Who wins a self-defense situation?

tkd 8 medalsTherefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:
(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?
(2) Which of the two generals has most ability?
(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
(5) Which army is stronger?
(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

14. By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

Let me paraphrase this list into modern parlance and in self-defense jargon.
(1) Which combatant is willing to defend themselves regardless of the danger and has the stern resolve to do it?
(2) Which combatant has strategies in place for confrontations?
(3) Who uses their environment and available tools to defend themselves?
(4) Who is trained to be more disciplined?
(5) Who is mentally, physically and spiritually stronger?
(6) Which combatant is the most trained in martial skills?
(7) Who has trained most consistently for confrontations?

As you can see from my new list, the winner of a self-defense confrontation is someone who has trained consistently in an effective art such as Golden Leopard Kempo-justu. It doesn’t really matter which art you prefer or study. All the arts provide benefit of discipline and martial techniques. Some are more applicable to actual street level self-defense situations.

What is most important is the preparation for the situation. Hoping it won’t happen doesn’t aid you when the time comes. Take charge of your life by learning how to defend yourself. This eliminates the effects of fear allowing you to focus and assess the situation.

While speaking of self-defense, preparation also includes things outside of carrying a small weapon or making your hands lethal weapons. It includes disaster preparedness — do you have survival kits, food and water, tents, cash. Do you know first aid techniques, CPR and AED? Situations are infinitely diverse. The more you learn and prepare the wider your range of effectiveness. It also provides you with a broader scope of skills that can be modified for other situations.

Understanding Adapting, Adjustment and Gauging Points

wing-tsun 1Where a fight starts and how close the combatants are very important things to know. These ranges and the opponent’s reaction also play a part in the overall outcome of the conflict. As I said many times before, there are an infinite number of variations to a situation. No two are a like.

But then why do we practice a set routine of techniques? And why do I get corrected all the time in class if the technique isn’t going to happen that way? To get yet another answer, you need to know a few terms.

  • Adapting point is the section of a technique where you make changes to accommodate for how the opponent reacts to your initial strikes. Did you hit the pressure point just right and now the opponent has completely crumbled in front of you? Did he shake off your devastating strike or counter it, now what do you do? You adapt the technique.
  • Adjustment points are the sections of a technique where you make adjustments to the performance of moves in response to environmental and structural differences as compared to practice in the dojo. Are you about to do a jump-kick in a low-ceiling room? Is there room for you to back up in the crowd or a room full of pillars? Rethink the next few moves to keep yourself out of harms way, allow yourself room to actually perform your moves and use the pointy end of the table as a weapon or landing platform.
  • Gauging points are sections of a technique where you shuffle in or out to maintain optimal distance to the opponent. Does the opponent step out to the side to catch his balance thereby taking him out of the next counter’s optimal range? Well, you adapt by shuffling up to him or changing to a longer ranged weapon.

These three are really different sides to the same concept, making changes on the fly. You may be hurt or protecting someone else. No fight is going to occur as practiced in the dojo. No opponent is going to match your uke in size, mass and movements. Therefore it seems only natural to accommodate for these differences in your technique.

We naturally do them when we change uke during class. In fact, that’s the reason you are asked to change your uke so often. Get a mix of body types, speed and range of motion to develop an understanding of these points.

By isolating the sections of a technique, you can see the best time to make changes and adaptations. This also helps you combine moves together to improvise as needed. Don’t let changes in the circumstances through off your game and unsettle your mind. Remain calm, mushin, and go with the flow.
Also read my post on the three levels to improve your technique, zone defense strategy and the can’t reach situation.

Do you have a story about how you or someone else adapted, adjusted or changed the gauging of a technique that you thought was cool? Tell me in the comments.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Old Style Kata

Doing kata in the traditional manner requires a calm mind and steady stance. There is a difference between the glitzy, acrobatic extreme kata and the older more sedate kata of old. The older kata do not require Olympic level flexibility and gymnastic ability. Rather, they require the elements that make an artist a warrior. Here are some tips to keep your kata looking more traditional.

  • Stay relaxed in the motions and movements.
  • Look before you move into the next step.
  • Keep your movements crisp and sharp.
  • Maintain great stances according to the kata’s requirements. Usually these are low and stable.
  • Breathing should be smooth and even.
  • Show power and fluid grace but do not strike too hard or else you’ll loose the essential flow
  • Be balanced through your stance transitions
  • Kiai at the right time with intensity
  • Single leg stances should be held slightly longer than two-legged stances to demonstrate control

Two other elements for tournament competitors:

  • Begin the kata before you step into the ring
  • The kata doesn’t end until you’re dismissed

Do you have other tips for performing a traditional kata? Add them to the comments.

Three Forms of Pushing Hands

There are three forms of Pushing Hands drills that we practice in Shaolin Kempo. The first is similar to but not exactly like the Tai Chi version. The second form (or the one we teach first) is called Sticky Hands. Finally, there is Rolling Hands. This family of exercise drills teaches us how to relax and flow with the opponent’s energy and momentum. It forces us to relax and not force our attacks and defenses. In gentleness there is victory. In overbearing strength there is loss.

Push hands drill of Tai Chi

Push hands drill of Tai Chi

The Pushing Hands drill works on uprooting your partner through fluid motion of push and pull. Doing this drill develops the familiarity with the wave of force generated with pushing and pulling. It also helps you learn how to redirect that force into your opponent or cause your opponent to flow with it thereby uprooting himself.

The Sticky Hands drill works on uprooting your partner by striking and blocking from a set position. The wrists must stick together, hence the name. Sensitivity to the opponent’s center of gravity and their balance is achieved by working this drill with your eyes closed.

The Rolling Hands drill works with applying locks and traps within this flowing dynamic. The goal is to get a wrist or arm lock on your opponent before they do, while avoiding strikes and being uprooted. In this drill the feet can move, usually to help your own lock or to slip out of one being placed upon you.

All of these drills work with maintaining contact to the opponent and sensing the stability of your opponent’s balance. The goal to resolving conflicts is to uproot or unbalance your opponent. This allows you to control their actions and end the fight. This is the third step of conflict resolution — defend, distract, unbalance.

What are other benefits of these types of drills? Elaborate in the comment section.

Slippery Socks

Last night in class, we had a case of slippery socks. A student was cold, after all it is raining in San Diego, a cold rain. Slippery socks can be used as a training tool. Use it to adjust to slippery conditions of an unknown combat situation.

She retorted that she would just pick where to fight or defend herself. Alas, that is not an option in self-defense. The situation picks you regardless of the suitability of the terrain.

So when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When training gives you difficulties, make it a learning experience.