Steps to Self-defense Review

Just taught another self-defense class on Wednesday. We reviewed my 8 Key Points of Self Defense Basics , 10 Things to prevent attacks3 Things to think about before getting mugged, and demonstrated a few easy techniques.  I decided that I should really explain or recap those techniques. These techniques are designed for complete beginners. There are better methods and moves but these should serve those who have little or not training — other than my class.

Pinning the attacker

Pin the attacker

Squat
Step out in a wide stance and bend your knees. In formal training, this will be called a Horse stance, Half-moon stance, or Fighting stance. Just remember to lower your center of gravity by squatting down. This is the first move of all the following techniques and happens after you remember to breathe.

Windmill
These arm moves can be done downward or upward. It looks like you’re madly crushing crackers in a bag on the table. These act as scans to deflect in coming strikes, as blocks for incoming strikes and as hammer strikes (your offensive strike). Remember that unless you learned how to perform a front punch properly, it is better to do a hammer or elbow strike. A poorly done front punch will hurt you more than your opponent.

Secondly, this Windmill move is also a wrist escape — a grab defense we teach at White Belt. Spin your arm in the direction their thumb is pointing or on. This releases the grip. After you are free, you run away.

Choke Defense
The key to all defenses against grabs and chokes is to start it before it makes contact. Use your upward Windmill to deflect the attack. Shuffle or step in and double hammer strike the bad guy’s collar bones. Screaming like a berserk Viking helps too. Yes, then it is time to run away.

Shoulder Grab
From your squat position, knuckle-strike the inside of the bad guy’s upper arm. Don’t hit the tricep or bicep. Strike the flat tender section in between. While he thinks about how much that actually hurt, you slap or hammer strike his face. Then you run away.

Bear Hug
Think of bears, honey and bees. This will help you remember the trick to get out. As the bad guy starts to hug the life out of you, pinch his ribs or fleshy inner upper arm like a bee. You can also bee sting (the pinch) the inner thigh area. Once he lets go, run away.

The final rule for self-defense is never, ever stop fighting. Never, ever give up unless you get your way. Punch, strike, hit, yell, and scratch until you are free. Pretend you are a cat just about to get a bath. Be the cat.

You should also read my posts about personal space and 5 ways to distract your opponent to round out your self-defense preparedness. Getting comfortable with a mugger so close to you and having a plan to distract him will provide you with ample opportunities to get away.

For those who attended my “Self-defense Workshops” long ago or more recently, I hope you enjoyed it. I also hope you never needed it. Either way, leave a comment below with questions or high praise for my class.

Until next time, train like a warrior.

Monkey style block against street fighters

One of the key strengths of the monkey is its adaptability. Therefore it behooves the student to practice in street clothes, in their normal shoes and in common environments like doorways, small rooms, and so on. This type of training is also found in our Filipino Arnis and Japanese Ninjutsu traditions. By removing the shock of a new environmental situation, you can focus on the task at hand, namely your defense.

When defending against the hook punch, it is better to fight someone trained in pugilistic arts rather than a completely untrained fighter. Someone without training is very unorthodox because they don’t know any better. His reactions can run the gambit of possibilities, often times unknowingly thwarting your defense and counter attack. A trained fighter, boxer or karateka is predictable. They know the best attack opportunities and you know where to defend against them. Effectively defending very strong positions conserves energy while defending small-value areas can lead to wasted energy.

Learn to fight from a cold position when fighting an unorthodox fighter. Let them set the pace of the confrontation and “floor rules”. This requires you to have really good timing since you need to launch an effective defense after they strike. The defense must also open the opponent up to a great counter-attack.

Against a hook punch, the traditional outward blocks won’t stop it. The fist comes around the block, still finding purchase on your head or core body.

For instance, the hook punch from the right hand travels in an arc towards your left side. Catch it with your left arm whipping the hand over and grab the biceps area. This secures the elbow and neutralizes the power of the attack. Weight it down. You can use a monkey grip or seize various pressure points on the arm. I prefer just to keep it weighted for unbalancing in the counter offensive.

With this grip defense, even if he forces or powers through your lock, it will turn your whole body not just your arm. In other words, if the defense doesn’t stop the punch it moves you out of the way. That’s a great feature of this technique. From there you have options like leg-hocks, knee-stomps or reaps.

Using this grip doesn’t require you to seize, though that’s an option as mentioned before. It is more important to stay relaxed. Dropping your weight onto the arm may unbalance the opponent. Use that in conjunction with a right slap or strike. Stay relaxed and allow the force to upset his balance. Take advantage of his new state – usually falling over his arm.

Keep them distracted with a flurry of strikes to the face and vitals. The monkey is very deceptive and flurries to the unprotected eyes can cause frustration in your opponent. By changing his emotion, you can gain even more advantage in the fight if it’s not over by that time. Always move to keep or add to your strengths in a fight. The only fair fight is one you win.

Practice the difference between a superior fighter and a regular street fighter. These modes of condition will allow you to adapt to the unpredictable confrontation you may experience. You can’t prepare for each unique fight but you can prepare for the flavor of the fight.

Review of Iron Man 2

I saw Iron Man2 over the weekend and it was a great movie. The caveat here is I enjoy comic book based stories and characters so that colors this review. Minor spoilage to follow.

Overall Story = Good four fist rating
General Action = Good four fist rating
Martial arts moves (Black Wideo) = five fist rating

Martial arts moves (everyone else) =

Guns and missiles = Awesome five fist rating

This is a great follow up movie to the great Iron Man movie. The plot is sufficient to carry the repluser blasting Iron Man through the story. I enjoyed seeing War Machine get outfitted and then using his weapon upgrades. Lots of cool scenes of him shooting robots and bad guys.

Check out this article on his Stark Industries Home Particle Acelerator kit

My recommendation, as I said on Twitter (@bagnas), go see it. If you’re like me, you’ll pray for a rewind button when Black Widow (Scarlet) starts to kick bad guy butt. It’s for the sweet moves she executes, not the form fitting costume, really.

What’s your opinion? Tell me in the comments below.

It is important to know and prepare for self-defense

I. LAYING PLANS

The first chapter is called laying plans. It stresses building a foundation from which to rest all your skills and assets. I equate this with learning how to stand, punch, kick and move properly. There is no sense if rushing the process so you can be effective earlier. Rather it is better to build slowly and surely to get the most value and flexibility out of the process of learning.

Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin.  Hence it is a subject of inquiry, which can on no account be neglected.

What Sun Tzu is explaining is the importance of knowing. In our case, one must not neglect training in self-defense hoping that it won’t be needed. As he states, it is a matter of life and death. Putting off the training is the road to ruin while investing in the training is the road to safety.

Not everyone is interested in a comprehensive self-defense course, the whole martial arts way of life. Some are content with a quick four-session course. That is fine but won’t serve you in all situations. Remember that life-long study of martial arts, such as Kempo-jutsu, prepares the body, mind and spirit for combat in all its forms. You never know when you’ll need it or how it will appear. Continuous study provides the renewal of physical and mental skills on a regular basis.

Remember that self-defense is a skill-based activity that requires constant maintenance to remain effective. That’s one thing self-defense experts often forget to mention. You spend a few hours honing some simple motor skills but in six months, you’ll loose the speed and skill. Although it make take a little longer to develop equal self-defense skills in a martial arts school, you put the material deep in the tissue so to speak. You really internalize the material allowing you to adapt and react even when you’re a out of practice.

In scouting, they have a motto of “be prepared”, that is true with your defense too. Take the time to learn a little. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to perform effectively.

System General Category Time to Use Self-Defense Skill Skill Retention
Self-Defense Self-Defense Short High Low
Kempo-jutsu Self-Defense Long High High
Olympic Style Sport Long Low High

What my overly generalized chart depicts is my view on the strengths and weaknesses of corporate self-defense, a self-defense-oriented martial art (like Golden Leopard’s Hawaiian Shaolin Kempo-jutsu) and a more sport-like martial art. They all their focus. If you like to compete in tournaments and look absolutely amazing when performing katas and weapon routines, seek out an olympic style art. If you hate spending more than a few hours on any task, join a corporate-level self-defense workshop. If you want long-term survivability, you need to seek out a solid, self-defense-focused martial art.

When you read, “Learn what your sensei didn’t teach you.” Remember there are things these self-defense experts are also leaving out. As Sun Tzu suggests, the subject of inquiry can not be neglected. Educate yourself and be your own expert.

Don’t agree? Tell me why in the comments.

The story of Sun Tzu

The oldest military treatise in the world, Sun Tzu on the Art of War is one of the finest treatments on warfare and combat ever written. His understanding of war is superb. Over the next few months, I’ll provide quotes from the book and add commentary on how it relates to personal self-defense.

I’m using the public domain version provided by Project Gutenberg

Title: The Art of War
Author: Sun Tzu
Translator: Lionel Giles
Release Date: December 28, 2005  [eBook #17405]

I remember hearing this story from several sources and I believe it illustrates Sun Tzu’s comprehension of warfare training and application of his theories. It exemplifies the execution of strict discipline among one’s troops. Ssu-ma Ch`ien gives the following biography of Sun Tzu:

Sun Tzu Wu was a native of the Ch`i State. His ART OF WAR brought him to the notice of Ho Lu, King of Wu. Ho Lu said to him: “I have carefully perused your 13 chapters. May I submit your theory of managing soldiers to a slight test?”

Sun Tzu replied: “You may.”

Ho Lu asked: “May the test be applied to women?”

The answer was again in the affirmative, so arrangements were made to bring 180 ladies out of the Palace. Sun Tzu divided them into two companies, and placed one of the King’s favorite concubines at the head of each. He then bade them all take spears in their hands, and addressed them thus: “I presume you know the difference between front and back, right hand and left hand?”

The girls replied: Yes.

Sun Tzu went on: “When I say ‘Eyes front,’ you must look straight ahead. When I say ‘Left turn,’ you must face towards your left hand. When I say ‘Right turn,’ you must face towards your right hand. When I say ‘About turn,’ you must face right round towards your back.”

Again the girls assented. The words of command having been thus explained, he set up the halberds and battle-axes in order to begin the drill. Then, to the sound of drums, he gave the order “Right turn.” But the girls only burst out laughing. Sun Tzu said: “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame.”

So he started drilling them again, and this time gave the order “Left turn,” whereupon the girls once more burst into fits of laughter. Sun Tzu: “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders ARE clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.”

So saying, he ordered the leaders of the two companies to be beheaded. Now the king of Wu was watching the scene from the top of a raised pavilion; and when he saw that his favorite concubines were about to be executed, he was greatly alarmed and hurriedly sent down the following message. “We are now quite satisfied as to our general’s ability to handle troops. If We are bereft of these two concubines, our meat and drink will lose their savor. It is our wish that they shall not be beheaded.”

Sun Tzu replied: “Having once received His Majesty’s commission to be the general of his forces, there are certain commands of His Majesty which, acting in that capacity, I am unable to accept.”

Accordingly, he had the two leaders beheaded, and straightway installed the pair next in order as leaders in their place. When this had been done, the drum was sounded for the drill once more; and the girls went through all the evolutions, turning to the right or to the left, marching ahead or wheeling back, kneeling or standing, with perfect accuracy and precision, not venturing to utter a sound. Then Sun Tzu sent a messenger to the King saying: “Your soldiers, Sire, are now properly drilled and disciplined, and ready for your majesty’s inspection. They can be put to any use that their sovereign may desire; bid them go through fire and water, and they will not disobey.”

But the King replied: “Let our general cease drilling and return to camp. As for us, We have no wish to come down and inspect the troops.”

Thereupon Sun Tzu said: “The King is only fond of words, and cannot translate them into deeds.”

After that, Ho Lu saw that Sun Tzu was one who knew how to handle an army, and finally appointed him general. In the west, he defeated the Ch`u State and forced his way into Ying, the capital; to the north he put fear into the States of Ch`i and Chin, and spread his fame abroad amongst the feudal princes. And Sun Tzu shared in the might of the King.

First anniversary of my blog

Golden Leopard Kempo logoToday I have written in this blog for a complete year. It is a milestone in of itself. Last year, I hoped I could maintain the momentum of writing a few times every week. Before I started, I padded my quiver with several articles that I either updated from previous publication in the Leopard Pause, or wrote but never published.

The first six months went well, but then real life intruded. There are about two separate months where I never made it back to post an article — like last month. Oops. Anyway, I’d like to review some of the plans and how well I did against them.

Goals I was able to meet

  • I’m still writing in the blog. Woohoo!
  • I got a lot of article ideas turned into actual articles.
  • Attracted a few of my friends to follow this blog.

Goals that I failed to meet

  • I really wanted to have a single post weekly, ideally every other day except weekends. Close but no cigar.
  • I wanted to remain active on various martial arts forums and blogs. But that is a lot of work. I couldn’t keep it up and still teach and parent.
  • I wanted to post more news items and special events. Like above, I just didn’t have the time.
  • The mysterious cash prize contest.

Ideas that I hoped would happen

  • I hoped my blog would become the pride and joy of the independent Shaolin Kempo community. Yeah, that’s dreaming big but if you don’t dream big then why did you do all the work?
  • I also hoped my blog would be spotted by Hollywood (or even Bollywood — I’m not picky) and they loved me so much they hired me to star in my own movie. Now this is a bit silly but it could happen in some alternate universe of good luck.


Things that did happen

  • I finally got on Twitter (@bagnas) but without a Twitter capable phone and service, it didn’t work out so well. Besides, I have a hard time thinking of things to tweet. You’d never guess that by how much I talk in person.
  • I created a Facebook fan page. That attracted a lot of people I don’t know. Either I’m secretly famous somewhere or they just liked the logo and became a fan.

I’m still interested in getting ideas for topics or concepts you’d like me to discuss. Also, if you have any videos or articles you’d like to share, send them to me. I’d be happy to review them or take on a guest blogger for a day or two. I’ll even post Kempo art and G-rated photos of other martial artists.

See you next year.

Yudansha Units System

I haven’t written in a while so I thought I’d post something I give my Brown Belts, an article from our first issue of the Black Belt Bulletin — a newsletter for members of the Black Belt Club. I hope it inspires other Black Belts to continue their training.  Enjoy.

Level progression in the Black Belt ranks works a little differently than earlier ranks. You still must complete the requirements of kata, techniques, defenses, and kihon. However, the field of material that must be covered is vast, and not taught in a linear fashion. This is why Master Bagnas developed the Yudansha Units System (YUS). You can earn points for various activities, specialized training programs, tournament participation, and instruction duties. However, there are minimum time-in-grade requirements that must be met.

Time-in-Grade Chart:

Rank Minimum Time-in-Grade Units Needed
2nd Degree 1.5 years 50
3rd Degree 2 years 75
4th Degree 3 years 100
5th Degree 5 years 125
6th Degree 5 years 150
7th Degree 5 years 175
8th Degree 5 years 200
9th Degree 5 years 225
10th Degree 10 years 250

What is the Yudansha Unit System?
Traditional Japanese dojos call the body of Black Belt members the Yudansha. This term is excellent for what the YUS represents, a tracking and training system for Black Belt members. As part of the Golden Leopard Kempo Yudansha, you are offered a variety of training paths. This system helps the GLKO track your training so the Testing Board knows what to expect from you during the Black Belt test.

How does the System work?
You can earn points by participating in various activities, including seminars, tournaments, and special classes. Since Black Belt material is taught on a rotating cycle, everyone may acquire different knowledge yet still be eligible for promotion. This allows you to choose your emphasis in the arts, whether you prefer the gentle training of Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) or the ancient weapon arts of Okinawan Kobudo.

By the master level, you must know all these sub-arts however you get to choose what you start first or what is offered. The amount of work you put into your training will produce the best results and the fastest promotion cycle. Some of the options allow for personal study and research, in addition to life-skills improvement.

An instructor must record all points gained on your permanent record to count. If you feel there is any discrepancies or errors, please contact your Chief Instructor to get it resolved. Once you believe you qualify for the next test, your instructor will verify your units and put you on the next Black Belt test.

If there is interest, I’ll post the ways to earn points. All you have to do is write a comment below. When I get enough interest, I’ll post it as a new article.