Why is Monkey Dance 14 Different?

As a derived style of Kajukenbo, we must look to their required kata to learn more about our syllabus. Traditional Emperado Method Kajukenbo uses Monkey Dance 13 and 14 as developmental kata. They teach moving footwork and stance work. They are simple yet vital foundational moves. In our style, we practice footwork with our Moving Blocking Sets – the Eight Point with half-moon steps for example. We practice stances in other drills and Kamuki kata too. There’s no need to add additional stance-only kata. We need to prune the unnecessary leaves to promote proper growth.

Low horse stance in a kata

Low horse stance in a kata

Secondly, Monkey Dance 11 is the Okinawan Kata Naihanchi 1. This kata was first taught by Grandmaster Mitose when he introduced Kenpo to the Hawai’i. It could be said that this is the first and only Kenpo kata. However, we can look to other systems and related styles to see what they do. Famous masters such as Chosei Motobu have two Naihanchi kata in their system. If it’s good enough for the Motobu family, it is good enough for us.

Therefore it seemed logical to include the second Naihanchi as Monkey Dance 14. It’s a beautiful kata and it teaches great techniques. This kata is very timely in the curriculum and challenging for Brown Belts. It also adds another kata with the traditional Mitose opening – something that I personally like and enjoy performing. Naihanchi 2 also acts as the capstone for the Monkey Dance or Palama kata series.

While we’re on the subject of Kata, I prefer to call the Kempo kata Kamuki. Calling something 1 Kata when all forms are kata is confusing for students and instructors alike. The Monkey Dances are called Palama by Kajukenbo in honor of the first YMCA program in Hawai’i. My inspiration for using Kamuki is it’s the second Kajukenbo YMCA location and its first initial is “K”. This helps me remember that it’s the equivalent of Kata. So Kamuki 1 is 1 Kata. Kamuki 2 is 2 Kata. Kamuki 3 is 3 Kata and so on. Less confusion once you get use to it.

Changes should not be made lightly but they are important. As the analogy previously mentioned, pruning is necessary to improve growth. Redundancy is important to emphasize key movements and techniques. More than that, it becomes a hindrance and leads the system to skew its character or effectiveness.

For instructors out there, what have you trimmed from the curriculum and why?

Don’t Dangle Your Arms

In kata and during drills, you can spot the dangling arm of a beginning student. After a decent punch, the arm just flounders next to the body. A beginner “forgets” about their left arm once their mind moves on to the right arm. They forget the most important element of striking – Chamber your punches.

Don’t dangle your arms about. Put them somewhere effective and useful. Successive punches require the piston action of recoil and strike from opposite arms. Think of the arms as a connected piece of rope. When one goes out, the other side must pull in. Don’t just pull in to a position close to the body. Make sure it is in the elbow position for maximum efficiency.

Kata practice reveals the untrained arm the most. You need to remember the next kick or punch, how to turn and where to strike. There are a lot of things to remember when you practice Kempo but each action has its place in the building blocks of an effective weapon. An arm left unattended is not effective. It is not in a position for use when needed.

It is normal to do this. The mind is attempting to coordinate a lot of moving parts, something it hasn’t done. This is the difference between a beginner and someone more experienced. The mind is capable of handling all the inputs. It just needs time to work out the procedure and the awareness of limbs when not the focus of a task.

When you are not aware of where each part of your body is, you are sacrificing your defenses and preparedness. Put things in a position for a reason. This mental awareness of your body helps keep the mind focused on what it needs to do. It also allows the mind to focus on where the opponent’s body is in relation to your own. You’re not just concerned about where your body parts are, you must also know where the opponent’s body parts are.

The mind is making thousands of calculations a second to process its place in three dimensions, moving and responding to an attack. All the limbs need to check in with central command and be prepared to deploy to a new front at a moment’s notice. I like to think of my body as an army, moving pieces where they are most effective.

Just like an army, the mind needs to train with the body to shake out any miscommunications. It needs to hone its ability to keep tabs on what every part is doing while moving it the environment. This follows the famous triad of martial arts thought – uniting the body, mind and spirit.

Dangling an arm allows your opponent to snatch it as a lever or as an opening for their next attack. I’ve talked about levers before and they are the keys to controlling an opponent. Don’t give your opponent that kind of gift to use against you. Shore up your defenses and maintain body awareness. And don’t dangle.

My Spare Brain: 1 Effective Way to Improve Memory

The most effective way to improve memory is to write stuff down, then read it later.

During my studies in Cognitive Science, I learned a lot about human cognition, memory and thinking. We talked about how people can improve their memory with simple tricks. How the brain can be fooled with visual illusions and so on. The field is a fascinating area of study and research. What struck me most was a questioned posed during class. A fellow student asked what’s the best way to improve our memories. The professor said, “Write it down.”

Get a notebook and use it.

Get a notebook and use it.

Human memory is fallible and requires something to keep it working well. That requires pen and paper. Nothing helps you retain information than writing and reading your notes over and over again. Reading someone else’s notes isn’t as productive as writing it down yourself. The very act of translating the memory of class into comprehensible words and lists does wonders for memory retention–because you are re-encoding the material. With practice and additional classes, you can re-enforce correct form and again re-encode the memory into your mind. This cycle is the best way to memorize material.

Notebooks are the best invention for memory in the world. Take the time to do it soon after each class. Don’t let more than a day or two pass before you write things down. Just jot everything down in a flood of words. Don’t try to censor the material or format at this time. Most likely, writing things down will trigger more memories and thoughts about class. Record them, even if it’s a few days later.

Later go through your notes and arrange them in an organized manner. Rewrite things to make them sound better and add simple drawings if that helps you. These are like reference notes for you, so put them in a format that works for you. Most people have different ways of storing and sorting information. Use the one that fits your method and memory style best.

Another great tip is to add comments to your older notes. If the instructor makes a comment that applies to an old technique, adding the insight to the previous version of the notes goes a long way into understanding the technique. During your review of your notes, you may have thoughts on how the material relates. Record those thoughts too. Your notebook is a living document. Feel free to add to it all the time. Don’t let it become stale because you don’t want to contaminate it with new ideas. A notebook is a workbook.

Everyone is different so not all tricks work for all people. What is your trick to remember things?

The Practice Priority: Commitment to Practice Leads to Success

There are some beginning students who believe that all the practice they need occurs at class. This is a recipe for failure. You must practice to get better and you must practice at home. When you make practicing a priority, you are paving the way to improvement. We have an old saying around the dojo, “If you’re not getting better, then you’re getting worse.” Don’t allow yourself to get worse than you are now.

Break down your practice into interesting bits. Do katas on one day. Then do combinations the next. Do your material at the park on sunny days. Next, do your material in the pool mostly underwater. Wash your car in stances or in deep stretches. Watch TV shows in the Horse Stance and do push ups during the commercials. Your only limit is your imagination.

Practice leads to success in all endeavors, not just Kempo. Take your ability to practice and enjoy the art with all your activities like basketball, flower arrangement, art, or crafts. You can use your Practice Priority at work too. Is there something hard to do or something takes a long time to finish – practice doing it in small bits or make it streamlined. A ouch of prevention (and planning) is worth a pound of cure.

Use class time to refine and clear up matters uncovered during your personal practice. If you don’t review your material, how will you know where your difficulties lie? Your instructor can clear up confusing points or help you recall tricky techniques. But if you don’t know what to ask, then you can’t fix it. Remember, don’t wimp out and find excuses to skip class. Make practice a priority and you will be successful.

Lights, Camera, Kata!

When you compete in tournaments, remember that you are being judged on your performance of the kata not only the technical execution. Kata are subjectively judged by Black Belts from other systems and styles. You can’t meet all their technical requirements if you tried. Some are diametrically opposed to each other.Great side kick.

The best thing to do is demonstrate crisp movements and smooth flow. These qualities develop from repetition and practice. Show solid stances without wavering. When you are on one leg, maintain your balance. Don’t wobble while kicking or in difficult stances. Don’t adjust your feet in a noticeable manner once you plant them on the floor.

Kiai shout on powerful strikes. Make it loud and crisp. Draw the power of the kiai from your belly. Always look before you move your feet. Watch and monitor the pacing of your form or kata. It should have a comfortable, exciting rhythm. There should also be variety in the speed of movements. Not everything is fast or the identical speed as everything else. Rhythm and speed should be natural, which means you need fast, medium and slow sections.

Display confidence in all your movements – including the time sitting waiting for your turn, the walk up and the walk back to your seat. Once the competition begins, you are performing. It doesn’t begin when you start your kata. It doesn’t end when you finish either. Maintain your demeanor and professional posture at all times.

It is best to imagine doing the kata for a movie or TV show. See the lights. See the camera. Put on your super-powered ninja costume and let loose with the confidence of an actor. It’s all about showmanship.

Musical Kata

“The irony of musical kata is that the kata were probably folk dances to start with. They lost their musical ties and have since been reborn with them, amusingly to widespread scorn by ‘traditionalists’. This is theory, of course, for the vast majority of kata, we don’t know what the name means, who invented them or what the hell they are all about. They might be one big practical joke started hundreds of years ago and passed down the ages. However, the ties between dancing and martial arts are very close in many cultures. This is because they both exert and develop similar physical qualities, and require that the body be moved in particular motions and to certain rhythms.” (Philip Richard Thomas, Panlane.com, 2004)

What I like about Mr. Thomas’ quote is the notion of dancing. Several terms for forms (kata, sayaw, set) have been translated as dance by at least one expert I know. Even in our own system, the core kata we practice are called Monkey Dances. So it’s natural to want to perform kata to music.

Black belt in stance

Black belt in stance

First, find a song that you like with a clear beat. Songs that are energetic and up-tempo work best as they excite both you and the audience. However, the song should be something you like and enjoy listening to. Like all kata, musical kata requires repetition through practice.

Next, select a kata that ‘feels’ like the song you selected. You can also do these two steps in reverse. The most important step to do is find two things that fit together. The pacing you practice in traditional kata doesn’t need to be the pacing with the song. What I mean by pacing is the rhythm of the beat should be similar to the rhythm of the strikes and movements of the kata.

Now practice the kata to the song a few times. Get a feel for how they mesh together. Adjust the timing of the moves to match the song’s beat. You can also add a move or two to the kata if it will make the song and kata work better together. Remember you are improvising and creating a work of art. Even merge two katas together if the song is long or inspires you to such debauchery.

As with any performance, you must ‘act’ the part. This means you should have your ‘game face’ on. Look mean or act surprised at moments. Provide elements in the kata so it looks like a fight scene from a movie. Even if the kata has a specific height for a kick, feel free to change it. High, fast kicks look better than low kicks. Articulate your movements. Make each punch and kick clear. Hold them for a brief second or two. Demonstrate your balance by staying in the Crane Stance longer than usual. Most of all explore the possibilities of the music and kata – don’t limit yourself.

Have fun working with the kata and the music. Any form of kata practice is good, especially creative practice.

Unbalanced Point

Have you ever tried to knock over a tripod? It isn’t easy. It’s far easier to knock over a two-legged table. Humans have two legs. We would naturally fall over if it weren’t for our joints, muscles and tendons. Still, we have the capacity to fall over and often we do.

In Kempo, we use stances and triangle footwork to create a temporary tripod, thereby creating stability. However, we have angles that are weak. These are unbalanced points.
a) The horse stance is stable from the sides but very tenuous from the front
b) The half moon stance is stable from the side, front and back, but weak from the inside 45° angle

Strike for the unbalanced point or moving to and controlling this point. Knowing the location of the points is half the battle. Kempo Z is a great example of unbalancing points. The final palm to the forehead takes advantage of attackers weak point, his unbalanced point.

Attacking the hara (center of gravity) or displacing the hip creates imbalances, allowing you to defeat the opponent quickly. Continue to explore your techniques with the purpose of discovering hidden unbalanced points in your uke.

The Elbow and Kenpo Joe

I stumbled upon this video of Kenpo Joe who demonstrates a few elbow sets from a few flavors of Kenpo and Kempo. See it here on YouTube.

What’s nice about these mini-sets is they focus on the most devastating weapon in our arsenal, the elbow. It is versatile and is great at close and really close range. My favorite part of Joe’s articles and videos is how he compares and contrasts the flavors of Kenpo. He doesn’t do it to discredit them, rather he does it to explore and understand. In my opinion, that’s the attitude you need in martial arts training.

Visit his web page at http://www.kenpojoe.com/

That’s all for today.

Flow like Water

One of Sijo Bruce Lee’s famous quotes, “Be like water, my friend” is appropriate for Kempo. These are some of the qualities of water we want to emulate in our art.

  • Pent up action
  • Path of least resistance
  • Continuous flow
  • Drown the opponent

Pent up action
The waist is akin to a Kempo capacitor. That is where striking power is stored and discharged from. Turn the waist to build up momentum and power. Then turn the waist back into the attack to generate a powerful assault. The Chinese arts call this Jing, we call it percussive striking.

One of the early techniques, DM3, demonstrates this waist power. The first move is a #4 block and a waist turn. Then you settle back into a dragon stance with a right thrust punch. The right hip drives this punch. It can be quite powerful when performed correctly.

Path of least resistance
During the assault when sensing strong resistance, we must flow to an alternate zone of attack. Just like the Germans of World War II, we don’t attack the fortified French line. Rather, we quickly move up and around to an exposed, defenseless area. It’s a classic military concept of flanking the enemy. Water has the natural abilities to find weakness and flow towards that area.

For example, the theory around escapes from wrist grabs. The human body can’t defend all fronts. You’ll often encounter a partner that knows what’s coming and resists the lock. The proper response is not to force it, but to move to another lock. This is flanking the muscle.

Continuous flow
Kempo players should never stop their assault until the opponent is incapacitated, immobilized, in a submission or you choose to disengage. Ocean currents continuously push swimmers in single direction. It is difficult to compensate without extra effort. That is how our techniques should work. Constant control and flow into another move of our choosing. Kempo karenza or jiwaza allow the advanced student to sense the attack and bring it to competition.

Drown the opponent
The relentless, continuous assault of the Kempo player serves to overwhelm the opponent. You want to blanket the opponent to instill a sense of smothering. Like the big wave that smashes into swimmers, the water overwhelms.

Drowning the oppenent can be performed on two levels, physcial and psychological. Practice it like a karenza, but include mental intent designed to demoralize and mentally break the opponent. Sometimes called a game face or mental game, verbally harassing the opponent is a vital aspect of encounters. The goal of overwhelming the opponent is to force them to give up, submit or flee. They must loose their belief in surviving the assault.

Sticky hands and partner drills are good essential for developing the water theory. All of these sub-principles are interrelated. You use all of them in your techniques to some degree. Kempo is rushing water.

Intent, the Leopard’s Game Face

Have you ever watched a nature show that follows a big cat as it stalks its prey? I love watching leopards creep slowly towards their prey. Look at their face. You see intent. Not normal intent, they have intense intent. By looking into their eyes, you know they will kill something if given the slightest opportunity. There is little doubt in their mind and your what will happen next…if the gazelle is slow.

You control the situation through your intent. When you encounter an aggressive person on the street, a bully, you must turn your attention to the situation and form a deep, intense intent. I’ve personally gotten out of many fights by turning on my intent to defend myself without restraint. It sends vibes or something out into the conflict area. Once the bully feels, sees, or smells your intent, he knows. And he usually backs down. Intent is a powerful deterrent.

It is also a powerful way to execute your strikes. In breaking, you must think, “break” to break a brick. You must have intent. If you have doubts about your abilities or you are distracted, unfocused, you won’t be able to break the brick. The focus of intent is like a laser-guided missile. You can accomplish anything if you have unwavering-intent.

Be firm in your commitment. Intent is a commitment that you will do what you are thinking. You are focused on your task and you will succeed. Intent, focus and commitment are three ingredients to a successful conflict. That is how you achieve great things. Establish a goal and commit to it. Focus on it. Have the intent to reach the goal. You will be unstoppable.