About Bryan Bagnas

Head instructor of Golden Leopard Kempo, illustrator, and martial arts writer.

Why are combination 8 and 9 so similar?

They both start with a block, a front kick and then a round house kick. Nine has an additional side thrust to the upper ribs. Questions I ask myself as an instructor: “Why spend so much time on basically the same move? Wouldn’t another technique provide additional skills?”

Right jab and left cross punch

The technique is no more important or effective than others. It would be better to modify the curriculum and provide another simple yet effective technique in place of combination 8? The Shaolin Kempo Karate purists are probably coughing up a lung right now in righteous indignation. I’m sure there is a reason for the similarities but I don’t think it justifies such a repetition.

What technique should take its place? A perfect example is Prof. Nick Cerio’s battering ram technique found in his Master’s Text book. It has an angled retreating move—it’s not the same step back or cat stance move so prevalent in early combinations. This same right retreat move is found in combination 20 and provides an introduction or foreshadowing of that technique.

It uses the back fist strike or upper cut, which is often neglected at early ranks. Finally, it provides a solid elbow strike to the head—a truly effective and basic move. This technique has the same number of movements and can be adapted to include other material. For instance, I utilize block 10 which is a high block against a haymaker. This in itself is a benefit for intermediate students who are now too accustomed to attacks presented as a straight front punch. It changes the attack and makes them think.

What’s more frustrating is other techniques are likewise very similar. Combination 89 and 90 are so similar that they don’t deserve to be presented as distinct techniques. I understand the value of using variations of techniques and codifying them for the curriculum. That has value and we use it both in Punch Counters and Kempo Punch Techniques. This value is supported by giving them different identifiers such as 18A and 18B. I see the Combinations as the core of SKK. These are the roots or key elements that make SKK distinct and teach the proper way to defend one self. By loading the core with filler techniques is not the way to develop effective students.

Perhaps a better way of codifying the core combinations is to base them on Master Key moves, the fundamental elements of a Shaolin Kempo Karate defensive technique regardless of initiating attack.

What are your thoughts? Put your answer in the comments below.

Request for Testimonial or Review

old-radioI have a favor to ask of you.

I’m in the process of putting together a list of testimonials about my services and our school from satisfied clients like you.

Would you take a few minutes to give me your opinion of our school? No need to dictate a letter; just jot your comments in an email and return it to me.

I look forward to learning what you like about my service…but I welcome any suggestions or criticisms.

Many thanks.

The International Black Belt Club

What is the Black Belt Club?

Students committed to the goal of Black belt comprise the Black Belt Club (BBC). By the rank of Orange belt, a student should set a goal of Black Belt and join the Black Belt Club. Over 80% of our students are BBC members or BBC Graduates. The Black Belt Club is the inner core of the school, and best represents the ideals of Golden Leopard Kempo.

The Black Belt Club is both a club and a program for people who have set Black Belt as their goal. You may have noticed the Black Belt Club members in your class. They wear the Black Belt Club patch on their sleeve and wear the belts with the black stripe running the full length. Black Belt Club members participate in many areas of Kempo Karate training that aren’t in regular classes, such as Kobudo training, breaking, and an advanced kata set Halawa.

Who can qualify for the Black Belt Club?

To qualify, a student must be a Gold belt or above and have their instructor’s approval.

How do I get recommended?

To qualify for advanced training beyond your trial year, you must:

  1. Have set a goal of Black Belt.
  2. Have regular belt exam participation.
  3. Be A-rated in Kempo, school/work, and at home.
  4. Demonstrate the qualities of Black Belt Excellence in and out of the school.
  5. Have a high level of enthusiasm for Kempo class.
  6. For students still in school, a good report card on conduct and attitude from parents and teachers.
  7. Support school functions and events.
  8. Have good attendance and eagerness to make up absences.
  9. Be current with tuition payments.
  10. Have the full support of the family.

What are the benefits of the Black Belt Club?

Golden Leopard Kempo is a Black Belt school, and when a student commits to earning Black Belt, they are past the trial stage. They become part of our school with the following privileges.

  1. Discounts on all special events.
  2. Special weekly seminar/workout for Black Belt Club members only
  3. Lowest possible tuition rate through the Black Belt with no yearly increases
  4. Special Black Belt Club patch
  5. Special Black Belt Club belt
  6. Opportunity to wear the black uniform of the Black Belt Club

How do you join the Black Belt Club?

Upon earning your Gold Belt, you enter the Black Belt Update phase of your training. Your instructors will conduct a series of evaluations and tests to determine if you qualify for advanced training in the Black Belt Club. Eligible students get invitations to join the Black Belt Club. Train hard and good luck!

How to control your enemy

Setting up for an arm lock

Setting up for an arm lock

One of the keys to a successful self-defense situation is controlling the enemy. Here are more principles from the brilliant mind of Sun Tzu.

21. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.

22. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him.  Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

23. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them.

24. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

25. These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.

If the enemy is powerful and ready, he will soon attack. If he is obviously better than you are, get away. These are ways to control the enemy by knowing their next move. Bait them with smack talk if the enemy looks easy to make angry. As stated in the last post, fake being weak and injured to make your enemy feel superior. That will often make them choose to attack with fewer defenses up — committing more to the attack than necessary or safe.

Also, if the enemy it knocked off balance or tired, continue a relentless assault to finish him off. Likewise, a group of enemies must be attacked one at time. We use the rule of two, hit each opponent twice and then move on to the next one. Attempt to devastate the opponent as visually amazing as possible. Make it gory, thematic, and audible — scream a lot. You can also divide up the enemies by closing doors or blocking others out while you finish off an isolated opponent.

Another rule of martial arts is you can’t defend all areas at the same time effectively. Therefore, there is always a weak spot in their defense. The trick is to find that area and attack it. Attack in a way that they are not expecting.

Whatever you think of or implement, do yourself a favor and don’t tell anyone. The best military advantages are secret, so keep your secret too.

Deception in self-defense

Punch in the Face ImpactThe goal of any self-defense situation is to survive the assault. We prepare for it physically through our martial arts training but there is a mental component to it also. There is an old saying in the arts, 99% of combat is mental and only 1% is physical. Sun Tzu explains why this is true in the next section.

18. All warfare is based on deception.

19. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

20. Hold out baits to entice the enemy.  Feign disorder, and crush him.

Part of the role of humility is to not be seen as a threat. Aggressive people seek out threats to eliminate them before they in turn can be threatened. This is one of the main reasons martial artists are told not to boast about how they know Karate or Kempo. It tells would-be-enemies of your abilities. They can then take measures to defend against your skills. It is better to be thought of as weak and unable to defend yourself than give up your secret weapon.

Feign injury when you are able to attack. Hold your arm or limp so the enemy thinks you are at a disadvantage. Sneak in on the enemy from a blind side so you can surprise him by your appearance. In self-defense training, we talk about throwing things at the attacker so it can ricochet off the wall. Then the enemy thinks there is someone behind them. Of course you don’t throw it while he’s looking directly at you. You must be sly and deceptive.

Feigning confusion and panic is a great way to get your enemy to over commit with their next attack. Likewise, you must know when to show irrational behavior and rage. This tricks the enemy into thinking you are losing your rational, tactical mind. It can also be used to scare the enemy into routing the field.

We’ll talk more about this next article. Meanwhile, have you ever used some of these principles in your own self-defense situation?

Following Sun Tzu’s advice

japan temple 2The next section recommends that the good general or in our case, martial artist, listen and implement what he suggests.

15. The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer: let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat: let such a one be dismissed!

16. While heading the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.

17. According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.

Even while using his recommendations and theories to guide your defense, his also recommends using any helpful circumstances that occur. If the circumstances are covered by the rules he supplies, Sun Tzu recommends making use of it anyway if it will help your situation.

Therefore, in a self-defense situation, when something helpful happens integrate it into your counter strike. For instance, the confrontation or fight takes you to a spot where you can duck into a room and lock the door to escape. Take the fortuitous opportunity. If your opponent slips on a greasy spot on the floor and stumbles, take advantage of it right away. The list is endless to a creative mind. The trick then is to spot them when they occur naturally and then make use of it.

Use the environment to supplement your skills and situation. Leave comments below if you have ever used some of these principles in your own self-defense situation.

Who wins a self-defense situation?

tkd 8 medalsTherefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:
(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?
(2) Which of the two generals has most ability?
(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
(5) Which army is stronger?
(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

14. By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

Let me paraphrase this list into modern parlance and in self-defense jargon.
(1) Which combatant is willing to defend themselves regardless of the danger and has the stern resolve to do it?
(2) Which combatant has strategies in place for confrontations?
(3) Who uses their environment and available tools to defend themselves?
(4) Who is trained to be more disciplined?
(5) Who is mentally, physically and spiritually stronger?
(6) Which combatant is the most trained in martial skills?
(7) Who has trained most consistently for confrontations?

As you can see from my new list, the winner of a self-defense confrontation is someone who has trained consistently in an effective art such as Golden Leopard Kempo-justu. It doesn’t really matter which art you prefer or study. All the arts provide benefit of discipline and martial techniques. Some are more applicable to actual street level self-defense situations.

What is most important is the preparation for the situation. Hoping it won’t happen doesn’t aid you when the time comes. Take charge of your life by learning how to defend yourself. This eliminates the effects of fear allowing you to focus and assess the situation.

While speaking of self-defense, preparation also includes things outside of carrying a small weapon or making your hands lethal weapons. It includes disaster preparedness — do you have survival kits, food and water, tents, cash. Do you know first aid techniques, CPR and AED? Situations are infinitely diverse. The more you learn and prepare the wider your range of effectiveness. It also provides you with a broader scope of skills that can be modified for other situations.

Be a Modern Warrior: Assertiveness and Self-responsibility

karate kids 1Martial artists in modern society are modern warriors. No, we aren’t running to the next state to steal their cows or horses. I mean warriors in the ideal sense — the noble knight or valiant soldier. Many of us are not professional soldiers but we are a part of our local community. We are the guardians of our neighborhoods.
You should rise to the character expectations of all warriors. We are not thugs or bullies. We are pillars of the community who meet danger with action, not flight. Here are some ideas that wrote using free association:

  • Stand your ground and protect your honor and beliefs.
  • Help others especially those who can not help themselves
  • Be prepared for disasters with food, supplies, medicine, guns, and ammo.
  • Know CPR and first aid. Be willing to perform it on others.
  • Maintain your beliefs regardless of the situation
  • Remember that not everyone has the same beliefs as you. Americans and warriors both protect everyone’s rights to have or not have religion.
  • A secular society maintains fairness, self-responsibility, and openness.
  • Do not stand for the trampling of rights of smaller groups. One day, you may be in a smaller group.
  • Keep yourself responsible for your own actions.
  • Take actions that are responsible, noble and just.
  • Help others selflessly

This list may be high handed and a bit self-righteous but that is how one must live to be considered a warrior in my book. Don’t agree, let me know in my comments.

Lifeskills Training at our Dojo

tournament kidsWhen you compare Golden Leopard Kempo to any other school you will quickly find that we are miles ahead of the field! Our carefully structured programs go a lot further than just punching, kicking, and blocking. As professional martial arts instructors, we feel that it is our duty not only to help our students develop self-defense skills but also to provide a complete program of personal development to enhance the students quality of life.

“Golden Leopard Kempo offers a complete program for teaching self-defense as well as the all-important character building life-skills.”

Lessons of the Month
Each month our program will focus on a specific aspect of martial arts training such as fitness, confidence or persistence. These individual subjects are addressed each week in our Lesson of the Month, where we highlight just how martial arts can help improve many areas of our students’ lives. These virtues and themes are what differentiate martial arts training from typical team sports. We build the spirit, mind, and body through positive messaging.
Stories of the Month
Our Stories of the Month program is another innovative way we help educate our students about important lessons in life. Stories are not just for children, but for adults as well, as we rediscover the benefits of honesty, respect, work ethic, friendship and other values that make our lives more enjoyable. These stories align with the Lessons of the Month, reinforcing the virtues of proper behavior and character.

Understanding Adapting, Adjustment and Gauging Points

wing-tsun 1Where 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.