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.
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.
Where 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.