Studio Franchise Fiascoes

There is a trend in the Shaolin Kempo Karate community to fast track students to instructor roles. Becoming a proficient instructor takes a long time even after Black Belt. Yet there are many instructors who are willing to sour their relationship with customers and students to make a fast buck. Be wary of signing any contracts that limit you to the bidding of an organization or instructor without proper legal advise.

Money can blind you to logic

Money can blind you to logic

I’ve seen to many potentially good instructors and student leave the Kempo arts because they ended up owing thousands of dollars to a master for Instructor Colleges or Training. Make sure the deal sounds good to you (after a good night’s rest) and someone outside the situation (like the BBB). Get a copy of the contract, bring it home and have someone else (like a lawyer) review it. If the deal is legitimate then having legal advisors look it over is normal business practice.

If you going into a franchise situation, learn about how franchises work. Read books and study the subject. There are lots of legal protections you have if you know what you are doing. Don’t stand for high percentage cuts off of your gross or every-increasing-fees or costly sales goals for un-sellable items. Franchises provide you with a system that is easy to run by the book. If it requires you to do things that feel wrong or disreputable, then don’t get into it.

One thing that martial arts training teach is the warrior’s honor. Be truthful, honest and helpful in all business dealings with students, instructors and friends. Trustworthy business professionals make steady money. Devious con men make lots of money fast but then need to leave town before getting caught. Professional martial artists do deserve to make money so they can pay their bills just like anyone else. We all have bills to pay. However, if it involves scams and get rich while making others poor – that’s when honor is lost and the whole industry suffers.

If you want to be an instructor of Shaolin Kempo Karate or Karazenpo go Shinjutsu, learn how to run a business first. Let your martial arts training sink in. You have to do your material very well before you can teach others and that takes time. When you have the right mix of business skills, martial arts skills and teaching skills (yes you need all three) then you can be an instructor.

Better yet, get experience by being a paid instructor intern at your school. In the state of California, anyone who teaches at a facility, which makes its money through instruction, must pay those employees. There’s lots of legal mumbo-jumbo but if you help, then you are an employee and you must be paid. Don’t break the law just to be nice. If the school owner doesn’t know the laws, let them know so he or she will be in compliance.

Most people get in to funny situations because they leap before they look. The key to self-defense is awareness of the surroundings. Don’t let your instructor or a regional manager intimidate you into signing something bogus. They are not the only answer to your dream.

Tell me your story about Kempo scams that bother you or you heard.

Kempo Glossary of Terms

What do all those strange words mean? The other day while writing my next entry for the blog, I realized that someone might say that very thing. I was using jargon in my blog without ever explaining what the terms mean. Hopefully this will answer questions and help to identify what I mean. If I use other terms that aren’t listed here, let me know and I’ll add the definitions to the blog.

Keep notes to enhance your memory

Keep notes to enhance your memory

Kempo (or Kenpo) – Law of the fist. But I like to understand it as Principles of the Fist. Law speaks to rules of people while principles speak to the cause and effect of actions. Ed Parker understood this as the physics of Kenpo.

Kata – Kata is a prearranged pattern of movements that link various moves together. It develops timing, breathing, stances, movements and techniques. It is also a way for illiterate societies to pass down martial arts knowledge to other generations.

Monkey Dance (or Palama) – Monkey Dance is the name of the core Karazenpo kata. It is a set of 14 kata (or 22 in the 60s). Many of them are similar to Kajukenbo’s Pinans. These kata are also called Palama, after the first YMCA Kajukenbo school in Hawai’i.

Kata (or Kamuki) – Kata is the name of a set of katas. Since this is like calling a brand of automobiles “car”, I try to refer to them with another name – Kamuki. Kamuki is the name of the second YMCA Kajukenbo school in Hawai’i. There are 14 kata in this set. Most students will recognize them as 1 Kata, 2 Kata and so on.

Pinan (or Pinion) – The correct term is Pinan and it means “Peaceful mind”. These are based on five Okinawan katas called Pinan One through Five. In Karate, they are called Heinan. They are taught in the Shaolin Kempo track.

Kumite – Kumite is practice fighting in a free form method or manner. Though it can be structured with pre-arranged attacks and defenses, it usually refers to each fighter doing their best to strike the other. It comes in two main flavors. “Point sparring” awards points to touching vital targets and is very controlled. That means no one gets knocked out on purpose. The other version allows for more contact with the kicks and punches. It also allows takedowns and ground submissions. We just called this version “Sparring.”

One-Step Kumite – As mentioned above, kumite can be structured. In this version, each student takes turns striking. The left student attacks, the right student blocks. Then the right student attacks and the left student blocks. Attacks can be punches, chops, or kicks. This drill exercise is designed to get the student comfortable with defending against an unknown attack. Though it seems simple, it is very difficult to do without training.

Two-Step Kumite – The next step from One-Step is Two-Step. As one can surmise, each student takes turns striking twice. The left student attacks twice, the right student blocks twice. Likewise, the right student attacks twice and the left student defends twice. The trick is to go slow enough so that each student can defend properly. This builds the attackers ability to link attacks together in an effective manner. This also builds the defenders ability to block and defend multiple attacks. Usually at this point, the students begin Point Sparring kumite.

Waza – Waza is a Japanese term for technique such as a combination or “kempo”. These are series of blocks, punches, kicks and locks used against a particular attack.

Bunkai – Bunkai is often called applications of kata moves. Each move in a kata should have an application, if not two or three.

Combination – Combinations are also called Defense Maneuvers. They are techniques (see waza above) designed to defend against an attack. Additionally, Combinations represent required techniques needed for advancement in belt rank. They are the core techniques that impart key Kempo concepts.

Kempo Technique – Kempo Techniques are Combinations or waza that are not from the core set. The name is unoriginal and easily confuses students with the name of the art. Some schools of Shaolin Kempo Karate name these techniques. Others do not name them, number them, or assign letters to identify them.

Ukemi – Ukemi represents the floor work (mat work) a student needs to be an effective Kempo artist. It involves rolling, slapping out and brake falls.

Roll – Sometimes called the Judo Roll, it is forward or backward roll that protects the head by using the back.

Slap Out – A slap out is a technique to fall to the ground safely.

Crane Stance – Crane Stance is lifting a single leg up so the knee is parallel to the floor and the foot under the hips.

Front Position – Front position is the attention stance for Kempo. Feet are together, knees bent and hands in a Kempo salute.

Bow – The bow is an Asian handshake, salute or acknowledgement of someone’s rank. It is not a form of worship or submission.

What terms do you need defined? Let me know in the comments.

Shaken, Not Stirred

Many beginning students feel that speed in a technique is the key to success. Nothing is further from the truth. Speed can overwhelm an opponent but it can also upset your rhythm. Maintain a speed where you can comfortably perform each element of your defense. Do not let fear dictate your movements.

Use leverage to unbalance your opponent

Use leverage to unbalance your opponent

As part of your block and check, take the time to disrupt the balance and the mindset of your opponent. One of our favorite techniques is a hula hip to their center of balance. When the human body looses its balance, primal instincts force them to address this and attempt to regain their balance. Often times, ignoring the need for defending an ongoing assault by you. This is exactly what we want, an opponent who doesn’t counter attack.

A confused mind eliminates the ability to formulate a counter attack and gives you time to defeat them. It gives you the time to do what you need, slowing the situation to a manageable speed. There should be no need to go super fast like the movies. Control the combat and you control the outcome.

Like the Matador

The angry bull charges the lone matador, yet he can not gore him with his horns. With a subtle turn of his hips, the matador avoids the bull by inches. He does this time and time again until the bull collapses from exhaustion or is stabbed to death by the matador’s swords. This gruesome story illustrates a valuable fact of combat – the line of attack.

Nothing is more important than getting off the line of attack. Avoiding the attack is half the element of an effective block or defense strategy. Conserve your defenses for the long fight, not for a few heavy assaults.

By moving off the line, it throws off the opponent’s attack when their target and its defenses move. The opponent must now realign to the new battleground. On the other hand, you have moved into a tactically better position for a counter assault. Attack the opponent as they pass by. This is getting off the line into a position of more advantage.

The first move of every technique is the most important. Unless you can effectively perform the first move, none of the other moves matter. The first move always addresses the assault and often involves getting of the line of attack. It’s like defending the area not under attack. Focus on this element of training and you will discover a principle of the fist that is immutable.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Or why we must untrain bad habits and replace with new good habits

The first three ranks of our school (white, yellow and orange belt) are not called beginner ranks. They are called candidate ranks because new students are a little below beginner-level curriculum. Some may walk in an awkward, unbalanced fashion, others may have a limp posture or roll over their own feet. The first thing our training does is correct these idiosyncrasies and mold the student into a coordinated Kempo artist.

White belt boy punching

White belt boy punching

In addition to learning the jargon of Kempo training, the new student, the neophyte candidate, must learn how to stand and move in a balanced way. Front position, horse stance and crane stances teach these fundamental postures.

Kata, and all Kempo techniques, require proper movement at all times. We don’t hunch over, we don’t lock our knees, we don’t fall over our feet, nor do we plop at the will of gravity. Kempo artists control all their body movements. They keep their knees bent, they maintain a straight back, they turn their feet so their toes line up with the direction of their movement, and they gently place their foot down.

The most difficult task for instructors of the candidate ranks is convincing these new students that they must give up the bad movements and learn the new ones. Coordination can be learned, but must be embraced and practiced often. Once they gain a familiarity with martial biomechanics and Kempo terminology, they can advance to the beginner levels. Enter the formal Shaolin Temple for regular, intense training. This proper motion is how one can spot an excellent proponent of the arts.

When left to their own devices, people learn bad habits with regards to biomechanical motion. Kempo training helps you learn proper biomechanical movement, but first the training must untrain the bad habits and instill good habits. As the saying goes, “Out with the old and in with the new.”

Distance Training

Over the years I seen lots of students leave the school. Many of these long time students were also family members. Most of them still wish to train in Kempo with me yet the shear distance involved doesn’t facilitate the desire. To solve this dilemma I’ve decided to do something anathema to “true” martial arts teachers. I’ve decided to work with them through a remote training program.Golden Leopard Kempo logo

The reason why this is method of training brings up such scorn is the art is physical. It needs other humans to act as partner, uke and visual reference. Teachers need to adjust the rising horse stance. Teachers need to remind students about the foot position and the power in the strike. These things require someone actually there to move the elbow, to strike the pressure point and to demonstrate the key element misunderstood by the student.

It is also seen as selling out by a certain segment. However, the sense of selling out is often the cry of instructors with limited business sense who bemoan the fact they can’t afford to do it full time. I on the other hand don’t teach as my career. I have a job that I enjoy. I teach because I love teaching and it is rewarding.

Modern age requires adaptation to the new technologies. We use notebooks. We video to record our practice as a mental reminder. Why not use the Internet and its wonderful tools to help teach. At work, we use the Internet to train others all the time. I’ve taken online classes that were tough and really taught me the information I needed. The same can be done with Kempo. After all, many other Masters already do too.

How to bridge the gap between the good and the bad? You need to actually test and see me during the course so I can correct problems. I can see most of them via video but some just need hands on adjusting. Over the years, I noticed that there are problems that all students have. I say the same things over and over again. If I can record it and play it, I’ll save my voice.

So the point of this mental exercise is I’m working on something now. Extending the dojo into cyberspace with online videos, forums and my lectures in blog form. You’re already reading the first segment of this concept. If you’re a former SKK student with no school near by and want to continue your training, volunteer to be a guinea pig. If you’re interested in learning more now that you’re a Black Belt (and not in a school with your instructor), sign up too.

The point is, you are only limited by the limits you place upon yourself. I choose to think outside the box and learn in a limitless fashion. Join me.

Red Light!

Avoiding conflicts requires you to be aware of your surrounding. Awareness must be a constant vigil. There are four threat levels that require a degree of awareness and intuition on your part. Intuition is your feelings or analysis of a situation based on non-verbal, emotional, and body-movement clues. Allow your brain to acknowledge these feelings so you can develop better senses for danger. Such signals are the hairs that stand-up on your neck, or the spontaneous shiver, or the feeling that something is watching you. Do not dismiss these signals without evaluating the environment for threats.

  • Threat Level White is a state of un-readiness. You’re completely oblivious to your surroundings. The perfect target for a predator looking for his next victim. Never be caught in Threat Level White.
  • Threat Level Yellow, you are relaxed but aware of your surroundings. You notice if anything is unusual or out of place. If anyone is planning to attack you, they will not catch you off guard. This is the level you should be in most of the time. The only time you should fall into Threat Level White is when you’re asleep.
  • Threat Level Orange, you are very alert. You’ve just noticed a possible danger and you have begun to develop a tactical response plan. You realize you may have to defend yourself and can easily shift into Threat Level Red.
  • Threat Level Red. You realize the threat, have a plan, and if the attacker makes a move you do what you have to do.

When the attacker makes any aggressive action towards you, you are willing to use deadly force against him.

Proper awareness and avoidance of the threat can eliminate 90% of physical confrontations. While not as flashy as jumping kick to your attacker’s nose, it is the preferred method of winning the fight – by not fighting.

Kali’s Angles

There are an infinite variety of attacks that can come to you, yet they all must travel along one of the 360 degrees that make up a circle. Of these 360 angles (or degrees), you can reduce the number further still to eight. Practice attacks along these eight primary angles and you can address an infinite number of attacks. In essence, you simplify attacks into zones and angles.

The Filipino art of Kali or Escrima does this very thing. Usually, they divide the angles into twelve segments with two or four attack angles being stabs – along the Z-axis. What this does is reduce the infinite attacks into a set of manageable tracks. Then you can practice and perfect defenses for any type of weapon coming along this track or angle. In a sense, you are simplifying your defense reactions. This also has the benefit of developing better muscle memory while reducing the decision making process out of the defense equation. This training method allows you to react to the attack and counters in fluid motions.

Not only can you defend from fists coming along those tracks, but also the techniques now translate well against armed assailants. Even with weapons, the attack profile is the same. Whether a stick, knife or cat, the attack must travel along one of the predefined angles. The benefits don’t stop there. Not only can you defend against this attack with your empty hands, you can defend while armed too.

Kali theory holds that the attacks follow along these tracks or angles. You only need to defend against the angle whether you or the assailant is armed. Both can be armed or unarmed. The net result is you are fast because you have distilled the combat encounter into digestible bits and refined your muscle memory to react successfully.

When the Black Belt Society of Kajukenbo included material from Kali (or Escrima as Grandmaster Emperado called it), they saw the wisdom of such work. Though obscured by the training techniques of the intervening masters, it is still prevalent in our art. It can be found at the higher levels of training even though students of all levels can benefit from this type of training.
Working angles also requires two partners to develop the flow and angle acuity. Nothing helps the brain process attack angles than a stick falling from an angle towards your head. You either defend against it or get a bump. Either way, your muscles and brain learns.

There’s no way to teach you how the next fight will play itself out. The sheer number of variables and attack types precludes that method of instruction. However, by reducing your attacks to these ten to twelve angles, you can save yourself a lot of headaches. Pun intended.

Sticks and Stones

The pocket stick or yawara is an effective weapon because it can mimic hand strikes, especially finger strikes. It does a better job since it has no feelings or flesh to cushion your strike. And anything firm about the size of your hand will do as an improvised yawara – pen, pencil, spoon, screwdriver or corncob.

When you use a yawara, focus on pressure points on the body. Use the yawara when you hook or check an arm. They become great levers and controlling devices. During your free practice, perform all your defense maneuvers (like combinations, knife defenses, etc.) with a yawara. Adapt the strikes and develop the ability to quickly adapt the technique to the weapon in your hand. Remember to go slow so you don’t injure your training partner.

These same techniques can be performed with a hand-sized rock too. Hammer strikes lend themselves to rock use more than straight punches. Once you become comfortable using yawara and other stick-like improvised weapons, start using a small rock. It will enlighten your abilities and make you a better fighter.

Always seek a way to gain an advantage in confrontations. Pick up anything to use as a weapon. A confrontation stacked in your favor is not unfair it’s practical.

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.