Here’s a version of Combination 46 for Shaolin Kempo Karate. I don’t have the hop in the middle to reach the far leg, otherwise very similar.
I always like to see how other kempoka perform the core combinations. Here is a video from Ten Tigers Martial Arts and their version. They have lots of good material on their YouTube channel so check it out.
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.
Martial arts training is filled with repetition. It is an instructors job to disguise repetition and to enhance students’ abilities. In our style of Kempo, we have a set of predefined techniques that we practice. Kata is made up of these Combinations, which is the bunkai or application of the kata. These techniques are used for grading and testing. Class is filled with performing these combinations to the air and with partners. How can we mix up this stale system and breath new life into our repetitious rut? Try these new ways of practicing your combinations.
- Kata style: Start with the first technique and do each on right after the finishing the previous technique. Do not adjust your facing. The goal is to have as little time between the performance of each technique as possible.
- Five by Five: To engrain the combinations into your mind, practice smaller groups of techniques. I suggest doing five combinations in a row, and repeating that set five times. Then move on to the next set of five techniques. This will help improve your memory and provide enough practice of the combinations to provide improvement.
- Left sided: As a student, we began training our combinations against a left-handed attacker at Black Belt. At my school, we start earlier because it provides so much benefit to the student. About Green Belt, practice the easiest five combinations reversing the sides, add another five combinations at Brown Belt. This method is a mirror of the right sided technique. In other words, a left punch becomes a right punch and a right block becomes a left block.
- On your back: Lay on your back and attempt to perform your combinations from the floor. This method requires a lot of visualization, imagination, and adaptation. The techniques will not be the same rather they will be essentially the same. For example, Combination 12 starts with a left kick and then spinning back kick. From the floor, you spin into a donkey kick (hands on the floor supporting your back kick), and continue to spin up to a fighting stance.
- Armed: My favorite way of practicing combinations is with a pocket stick or yawara. Hold the stick in your hand with a bit protruding from both sides of your fist. Perform your combinations as normal but utilize the stick to hook, strike and poke the opponent anytime you would normally use your hand for a strike. Like before, it requires visualization, imagination, and adaptation.
Though our combinations are set and predefined, that is not their real application. Kempo techniques are tools in your tool belt. You use them in any order and adapt them to the reactions of the attacker. You must flow with the attack, adapting and adjusting as needed. Real fights do not go as scripted in kata or in the combinations. When these variations are combined with the Triple I training, your techniques will become very effective.
Perfect practice prevents piss-poor performance. Train hard, train often, and train repetitiously.
Check out this article from the Karate Nerd’s 51 Awesome ways to practice kata. Stay awhile and check out his other posts.
I’m always looking for inspiration to make my practice seem fresh. Looking over the list, I see that I do and have done a few of these. My next challenge is to practice all 51 ways.
Do you have another way to practice your kata?
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)
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
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
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.
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.
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.
The 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?
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.