Grandmaster Michael Fugate

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.

Courage To Try Something New

sunrise karateWhen 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.

Defense against kicks aka kick defense techniques

Great side kick.During my initial training, we only learned a few defenses against kicks. To become proficient in fighting especially in a kick heavy confrontation, you need a better repertoire of defense moves or counter-kick techniques. The most common kicks can be distilled into two types: those that come in straight like a front or side kick and those that come in across like a roundhouse or crescent kick. For simplicity, we’ll just consider those angles of attack since other kicks mimic the entry into your defense zone.

Here are a few techniques I gleaned from the far reaches of my memory, our Black Belt curriculum and sharing with Hapkido instructors. They make up a portion of the curriculum called Kick Defenses Techniques or just Kick Defense for short (as we do for Gun Defenses and Weapon Defenses).

KD 1 (vs. round kick)

V-step forward

Lift the same side leg up and block the kick

 

KD 2 (vs. front kick)

Step to outside, downward block kick and then roll arm around leg

Dropping elbow on thigh

Sweep foundation leg

 

KD 3 (vs. round, front or side kick)

V-step to the inside and jam the kick

Backfist to the solar while the other hand checks leg

Tiger’s mouth to throat

Leg hock

 

KD 4 (vs. round or front kick)

Fade to the side with guarding arm

Round shin kick to the foundation thigh

 

KD 5 (vs. front or side kick)

Fade to the side with guarding arm

Side kick the foundation knee or back of knee

Switch round kick to the head

 

KD 6 (vs. front or side kick)

L-step back with guarding arm

Slide up leg and grab toes and heel with hands

Turn waist as you whip the foot around towards inside zone

Leg lock

 

KD 7 (vs. front or side kick)

Cat stance and absorb the kick with a trap

Step back or turn waist to pull opponent off balance

Front kick the groin

Drop leg and spinning dragon tail sweep

Stand back up

 

KD 8 (vs. front or side kick)

Cat stance and absorb the kick with a trap

Step back or turn waist to pull opponent off balance

Turn the foot so the opponent is on his belly

Cross step over the thigh, trapping the foot on your upper thigh (lock)

End in a seated position and apply pressure on the submission lock

 

KD 9 (vs. front or side kick)

Fade back, tap and grab the foot

Spin-whip the foot towards the outside

They will fall

Heel kick the groin

Standing leg lock

 

For the truly clever, consider adapting some of the Combinations, Punch Counters and Defense Maneuvers to be effective against kicks. You do adapt these techniques for use against armed assailants, right? You have tried these techniques armed with a pocket stick, right? If not, I just provided you with a month of training ideas. Now go practice, practice and practice again.

Warrior Weapons

Gun defense

Gun defense

To be a modern warrior, you should (or must) know how to be a primitive warrior. The ability to build and use simple, effective weapons from our collective history provides a wealth of skills that transfer very well to modern combat. Primitive Tech such as throwing rocks, tomahawks, throwing knives, spears, and bows are important weapons. These simple weapons were effective and easy to learn. They sustained humanity for hundreds of years. They can also keep you safe if all you have to defend yourself is a handful of rocks or a pointy stick. In our dojo, these are training tracks in the weapons program.

The ‘traditional’ weapons of American martial arts movies are the weapons from Okinawa. Even though ninjas hail from Japan, in movies they are often depicted with nunchuku and tonfa, which are Okinawan weapons. Japanese warriors had a lot of unique weapons as did the proud traditions of Chinese martial arts. It is a shame that American movie producers don’t often use the Chinese Hook Sword or the Japanese Kusari-gama. They are dazzling, interesting weapons.

What I call Low Tech weapons are the traditional martial arts weapons from various cultures like Okinawa, Japan, and Europe. Yes, Europe. I feel the German Longsword and other Western weapons are just as valid to study as the Japanese Naginata or Okinawan combat hoe. Yes we wear Japanese gi in the dojo, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a valid fighting technique from Russia, Germany or Spain. Open your mind and drop the bias.

We live in a modern world with modern weapons. This is evident in the newly created gun and rifle defenses of many current styles. High Tech weapons include guns. Therefore, we should learn how to use them, and use them accurately. This will help in defending against an opponent who is using a gun against us. In certain forms of Ninjustu, they have a tradition for using traditional guns of an earlier era. That era was current when the style was developed. Likewise it is imperative that we do the same.

Style of No Style

I have peppered this post with inspirational quotes from Bruce Lee’s book. This whole post was inspired by Bruce Lee and his book—his practical view on the martial arts. I am not fortunate enough to have trained in Jeet Kun Do but that doesn’t mean I can’t take his wise words and apply them to my situation. I believe that was his intent. He wanted us to break out of the mold of old-way thinking and embrace the thought process of scholars. It is the only way to improve what we have and pass on something wonderful to the next generation.

This is of course a hotly debated topic in the martial arts community. Feel free to express your opinion in the comments below. Be civil and professional, please. We are all martial artists and deserve courtesy.

You are the director of the combat

Approach and delivery

I’m often asked how to succeed in combat or self-defense situations. The answer doesn’t involve an ultimate technique or secret finger strike. Rather it is a state of mind, a warrior’s mindset: you must direct all the actors of the confrontation and make them do what you want. If you are confused, you won’t make the proper decisions during the conflict. One of your priorities is this, you want them to loose.

Grab them and pull them to you. Make them comply with how you want to fight.

Don’t let the aggressor dictate how the fight will be fought. If he wants to fight on the ground, stay up. If she wants to engage in a kicking match, slip inside to punch and throw. If he wants a punching match, pull back and start kicking. Or better yet, move the conflict to one of your strengths.

Five Black Belt Club Seminars

Black belt takes time

Black belt takes time

The Black Belt Club members are invited to the following upcoming seminars.

  1. Quick Takedowns covering the fastest way to get an opponent to the ground using control techniques.
  2. Bujutsu 101 showcases the guest instructor teaching a compilation of techniques used in different arts.
  3. Technique Round Table — Each student picks an art, studies one or two techniques and then teaches a segment to the class.
  4. Te Waza covers traps, wrist locks, takedowns and throws using only hand techniques.
  5. Demo 101 covers what elements make up a great martial art or Kempo
    demonstration.

Sign up with the front desk or with your instructor.

Humility

cherry-blossomsHumility is a great character-builder, especially if you value your friends. It means you have self-control and are not arrogant. Leaders practice humility. People who are humble do not brag, criticize others and take others’ criticisms personally.

Humility is a positive quality of a good martial artist. As a student, you must be open to criticism from your instructors or you will not improve your skills and advance. Arrogant students can interrupt classes and everyone’s opportunity to learn, which can lead to injuries and negative confrontations. Those students that demonstrate humility, however, become the best leaders and martial artists, due to their unselfish manners.
Humility puts you more in touch with your real self. It also makes you more genuine, more approachable and more loveable. If you practice humility, then you will be much happier and healthier.

Are you a humble person? Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. When you win a game, do you boast and brag, or do you simply enjoy the moment?
  2. When you meet people who are less fortunate than you, do you put them down or do you openly accept them regardless of their situations?
  3. When you are faced with a new or unfamiliar task, do you struggle to complete it or do you have the courage to ask for help?
  4. When someone puts you down, do you take it to the heart or do you disregard his comments and focus on your goals?

While being humble means that you will be vulnerable, you will have more pride in yourself and you will worry less of what others think of you. You will also have the courage to admit your ignorance, which means that you will learn more.

Your life will be better when you practice humility. When you knowingly resist the temptation to brag, you are gaining maturity. When you accept a friend into your life that is not as fortunate as you are, your heart will become more loving. When you have the courage to admit that you have much more to learn, you will open your mind to new abilities and opportunities. There is no better lesson than humility. Practice humility, experience the positive feelings it causes and you’ll know it is one of your greatest character traits.

Is combination 14 really effective?

Sideblade kick

What are the chances that two people will be in the exact position to make 14 truly effective? Why would you, with good foundational training in key fighting concepts and strategy, decide to jump into the air when two attackers are so close to you? It seems to defy the very strategies and principles of Kempo as learned to the point of introducing this technique. Like my discussion on the redundancies of Combination 8 and 9, I posit that Combination 14 is due for an overhaul.

Again using the inspirational work of Prof. Nick Cerio’s Master’s Text book, he is after all in our line of grandmasters, to find something simple yet effective. What really shines is his Tiger technique. I learned a simplified version of it that I prefer to teach in my school and think that it would make a great replacement for Combination 14.

One of the first things I like is the forward advancing step.  This direction is sadly neglected in other techniques yet provides combat benefits. You are right in the opponent’s face and in a great spot for some powerful strikes.

We often learn in Kempo that there are several directions you can step to defend against an attack. The least effective but most common is directly backward to 6:00. More effective and reasonably common are stepping to 8:00ish, 9:00 and 10:00ish. Other options are 2:00ish, 3:00, and 4:00ish but these are uncommon. In ninjutsu they have techniques that attack at 12:00 angle and they take a lot of confidence and courage to execute.

My point is adding a technique at Blue Belt level that steps to this uncommon area is both beneficial and important. Kempo is successful because of its font of techniques that can be effortlessly pieced together in the chaos of combat. The more tools the fighter has, the better they will be. Shaolin Kempo Karate needs to take a cue from FMA by addressing the angles of attacks equally both in terms of footwork and incoming attack angles. The key word there is ‘equally’, in the sense that all angles should have an equal amount of emphasis.

The bottom line is this, should Combination 14 be changed to something more effective and realistic? Put your answer in the comments below.

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.