Zone defense versus infinite what if situations

There are an infinite ways to be attacked. You can’t handle all the possible situations with a single set of techniques for each instance. This is the source of the “What if” questions that plague instructors across the country. How do you apply your techniques from the required moves you are forced to learn? That’s easy, you apply the principles of the technique and simplify the attacks.

Pin the attacker

Pin the attacker

As mentioned before, you can use ghestalting to learn techniques and kata. You can also use it to analyze attacks. Chunk attacks into zones of similar attack qualities. Filipino Martial Art (FMA) use this concept and calls it Angles of attack. We can use it as zones. Zone one is slashing attacks. Zone six is straight in attacks. How you group them isn’t really important. Just be consistent.

Deal with like attacks in a similar fashion. Combination 5 is really good against attacks from Zone one, which can be circular or hooking attacks. This is a simple application of the concept.

As mentioned in the Kali’s Angles post, one of the hallmarks of FMA is angles of attack or zones of defense. Attack travel along 12 paths, regardless of the weapon or lack thereof. You defend along those same paths. This reduces your necessary defense responses to a few – at least 12. You only have to worry about each zone. By reducing the selection of a defense to defending the zone, you reduce the mental work necessary to react. Use the zone of defense in practice and drills. It will increase your reaction time.

If you are in our school, we have a set list of zones. If you train somewhere else, you can develop your own zones and pick the techniques that handle the most forms of attacks. This follows the business 80/20 Rule, 80% of the attacks can be dealt with by a single technique while the other 20% requires adaptation on the fly.

Good luck with your training.

5 Ways to Improve Your Karate Moves

I mention in my previous article on Ghestalting (such as Remember Your Kempos) that the mind uses chunks of information when accessing or encoding memories. These five steps build upon that practice structure of grouping and ghestalting. Try these before testing or tournaments. It will really help.

  1. Practice it at least five times in a row before moving on. Do this once a day.
  2. Practice it with a partner so you can get the timing, distancing and gauging right.
  3. Practice it on different sized partners so you can understand the adjustment points.
  4. Practice it with a partner who is resisting or countering so you can adapt to a struggling opponent
  5. Practice it on the left side, on the ground, in a chair and in other environments. Then repeat these five steps.

You’ll notice from the list that the key component of improving your Combination routines is practice.

Have you tried this in your training? Tell me how it worked out for you. Or include other effective training strategies that work for you.

Do Your Homework

Practice routines and techniques at home. Yes Kempo has homework! The best method of acquiring new skills is to practice daily. This helps on three fronts.

  • Practice helps you retain the information
  • Continual review of material helps you understand the information
  • Repetitive movements become smoother and ingrained in the body — muscle memory

In short, there is no fast way of gain great skills in Kempo without practicing a lot. Just like in school, homework is a form of practice for math, writing and science. You need to do it so you can learning, know it and apply it. Don’t shirk your obligation to do homework whether it is assigned (or not) from school or martial arts. It just helps.

Take some time to reprogram yourself. Pop culture via television shows constantly bombards you with false information such as “home work is boring”. When you reprogram your thoughts, you teach yourself that homework is enjoyable. Fake it until you make it. If you don’t like it, continue to do it until you do see the value and thus enjoy the work.

The path to success requires effort. My favorite quote is from Thomas Edison.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Divide the material up into sections that are doable each day. For instance, you can assign Monday as Kata day, Tuesday becomes Weapon Defense day and Wednesday can be Combination day. Just rotate the schedule and keep working.

That’s all I have today.

Remembering 9/11

Eight years ago, I was dropping off my daughter at daycare when I heard about a plane that hit one of the twin towers. I was astonished. By the time I got back to work, the whole office was watching the news on an old TV set rigged up in the conference room. The news got bad to worse as the day progressed. I don’t think anyone got any work done that day.

I write this in memory of all those who lost their lives that day because of religious and political opinions. Neither of which should cost people their lives. I also write this to remember all those who have died in combat or otherwise since then.

Let us never forget the innocent lives and the valiant warriors who have died and continue to die for our rights to live free, free of oppression, free of corruption, freedom from religious zealots, and freedom to educate our youth.

We shall never forget the tragic events of 9/11 and we shall never stop defending ourselves from our enemies. Choose friendship, acceptance and cooperation over death and loss. It works better.

10 ways to help your dojo stay open for business

If you’re like me, you see the dojo as your second home. You love being in the Hall of Training, working on your material to perfect the art. In this tough economy, it is difficult to keep a Kempo school operational. I know because I had to close one myself. What students should do is take emotional ownership of the school. Invest your time to help the owner and instructors out. You should do your part to help the school survive and thrive.

Black Belt in meditation

Black Belt in meditation

Here are ten actionable ideas that you and your fellow students can do to keep the dojo doors open.

  1. Clean what’s dirty, whether it is windows, mirrors, the mat or chairs. A dirty dojo is not a welcoming to new students or guests.
  2. Bring in friends as new students. A school with paying students lasts longer. Also training with your friends if very enjoyable.
  3. Pay on time. The owner needs to pay the bills and having the funds on time helps.
  4. Pass out flyers. It costs money to advertise and market. If you take some time out of your day to pass out flyers to potential new students, you’re helping the dojo save money.
  5. Write good things about the dojo on social networks, forums and on note cards in laundry rooms. People like to hear about good places to train from real people they can trust. Hopefully they’re turn around and join as new students.
  6. Donate used equipment to new students who can’t afford equipment. It is easier to continue training when you have all the supplies you need but not everyone can afford the expense. Used equipment is better than no equipment.
  7. Arrange for the dojo to do an exhibition at local schools or community clubs. Most people don’t know that there are schools around, or what martial arts are. Informing others about the benefits of training is a great way to attract new students.
  8. Contribute articles or pictures to the dojo’s website, newsletter or blog. Again, this is a great way to let others know about all the fun you have while training. Engaging and informative articles really explain benefits in simple terms most can understand.
  9. Show up for classes. It may seem simple but students who skip class eventually skip more classes and then drop out. Don’t be one of them. Don’t let your friends skip classes either. Call them up if they miss a class and offer to practice with them so they don’t get behind. There are two critical figures for all schools: the number of new students and the number of students who quit. The first number should be high and the other really low.
  10. Thank your instructors for their help and time. Teaching weekly classes is very hard to do, often leading to burnout. Staying enthusiastic about teaching everyday is a trick every instructor struggles with constantly. What helped me during my full time career is the gratitude of my students. A simple “Thank you” really pumped me up and stemmed the tide toward burnout. Help your instructor stay motivated with a few words of encouragement.

Hopefully by following this advice you can help keep your school from going under financially. We all need to pitch in and help each other out in times of need. Got some other good ideas, please share them in the comment section.

My Neighbor the Grandmaster

Martial arts come in many, many styles. In turn, there are millions of practitioners of the warrior arts. This means there are all sorts of people who study. It lends itself well to this quote:

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

With the variety of people who practice and the fact that will and perseverance are the key ingredients to be successful, anyone can be a good fighter. Therefore anyone can be a grandmaster of a particular art. You’d never know based on height, weight, clothing or name.

We should all show respect to everyone because that little old woman in the store could be a grandmaster. Never assume you are better than someone else is. Treat others like you wish to be treated. It is better to be kind, humble and hospitable than self-absorbed and elitist. True martial artists don’t pick fights with random strangers. We use our hard-earned skills for defense of life, liberty, family and country.

Besides would you like to attack someone who is highly skilled in a martial art? The fight could go badly for you. I’ve met some amazing instructors that didn’t look like skilled masters at first glance. Have you ever met someone who didn’t look like a master but actually was? Tell us in the comment section.

Five Levels of Implementation

I’m often criticized for teaching students in a simplified format. That is having an uke (attacker) punch in and remain static while the tori (defender) executes his or her technique. It seems that they miss the idea that you teach more effectively by isolating the problem from miscellaneous things. For instance, when teaching a child how to speak, you use simple words and sentence structure. Likewise when you teach a child how to read and write, you use lined paper and simple words. You never throw them the Scientific Journal and let them work it out.

This leads to another aspect of Kempo training that is often forgotten or misunderstood — the levels of implementation of a technique and how to control an opponent. When we begin to teach “take-down” moves and simple throws, the goal is to get the uke on the mat. We as instructors are not looking for all the subtle yet vital nuances that make the technique devastating. Rather we just want the gross (or basic) move to work. This provides confidence and develops a feel for the technique.

Approach and deliveryAs the student develops skill with the technique, we introduce other things that are going on. “Turn the arm like that” or “Displace their weight here by moving the hip” are phrases you may here me say. So the crux of this article is there are levels of each technique. It does no one any good to teach all of the levels on the first day. It takes time to move from one to the next.

I also enjoying hearing intermediate students tell me that I forgot to show the white belt the rest of the technique. These well meaning students forget that I taught them the same way. Later when they were much better at the movements, I added more to keep them working towards a better technique. Often times, the instructor does know what he or she is doing when they only teach part of a technique.

Here are some of the levels I’m talking about:

1. Throw onto the ground — as mentioned earlier, this is the basic move. Just get the bad guy on the mat and step back. You have the advantage and hopefully the bad guy gives up.

2. Accelerate to the ground to disrupt brake-fall — at the point where the student can perform the throw well, we introduce them to adding “juice” or accelerating their fall. The intention is to disrupt or stop the opponent from countering the fall with a brake-fall or roll out.

3. Control the fall and position opponent — the next step is to not only accelerating their fall but to guide the fall into a useful position on the mat. Then snatch the opponent and put them in position where you can continue to attack. Usually this is called “seating” or “pinning” at the shoulders and hips. The opponent is pinned and can’t use all their limbs for attack.

4. Apply pressure point strikes and control with locks — once the opponent is pinned it is time to dissuade them from trying to get out. At this level, we teach the application of pressure points and joint locking to control the opponent and gain compliance.

5. Submission — this last step is forcing the opponent to submit to our control and domination of the fight. This is the severe use of joint locks and chokeholds. This is the level that is popularized by Mixed Martial Arts competitions and tournaments.

Training in martial arts is not an instant gratification activity. It takes time and effort to develop the mental and physical skills to perform the techniques. Some moves may seem difficult to execute or perform. This usually means you haven’t trained enough in the art to get it to work. Let the art soak into your muscles and bones. Let the partner training teach you about body weight and how individuals react.

Sometimes these are called the hidden or secret moves of the art. But really they are just the rewards of perseverance and dedication. There are no mysteries to someone who is skilled and devoted to the arts. It all naturally evolves out of practice and application. Explore and apply concepts from one technique that you do well to others. See how the “levels” show themselves in your technique.

There are other layers or levels. Do you have one you’d like to share? Put it in the comment section below.

Complementary Actions

The notion of absolute opposites is a crude and unsophisticated concept. A better and older concept is that of complementary items. In this case, the focus is on complementary actions. For every action there is a complementary action or target.

For instance, hard targets are ideally hit with a soft strike like a palm heel. Soft targets are ideally hit with hard strikes like a front punch or elbow. Likewise, a linear attack is suited for a circular defense. Since complementary doesn’t imply direct opposite you can also use twist or torque motion as a defense. These too are complementary actions. A circular attack is suited for a linear defense.

Another complementary action against a forceful attack is to move the target, in this case you. The best defense is often times moving the target to a safe place where there are no attackers. To extend the train of thought, you could also attack the attack thereby nullify its power before the power arc is achieved. We call this jamming or stalling.

A compliment to defending an attack is to allow the blow’s momentum to accelerate the block into an attack. This ricochet effect adds extra force to the counter attack without the expenditure of additional resources on your part. The next gain is stronger strike for less energy — you sap it away from your opponent.

In Jujutsu and Kempo, you pull when pushed. You also push when pulled. These compliment each other beautifully. Resisting the action causes friction and struggles. It is more elegant to go with the flow of momentum and direct it. I often describe Kempo as a style that adds momentum to the fight and directs it. It’s like spinning the prayer wheels at a Shrine or using a hula-hoop.

By thinking outside the box and using a conceptual model, you can peer into your martial material with a new perspective. Examine, experiment and evolve your Kempo, otherwise it will stagnate and wither.