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.

5 Ways to Practice Your Combinations

Pinning the attacker

Pin the attacker

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Defense against kicks aka kick defense techniques

Great side kick.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)

V-step forward

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

Leg hock

 

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

Leg lock

 

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.

10 Laws of Kempo

In 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.

Kicking Notes

Great side kick.Just a few notes from class in regards to kicking. Crane before and after each kick for snap and to prevent someone catching the strike. If you let your leg dangle out near the opponent, eventually he will snatch it and apply a leg lock or counter strike. Keep the foot moving quickly and with balance. Ensure that your foot is properly positioned so the striking surface is furthest out. The pinky toe is not a kicking surface, the blade of the foot or the heel is.

Another way to help your kicks besides stretching is to strengthen the stomach muscles. The body core helps move the legs up and down. The stomach takes the brunt of that action, therefore a strong stomach will make stronger, faster kicks.

Please remember to practice your Kicking Sets 1, 2 and 3. They are simple moves but help so much.

Additionally, practice your Kicking Kempo 1, 2 and 3. KK1 is for a front kick. KK2 is for a roundhouse kick. KK3 is for a sidekick. They are not on the required list of techniques but they are invaluable in your training. Shaolin Kempo has more defenses against hand strikes than kicks.

Train hard and train often. Remember that perfect practice makes perfect.