Kempo is known for its fast hand work, wrist locks, and rapid-fire punches. We aren’t known for our kicking skills. Though it may be due to Kempo masters’ belly size, I rather attribute it to a lack of focus in class. Kempo emphasizes keeping the left and right hand balanced. This concept should also apply to hands and feet. Below are four of our kicking routines.
Kicking Set #1
Half moon forward with a front ball kick (4 times)
Half moon backward with front ball kick (4 times)
Repeat with different kick
Kicking Set #2
Half moon forward with a front ball kick
While still in a crane stance, pivot and side blade kick to the front
Set the foot down in a half moon stance to new direction (the kicking leg is the rear leg)
Repeat until you’re facing the front
Repeat with the other leg
Repeat with lead leg
Kicking Set #3
Perform series of kicks down a straight line.
Turn in a fighting stance and repeat down the line again.
- Roundhouse, spinning back and front ball kick.
- Crescent, spinning reverse crescent and roundhouse.
- Crescent, spinning wheel, roundhouse.
- Roundhouse, spinning hook, spinning axe.
- Dragon tail sweep, dragon tail sweep, front two knuckle punch.
Note that each series should require you to repeat the same kicks using the other leg. Keep both legs balanced.
Kicking Set #4
Defender slap blocks and returns kick
Defender becomes new Attacker and kicks with the other leg
Repeat at brisk pace
GM Gascon told me that we rarely kick above the belt because the hands are better forms of attack for that area. Likewise, the kick is an excellent attack for the legs and pelvis. However, we should practice our kicks high and fast to develop flexibility, speed, and accuracy.
I hope you enjoy these insights into our curriculum. If you have kicking exercises you’d like to share, email them to me. I turned off comment section recently because nothing but spam appears in the comments. I’d love to add some other examples from other schools, especially Kempo schools.
Pin the attacker
Martial arts training is filled with repetition. It is an instructors job to disguise repetition and to enhance students’ abilities. In our style of Kempo, we have a set of predefined techniques that we practice. Kata is made up of these Combinations, which is the bunkai or application of the kata. These techniques are used for grading and testing. Class is filled with performing these combinations to the air and with partners. How can we mix up this stale system and breath new life into our repetitious rut? Try these new ways of practicing your combinations.
- Kata style: Start with the first technique and do each on right after the finishing the previous technique. Do not adjust your facing. The goal is to have as little time between the performance of each technique as possible.
- Five by Five: To engrain the combinations into your mind, practice smaller groups of techniques. I suggest doing five combinations in a row, and repeating that set five times. Then move on to the next set of five techniques. This will help improve your memory and provide enough practice of the combinations to provide improvement.
- Left sided: As a student, we began training our combinations against a left-handed attacker at Black Belt. At my school, we start earlier because it provides so much benefit to the student. About Green Belt, practice the easiest five combinations reversing the sides, add another five combinations at Brown Belt. This method is a mirror of the right sided technique. In other words, a left punch becomes a right punch and a right block becomes a left block.
- On your back: Lay on your back and attempt to perform your combinations from the floor. This method requires a lot of visualization, imagination, and adaptation. The techniques will not be the same rather they will be essentially the same. For example, Combination 12 starts with a left kick and then spinning back kick. From the floor, you spin into a donkey kick (hands on the floor supporting your back kick), and continue to spin up to a fighting stance.
- Armed: My favorite way of practicing combinations is with a pocket stick or yawara. Hold the stick in your hand with a bit protruding from both sides of your fist. Perform your combinations as normal but utilize the stick to hook, strike and poke the opponent anytime you would normally use your hand for a strike. Like before, it requires visualization, imagination, and adaptation.
Though our combinations are set and predefined, that is not their real application. Kempo techniques are tools in your tool belt. You use them in any order and adapt them to the reactions of the attacker. You must flow with the attack, adapting and adjusting as needed. Real fights do not go as scripted in kata or in the combinations. When these variations are combined with the Triple I training, your techniques will become very effective.
Perfect practice prevents piss-poor performance. Train hard, train often, and train repetitiously.
I was looking through my notes and decided to post the Bo Staff course for my students to review.
1. Shu-shi no kon
2. Chu-on no kon
3. Saku-gawa no kon
4. Tsuken no kon
Hojo Undo (Basic drills)
Set 1: Strikes
1. Jo dan uchi
2. Kubi uchi
3. Chudan uchi
4. Gedan uchi
5. Nodo zuki
Set 2: Blocks
1. Jo dan uke
2. Kubi uke
3. Yoko uke
4. Gedan uke
5. Nodo kake uke
Set 3: Grip changing
1. Jo dan uchi
2. Kubi uchi
3. Yoko uchi
4. Gedan uchi
5. Kake uke tsuki (zen kutsu dachi/neko ashi dachi)
Set 4: Partner Drills
1. Head defense
2. Temple defense
3. Rib defense
4. Knee defense
5. Throat defense
Set 5: Shu-shi Complex
8 steps of the routine
Set 6: Block and counter
1. Gedan yoko uke, kubi uchi
2. Gedan yoko harai uke, nuki
3. Suna kake
5. Shitte, gyaku zuki
Perform the sets first, then you learn the kata. The partner drills are key in developing good timing and accuracy with the bo. It’s a lot like stick fighting (arnis) with a six foot stick. Also note that you can think of the staff as a spear too. Become flexible with how you think of bunkai and the weapons you use.
I hope you enjoy this and I’ll look for other notes.
Black belt in stance
Check out this article from the Karate Nerd’s 51 Awesome ways to practice kata. Stay awhile and check out his other posts.
I’m always looking for inspiration to make my practice seem fresh. Looking over the list, I see that I do and have done a few of these. My next challenge is to practice all 51 ways.
Do you have another way to practice your kata?
Last Saturday, I got to reconnect with a long time friend, student and teacher Michael Fugate at his dojo in Santee. It was great to see his students work on their Tai Chi and see how he continues to propagate the true arts. After all these years, I realized that when we don’t take care to make time for our friends life will sweep you away.
To all my former students, please take a moment to send me a message if I haven’t reached out to you. It only takes one person to start a conversation and I tend not to be that individual. Each of you have made my life a little richer just by knowing you. As for GM Fugate, I think I learned more from him than I ever taught him. Martial arts training always attracts the best kinds of people.
Train hard. Train often. Train with intent.
When we try something new we are nervous. This is because we feel that if we make a mistake we’ll feel foolish. The problem with this type of thinking is that everybody is a beginner at everything sometimes. Michael Jordan wasn’t born with a basketball in his hands. In fact, Michael Jordan was kicked off his freshman team in high school after tryouts because he wasn’t good enough to be on the team. He used that “failure” to go on to becomes a basketball legend.
What’s important to remember is that mistakes are the stepping stones to success. What we fail at today we become good at tomorrow. It takes courage to try something new, then continues to try when we haven’t become good at it yet. Like the Home run kings, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa will tell you even if you miss hitting the ball five times in a row, if you keep on swinging, you’ll get your hit. Babe Ruth was the champion homerun hitter, but he struck out 1,333 times during his career.
Nothing is gained without taking a risk, and it takes courage to take a risk. Even a risk with less than successful results can help you learn a lot about yourself and what you’re trying to do. Courage is an important part of learning to be a martial artist. In fact, learning martial arts and learning about courage can sometimes be the same thing. Courage is learned as you journey through your lessons in martial arts.