There is No Try

In the movie Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back, Master Yoda’s famous line is, “Do or do not. There is no try.” This quote is so applicable to martial arts training. If you’re going to do something, do it as well as you can. Excel at all your endeavors, even in practice.

There is no sense in practicing your material in a half-hearted manner–which means quickly or in a lazy fashion. Rather endeavor to practice each move and each step with clear intent. You don’t have to do each move at full speed but you do have to do it with a serious mind. Do a low stance. Punch with snap and power even if it is slow or half-strength. Use the proper steps when there is room. Make them proper when there is no room.

Two more quotes will help bring this concept home. “Perfect practice makes perfect” and “You do what you practice.”

Three Levels to Develop Great Techniques

How do you develop great Kempo techniques through contemplation and exploration? The dojo is your martial laboratory. Test the techniques, evaluate them and then improve them. But first you need to learn it well, and by well I don’t mean only rote memory.

You can distill the process of learning into categories or levels of learning. Traverse these three levels of learning to really digest and infuse your body with true martial prowess. The levels are:

Foundation level — At this level, you do things by the book. You’re at this level when you are White to Green Belt. You must learn things the exact way they are taught so you can develop the proper body mechanics and positioning. Don’t assume that you’re good enough to make changes at this stage. Compare this to thinking you knew how to make a better A when you were learning to write. You still couldn’t make a proper A yet. Learn each move the proper way then take on the next level when it is time.

Adaptation level — At this level, you are exploring variations and what-ifs. You enter this level about Green Belt and remain until Black Belt. In Kempo, you are not a “master” at Black Belt. You are merely very proficient. At this time, you start to appreciate the differences in the sizes and shapes of the uke (practice partner). It makes a difference with how you do each step of the technique. Also his bodily and defenses reactions may alter how you continue to perform each successive move. Learn to flow from move to move and make changes to adapt to the shifting targets.

Analysis level — At this level, you reduce the techniques to smaller pieces and explore how each one works on Kempo principles. Then rebuild the technique using Kempo theories to become a spontaneous fighter. You’re at this level when your reach advanced Black Belt. This is where you dissect what you are doing and see how the pieces fit together. Why are we doing this move? Why does the body do that? What are the additional attacks and targets for each technique? How would the target respond or counter? How does it relate to pressure points and acupuncture meridian lines? The list of potential questions goes on.

Dissecting the technique is a good strategy for really learning a move or technique. Teaching and analyzing it are two other methods for improving comprehension and understanding. This is why it behooves Black Belts to begin teaching or assisting in classes–where legally permitted by municipalities and local laws.

What is the net gain by doing this? You become a very good artist, an exemplar of Kempo. Don’t worry about what rank you are or if others respect your lineage. All that matters is if you can walk the talk–defend yourself using the Kempo you truly learned. Don’t settle for “knowing” techniques like a dance move. Know it on an unconscious level, a goal we’re all striving for.

Class Review for Wednesday

September and October have been very busy months for me. The children are back to school and the dojo has added several new students. This has developed into a lack of time to write my articles. Thank you for your patience during this busy time.

Gun defense

Gun defense

Wednesday’s class focused on applying wrist locks from the same side and cross hand grips. Just for the record, the same side grip uses both a wrist and finger lock to cause pain. I showed a follow up move and throw for advanced students. The cross hand grip uses the knife hand to cause pain in the wrist.

With all locks, remember to keep the 90° angle in one if not two joints. They will work better that way. Do each step in sequence. Apply pressure and get the full bend before moving on to the next step or a twist/rotation.

Feel free to send me questions about class or the martial arts. I’ll attempt to answer them.

7 Reasons why seminars are good for you

From time to time you see promotions, flyers and invites to various martial arts seminars around town or in nearby cities. Many feature famous celebrities while others feature little known but none the less great martial artists. Chances are, they do not teach YOUR style of martial arts. Is it worth it?

I think these seminars are worth the time and trouble. Here’s why:

  1. Different instructor — Experiencing how another person teaches is a great way to see diversity in instruction methods. Certain styles mesh well with different people but a single method doesn’t fit all people all of the time.
  2. New point of view — A new instructor and a new style will give you a new point of view on combat and philosophy. You already know how your style thinks about attacks, defense and training. Now you can compare it to something else.
  3. Theory — Generally, seminars don’t teach their normal curriculum. Rather they tend to focus on “theories” and “related techniques” so you can get maximize the usefulness of the education. The theories, concepts and ideas allow you to go back and tinker with your own material.
  4. Different emphasis — This benefit relates to the previous three. A new instructor and style places emphasis on different things. For instance, Kempo may focus on hand speed and strikes while a seminar on Tai Chi may focus on leg strength and balance. This helps you notice deficiencies in your own training due to a myopic training routine. This doesn’t mean your training is bad or wrong. It means you tend to repeat the things that you think are important and forget about the other stuff.
  5. New training partners — There is not comparison to training with a new partner or uke from a different system. They don’t fall “right” or attack “right”. You get to really work on your material with a new sense of effectiveness. Can you make it work on opponents who are resisting or don’t know what you are doing? Think of it as a new batch of test subjects for your laboratory.
  6. Expands the mind — All the points listed above will help you expand your mind. We don’t live in isolated pools where everyone does things the same way as we do. This is a plural society and opening up to new ideas and concepts helps us grow and become smarter. It may also unlock “hidden moves” in your own training. A few seminars did that for me.
  7. Learn cool techniques — Finally and arguably the best reason is you get a batch of new cool moves. My favorite part about martial arts is learning new things. My second favorite part is learning new things that look cool. This may be shallow and not very master -like but hey, I’m honest. These things keep me practicing, training, and inspired to do the real work of grinding out all the necessary drills.

So if you’re wondering if that interesting martial arts seminar is right for you, take a chance and go. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

Got a seminar you want to promote, email me. If you have a story about a seminar that profoundly changed you, leave a comment below.

Hock Hochheim CQC Seminar This Weekend

W. Hock Hochheim’s Scientific FIghting Congress
Close Quarter Combat and Pacific Archipelago Combatives Seminar
October 17 and 18

$150-2 days. $100-1 day
12 noon to 6 pm Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm Sunday
Hosted by Eddie Cavazos. Email him at

Special Presentations on:

  • Hand * Stick * Knife * Gun “Stop Six” Self Defense Survival Combat Scenarios
  • Unique knife fighting subjects
  • Mixed weapon combatives
  • Special session on Filipino Double Sticks and Double weapons
  • Your next course rank progressions

Romeoville is 25 miles southwest of Chicago down Interstate 55.
Seminar will take place at the Romeoville Recreation Center, 900 West Romeo Road (Take Interstate 55 to Weber Road South to Romeo Road West.)

Local Hotels:
Best Western: 815-372-1000 (Best Recommendation / Closest to the Rec Center / Good Rates)
Comfort Inn: 630-226-1900
Country Inn and Suites: 630-378-1052
Extended Stay America: 630-226-8966

Traveling in? Staying overnight and with a group? Bring your whole affliated, work-out group, 5 or more people on up to 20 people for only $650! (You cannot beat this deal!)
Contact Eddie Cavazos for more information:, 815-272-7028

Pre-register if you like, or just pay at the door.
Remember we need to see instructors about once a year!

For more information goto

Hock gives a great seminar and is well worth the trouble.

Many to one relationship

There are an infinite ways to be attacked. Learning a defense or two for each one of those way would is impossible. I’ve done a lot of computer programming and database design. There is a concept of relational links between data types. Is it one to many or many to one.

An example of one to many would be a customer identification number. The customer has one number but it links to all their orders. That’s one to many. In a way it is a method of sorting the information into smaller chunks or sets. This is what we apply to our martial arts.

Let’s chunk a range of attacks or an angle of the attack into a group. One particular attack or an infinite amount can come from that angle or range of angles. This allows us to reduce the infinite attacks to a set of perhaps 12 or so attack groups. This is a much more manageable number of things to learn and remember. You can actually get good at this reduced set of attack types. Then again anything is better than learning an infinite amount of something.

You can’t learn a technique for every situation you will encounter. Rather you learn pieces of defenses to apply to your situation. It is modifying on the fly that represents the best warrior not how many or how well they can do a technique in a sterile situation.

In your quest to be a good student, take concepts from other walks of life or fields. Can they be applied to your art? Can that way of thinking open up new ideas and concepts? Thought of one that you’d like to share? Well, put it in your comments and we’ll discuss.

7 Ways to Retreat

Somehow we are pre-built with the instinct to back up when something dangerous approaches. In Kempo this translates to retreating straight back when the opponent attacks. Though effective in the most basic and primitive of confrontations, it isn’t the ideal way to retreat.

As the title of this post suggests, one should retreat forward. Now I don’t necessarily mean directly forward, though that is a valid and often useful way to jam an attack, I mean going forward to either side. Step forward and to the left side or step forward and to the right side. An example of this is Combination 3 and Kempo H. They both step off the line and past the opponent. The mirror technique can be done to the right and past the opponent.

Here are the seven directions you should retreat and why they are helpful. This assumes a right punch so adapt it to left punches as homework.

  1. Left and 45° forward — Not great for a hooking punch, this direction is ideal for straight punches and lunges. It gets you off the line and near the rear of the opponent. A great position for counter attacks to their weak side.
  2. Right and 45° forward — Great for getting into the weak zone of the punch but it puts you in range for a left punch. Like the previous one, you are off the line and near the rear of the opponent.
  3. Directly left — Great for getting off the attack line but now you’re not in great position for counter attacks other than legs.
  4. Directly right — Again, this is great for getting of the line of attack. It opens up the opponent, exposing the vital targets of the trunk but it also puts you in range of the left-sided weapons.
  5. Left and 45° backward — We often call this a fade to the left. This direction is ideal for large, lunging opponents. It gets you off the line and away from their loping arms. A little outside the optimal range for counters but it allows for springing attacks.
  6. Right and 45° backward — This is a fade to the right. This direction is also idea for large, lunging opponents. It gets you off the line and sets up targets for spinning kicks towards the trunk.
  7. Finally, the trickiest and often most effective direction is straight in. The advantage of coming straight in is you jam the strike by beating it to its optimal zone of power. (See my article on that) Secondly, you actually strike after they start but before they land their attack. This is a great demoralizer. Finally, it breaks the understood personal space rule and makes them uncomfortable. If the attack is coming fast, you might add a duck or a slip to the movement forward. This direction is only for the brave and cocky.

Retreating is just a fancy word for getting out of the way. I like to think of it as defending the space not under attack. Imagine you own a castle that is coming under siege by your enemy. The enemy gets all set up with his forces. They’re dug in, the heavy ladders are all built. The catapults and breach towers are all set. Just as he’s ready to begin the assault, you move the castle to the other side of a big river. The weapons are now useless and your defenses remain intact.

Now I know that is impossible situation. It was an analogy to make the point — a story to make the concept clearer. Move to a position that provides more defensive value and allows you to attack.

Defense vs. attacking the offensive attack

In the modern American mindset, we classify or think of defense as different from offense. In American football, the defensive lineup is different from the offensive lineup. When you think of defense, you picture of taking the hit on a metal shield and hoping you survive the attack. When you think of attack, you picture a large weapon and a devastating hit. These are not wrong images but they due influence how you “think” about Kempo.

Don’t block instead strike the attack! This subtle distinction in the mind can change the way your react and the power you bring to bear in defensive situations. You want the vision of a devastating attack upon the wrist, elbow or leg. The opponent who offered you this tasty target deserves to get it whacked. Leave a mark or take limb out of commission. Make that weapon ineffectual.

Setting up for an arm lock

Setting up for an arm lock

In class either during drills or in sparring, the block is a lackluster attempt to stop a strong strike. Often times, the rote memorization of the block and the strike get “stuck” in practice mode. Do you the block but there’s no real strength in it. You unconsciously assume your partner will allow his strike to be blocked. This is wrong, bad erroneous thinking leads to bad technique.

This is why I advocate hitting the strike. You put the force, momentum and (most importantly) the intent behind the action. Just adjusting your mindset can produce a much better martial artist and better techniques. Take the time to think about what you are doing and what you are thinking when you do it. Visualize, analyze and poke’m in the eyes.

Have a good story about blocking an attack and still getting hit with it, tell me in the comments. Even I have done it. Learn from your mistakes.