Monkey style block against street fighters

boxing community parkOne 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.

Approach and deliveryFor 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.

It is important to know and prepare for self-defense

karate high kickI. 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

bonsaiThe 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

japan staircase greenI 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.

How to Become a Martial Arts Instructor

Have you ever thought about being an instructor? Do you often ask, “How do I become a Kempo instructor?” My answer is quite simple. First become a member of the GOLD Leadership Team, which teaches you leadership skills, teaching skills and coaching or interpersonal skills. You need some experience and training in the martial arts. Knowing Kempo is different from teaching Kempo. Teaching others how to do a technique or move is quite a bit different from knowing it yourself.

Black Belt in meditation

Black Belt in meditation

Being an instructor takes leadership qualities to inspire others to continue training when they become frustrated. It takes patience as you explain moves in detail. It also takes knowledge on how different people learn. No two people are the same but they can be lumped into general learning-style groups such as visual learner, auditory learner or tactile learner.

These skills and plenty of practice with real people are what programs like GOLD Team provide. Many schools have some sort of leadership team often using the name SWAT or STORM. They all let you practice your mentoring and teaching style with fellow students under the watchful eye of a qualified instructor–who will help you improve by providing pointers and feedback.

Ask your instructor how to get ready. They will surely provide good advice and training tips to you. You can eventually teach full or part time if the school is hiring or expanding. Once you complete the GOLD Team program, you will be able to join the staff as a part time or full time instructor — if the school is hiring or expanding.

Maybe you have what it takes to be a sifu, sensei or instructor? Ask your instructor how he or she can help you on that path.

GOLD Team Program: Leadership Training

wing-tsun 2GOLD stands for Guidance on Leadership Development.  This program includes comprehensive training on leadership skills that build personal character and life skills.  The GOLD Team Program creates a solid, high-quality leadership team, which serve as exemplars to the student body.  Benefits of the program include:

  • Personal development through character enrichment
  • Effective communication to individuals and groups
  • Leadership skills essential for getting groups to work together
  • Motivation skills and how to maintain it in a group setting
  • How to teach our curriculum effectively
  • Mentoring other students to help them stay focused on their goals

The GOLD TEAM is (usually) made up of Advanced Training Club or Black Belt Club members who show excellent interpersonal skills and a super-winning attitude. Having Olympic-level technique is not required. Acceptance onto the GOLD team is based mainly upon great attitude, world-class effort, and consistent attendance.Correcting a child's body position

This program allows a student interested in taking a leadership role to be mentored under a Certified Master Instructor. GOLD Team members are eligible for jobs as Junior Assistant Instructor (at lower rank classes) and attend staff workouts and meetings.

GOLD Team is the first step in the journey to becoming a Kempo or Martial Arts Instructor. A candidate student must show a passion for the art of Kempo and excel at displaying all the moral tenets Karazenpo go Shinjutsu / Hawaiian Shaolin Kempo. The candidate should also demonstrate a desire to share his or her knowledge with others and maintain a goal of Black Belt Excellence.

For our younger members (Keiki Kempo), we require a report card that reflects good behavior and good grades along with permission from their parents. To be considered for GOLD, a student would inform the Senior Instructor of their interest.

GOLD team members are considered leaders of our school and are trained to assist in classes along with our professional instructors. It makes a great place to get your start if you are interested in eventually teaching martial arts as a job or career.

Membership Rules

  • You must be at least 5 minutes early for the class or classes you are mentoring.
  • If you are unable to make class, you must call the school and call someone on the list to fill in for you.
  • Always be in a good mood, don’t come in if you are less than 100% (positive attitude, good health, fully rested).  Anything less and you are a distraction to the students and parents.
  • Someone always needs help. Seek them out and offer your assistance.
  • You must wear a clean school shirt underneath your clean kempo uniform.
  • If you miss 3 times without calling the school or calling someone to fill in for you –you are off the team.

“Golden Leopard Kempo’s Instructors share a common goal. It is having the passion, enthusiasm, and pride to be able to teach and help others become successful. Having the ability to motivate and encourage students to challenge themselves mentally, spiritually, and physically, to set goals and to achieve them.” — Master Bagnas

All of Golden Leopard Kempo’s Instructors and GOLD Leadership Team are personally taught and mentored by Master Bagnas in GLKO’s extensive GOLD Instructor Training Program (Guidance on Leadership Development).

Regular attendance at weekly and monthly Instructor Training Sessions with Master Bagnas is mandatory. Golden Leopard Kempo expects and seeks the high standards from its students. GLKO’s GOLD Team is expected to attend professional development courses, workshops and seminars throughout the year. Finally, First Aid, CPR, and/or baby-sitting certifications are a mandatory requirement each year to ensure student and community safety. Remember that we are warriors in and outside the Dojo.

10 Laws of Kempo

karate blogIn an ongoing effort to provide I don’t know everything, let me highlight the excellent albeit short descriptions (posts) of the Ten Laws of Kempo. Mark (the author) has done a great job making these fundamental principles into concise list. Here they are:

  • Law of the Circle and the Line – This idea is also found in the art of Hsing Yi (linear) and Bagua (circular). Focus on attacking the opponent’s weakness, not their strength.
  • Law of the First Strike – No sense in wasting time if you “won initiative”, take the opportunity to end the fight before it gets going.
  • Law of Multiple Strikes – As I say in class, keep hitting until the fight is obviously over.
  • Law of Targets – The strike should match the vulnerability of the target.
  • Law of Kicking – Grandmaster Gascon has told me this several times, kick below the belt line and punch above it.
  • Law of No Block – Another gem, the best block is not being where the attack lands.

The last four are found on his general information Kempo FAQ site.

  • Law of Yielding & Redirecting – This idea is found in Tai Chi and Jujutsu.
  • Law of Mobility (the heading is missing in this article but the content is there.) – Be a moving target and keep your target moving so he will be off balance.
  • Law of Flexibility – This is not being as supple as a gymnast but rather being flexible in your thinking and defense.
  • Law of The Warrior Spirit – If you don’t think you will win and have the will to do what you must, no sense in fighting because you’ve already lost.

Mark has a few other good posts. Be sure to check this site occasionally. Have you found another great Internet source for American or Hawaiian Shaolin Kempo? Let me know. If it’s really good, I’ll put it in the blog-roll.

BTW, his Kempo FAQ page was the first site to link to my Golden Leopard Kempo Online site back in the 90s. He also started the very comprehensive Kempo/Kenpo family tree.

What If Question Again

karate manAs usual, the “What if the bad guy did this?” and “What if he did that?” question arose again. It’s natural to think of these options while practicing. Just remember two things. First, practice your material over and over again with a partner to get the feel of actually doing it. Second, know that you’ll have to adjust and keep flowing with the move.

Nothing we practice will happen “just that way” as done in class. They are tools that you apply to the situation. Trust in the training and train hard.

How to Develop Blind Fighting

What do you do when it’s dark? How do you defend yourself when you can’t see? This condition can be caused either by an injury or by a hostile opponent who blindfolded you. There are ways to train and enhance your ability to fight under such circumstances. The natural evolution of the Sticky Hands Drill Set is blind fighting. There are three stages to developing this combative skill.

Step 1: Low Light
Practice light sparring in a dark room with low ambient light. This sparring session should be slow and deliberate. Gauging in low light makes judging distances difficult. Take your time and don’t try to “win” rather invest in conditioning yourself to the environmental constraints. This step reduces the visual input so you can get use to using other senses for targeting.

Step 2: Blindfolded
In a dark room with blindfolds on, perform pushing hands, sticky hands or rolling hands. If the partners disengage, they must reset themselves without help. This step has no visual input, but you maintain contact to sense your opponent’s balance and momentum. It develops sensitivity further.

Step 3: Blackout
In a dark room with blindfolds, start at opposite sides of the mat. Slowly engage in very light sparring with an emphasis on take down moves and grappling holds. In short, the partners are groping in the dark until they can snatch something, then it’s a race to a takedown. This step has no visual input and it develops blind engagement. It heightens the use of other senses to target.

I doubt you’ll be as good at fighting in the dark as Gung Fu masters or Ninjas as depicted in the movies. The realistic goal of this training is acclimatize you to the environment. Stressful conditions get adrenaline running, which can cause you to stall. Familiarity reduces stress and hopefully allows you to defend yourself adequately.

That’s all I have for now. Whether you practice American or Hawaiian Shaolin Kempo or Karazenpo go Shinjutsu, these drills will make you a better fighter. Take time to digest and embrace the skills you have. Make them adaptable to various situations, not just a “single arm punch in.”

Have questions or suggestions? Let me know in the comment section.