You Do What You Practice

Setting up for an arm lock

Setting up for an arm lock

The most important aspect of martial arts practice, especially for Kempo, is actually working the techniques on human bodies. Partner work is very important because you develop the muscle memory in this type of training. Partner training also provides visual feedback about where the opponent is hit and how does the opponent reacts. By working with various body sizes, weights and abilities, you get a sense for how different people will react and how you can adjust for variations.

Often times when classmates work together, they go soft on each other. They don’t want to hit the sensitive or vital points. Aim for the target you wish to hit. Don’t practice missing on purpose just to be nice to your fellow student. It develops bad habits and faulty muscle memory. Rather, stop before you hit the target. It is easier to add more power and distance to your strike than it is to redirect bad muscle memory.

But what about the dreaded horse stance? How is that useful?

It teaches you proper knee orientation and weight distribution. The horse stance conditions the knees, legs, and hips for what is expected of them during Kempo techniques and kata. But it is not a fighting stance.

A master from another art once asked me why we practice from a horse stance. I gave him my patent answer, the one I give my students and accept as an instructor. But he didn’t buy it. He felt it was more important to practice the stances you are going to use from the beginning. Going through phases in stance work is not good for the student and slows down active defense skill.

Now I have to re-evaluate how I teach others. I still haven’t changed the method of instruction yet but this conversation still lingers in my mind. It speaks to a truth about training that can not be rejected just because our methods work too. His insight is very telling about the effectiveness of Kyu-ranked students — they are lacking in adequate fighting skills due to our training crutches.

The focus of all our drilling and memorization is to hone our physical skills. This feeds into something that isn’t done nearly enough in most schools and definitely needs more repetition in our schools — doing drills. These are important to develop timing, gauging, and balance when working with another person. In Arnis, the drills “picking” and “sinawali” are great examples of this.

Have you ever worked on a drill that you thought were great? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you ever did something you practiced in class but it didn’t work right in the field, I’d love to hear about it too.

Kicking Sets

Great side kick.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.
Alternate legs.
Turn in a fighting stance and repeat down the line again.

Kick series:

  • 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
Attacker kicks
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.

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.

GOLD Team Program: Leadership Training

GOLD 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.

Kempo Karate for Toddlers

The PeeWee group consists of toddlers (three and four years old) and young children (five and six years old). Their class is a simplified version of regular children’s classes. It runs for 35 minutes: 15 minutes of warm ups, 15 minutes of drills, and 5 minutes of “splash” time. Splash is a word I use to mean a bump of time for sections that run over time.

Black belt teacher helping a yellow belt child

Black belt teacher helping a yellow belt child

The very short attention span of this age group makes anything longer either useless or detrimental to their learning. In fact, for the first few months, the student may not “pay attention” to the full class. We allow them to develop this ability on their own time. They aren’t disrupting the others. It helps them focus on their objectives. When other kids are listening to the instructor, they begin to listen too.

A Special Class
Each session works on developing physical skills they’ll need for Kempo and school. These mini-skill development drills are couched in the form of games. We segment individual skills out of “regular” techniques and have the children work on one skill at a time. Some of the favorite activities (or games) are jumping and rolling.

Jumping develops strong legs. We also teach proper landing to prevent shin splints. This will give them a “leg up” when they must learn jumping kicks in the older children’s class. Rolling is just a small part of the ukemi (groundwork) regiment. Groundwork is the most challenging for adults to learn. When small children learn how to do it properly, they don’t fear falling.

He’s no Jet Li
The PeeWee group isn’t going to be “excellent” at Kempo. That’s not the objective of this class. In fact, their requirements are lower than that of other students. The goal is to develop physical coordination skills and listening skills. At this young age, getting her arm to do what she wants is a challenge. Secondly, listening to the instructor and following directions is also a valuable skill.

It bears reiterating this class teaches skills disguised as games and a limited amount of techniques. They rarely work out with partners because that leads to distractions or minor injuries. This age group loves to perform movements in sync with the large group. Everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. To a child, this is fun.Correcting a child's body position

Will they ever be good?
This is a valid question in response to the class described above. What we have found over the years is, yes the children do become excellent martial artists. These primary skills of coordination and listening skills translate well to the more advanced Children’s program.

When they promote out of the PeeWee group, what we call Little Leopards, they do not have all the required material for advancement. However, they learn at twice the pace of children who begin class later in life. These highly trained ex-PeeWees pick up information very quickly. They know how to practice, their basic movements are honed, and they want to practice.

It is my experience that graduated PeeWee children move quickly into the accelerated Children’s Program and the Junior Leadership Team “STORM”. They built a foundation of valuable abilities that they exploit when their minds and bodies mature.

Children and Training
You must remember these are small children in a very malleable period of their life. We want them to enjoy exercise, enjoy learning and able to follow directions. They should feel good about what they’re doing and want to do it again. These are life skills, which will benefit them for decades.

Let them have fun. Small children aren’t physically or mentally able to defend themselves from adults. If others tell you otherwise, they’re lying.

So enroll them in the Little Leopards program today. The classes start as young as 3 and 4 years old in addition to the 5 and 6 years old students. Each age group is in its own class. We divide them by theme: Little Dragons, Little Ninjas, Tiny Tigers and Little Pandas.

While you’re at it, Kempo makes a great activity for parents too. Join our class designed for Moms — stay physically active, learn self-defense and learn what your kids are learning.

Class Review for Wednesday

September and October have been very busy months for me. The children are back to school and the dojo has added several new students. This has developed into a lack of time to write my articles. Thank you for your patience during this busy time.

Gun defense

Gun defense

Wednesday’s class focused on applying wrist locks from the same side and cross hand grips. Just for the record, the same side grip uses both a wrist and finger lock to cause pain. I showed a follow up move and throw for advanced students. The cross hand grip uses the knife hand to cause pain in the wrist.

With all locks, remember to keep the 90° angle in one if not two joints. They will work better that way. Do each step in sequence. Apply pressure and get the full bend before moving on to the next step or a twist/rotation.

Feel free to send me questions about class or the martial arts. I’ll attempt to answer them.